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These Sisters Have Names

Anselm, Reginette, Judith and Marguerite.

These are the names of the four women religious slain in Yemen last Friday March 4.

The lives of these four Missionaries of Charity came to a sudden end while they were preparing breakfast.  Four gunmen stormed the nursing home where the sisters worked and and killed 14 in total, according to church officials.

Would you join us in sharing the four names of these ‘martyrs of charity’? We pray for them and all the other countless women religious in the Church’s history who are martyrs for their faith.

In St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis prayed that Blessed Mother Teresa “accompany to paradise these daughters of hers, martyrs of charity, and that she would intercede for peace and a sacred respect for human life.”

Sister Anselm, 57, was the youngest of seven siblings in an Indian family of farmers. Fellow missionaries said she lived and died for the people. While not much is known about the three other sisters, including 44-year-old Sister Margherite and 32-year-old Sister Reginette, both of Rwanda, and 41-year-old Kenyan Sister Judith, they are not forgotten. They were daughters, sisters and spiritual mothers to many. Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, which includes Yemen, said they  “sacrificed their lives by following their own charism.”

Churches and communities across the world have rallied to support these four martyrs across the world. Photos show Yemenis gathering the next day to protest the attack. In Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, will celebrate the Holy Eucharist March 11 with other clergy, religious and lay faithful. In Rwanda, a requiem Mass honors the mission accomplished by the sisters, leting other Christians know of their sacrifice, Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege of the Diocese of Kabgayi told Rwanda’s The New Times.

Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, India, said “this is an act of wanton killing; a pointless murder of nuns who had opted to lead a life of celibacy; to be of service to God, the poor and the needy. The dedicated sisters were brave women who had chosen to ignore the ongoing turmoil and violence in Yemen to be by the side of the elderly and the needy” to The Telegraph.

Sister Sally, the mother superior of the Yemeni community, survived the attack and safely escaped. Father Tom Uzhunnali, an Indian Salesian priest who was in the chapel at the time of the attack, remains missing, ANI reports.

The names of these four Missionaries of Charity were released on March 8, which is recognized as International Women’s Day as well as the first day of National Catholic Sisters Week, which runs through March 14.

“The dignity of women is their strength and faith in the God who created them,” said Father Leo Patalinghug, a well-known priest and host of Grace Before Meals said in a Facebook post. “If we want to know the power of women, look no further to the one who gave birth to us. And in a special way, look to these women – Missionaries of Charity – martyred in Yemen by terrorists. They stood strong to care for the poorest and weakest. They gave the ultimate sacrifice. Why do news outlets avoid talking about these wonderful and powerful women? May these Holy Women of God pray for us.”

Since January 2015, Yemen remains battered in an ongoing civil war. According to the United Nations, more than 2,400 have died in the conflict, including many children and civilians, both Muslim and Christian.

Sisters Anselm, Reginette, Judith and Marguerite, pray for us.

James Ramos is a storyteller and designer with the Texas Catholic Herald in Houston. Follow him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/plusjames) and Instagram (instagram.com/plusjames). He’s also great at high fives and group selfies.

An Inside Look into a Discernment Group!

An Inside Look
by LaVerta StrahamNun Run 005

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buecher

College is the time that you are supposed to discover who you are and what you are called to do with your life. You are faced with all of these different options: what the world is telling you to do, what you want to do, what other people want you to do, and what God is calling you to do. Sometimes these things line up or they converge somewhere, and other times, much to your disappointment, they don’t.  It is because of this that discernment is so important in college.

My sophomore year in college I was entrusted with the care of a very new idea at my university parish, a discernment group specifically for women. We had a men’s discernment group, but we had not quite gotten the women’s discernment group off the ground. We finally had a group that was dedicated to helping college women ask those tough questions and shine light on possibilities that many women may have never considered, or did not have an encouraging atmosphere to consider them in.

Our goal is to help women answer their call to holiness through whatever vocation they are called to, yet at the same time we want to shine a light on the beauty of religious life. We started out by working with a sister in our diocese and had meetings once a month. During those meetings we looked at how women discovered their vocations, we read stories about people who were currently discerning, and we Skyped with sisters and learned about their communities and charism. In addition to that, we went on retreats together, we frequently met for prayer, to watch movies, or just to discuss where we were in our faith journey.

We got to a point where we wanted to encounter these different communities and not just hear about their charism but experience them as well. We wanted to get out of Oklahoma and see what religious life was like in action. Due to this, we planned our very own Nun Run. Our goal was to go from Oklahoma to Maryland and back over nine days and visit eight orders in five states. It was quite a large undertaking for a discernment group that was only a few months old, but we felt that this was where our discernment needed to go. We realized that this was a huge trip to plan and that it would take a lot of work, and so our motto was a quote by Mother Teresa, “God has not called me to be successful; he has called me to be faithful.” For three college students to plan this trip not knowing where we would get the money from, how we would get there, and even if other women would give up their entire Spring break and go along with our plan, we knew that our planning had to revolve around being faithful to God’s will and not necessarily totally oriented around the outcome. If this trip affected one person by giving her the chance to meet orders she had never met before or by just sparking a tiny thought—then it was worth it.

We were surprised by the outcome of our planning; our entire parish rallied behind us and helped us with the trip! Many people were inspired by the fact that young women wanted to visit religious orders and that there were people even discerning. We had a great response in women who were interested in coming with us as well. So, the first Saturday of our Spring break at 6AM, nine ladies piled into two cars and started our drive to our first destination, St. Louis, Missouri.

WDGDuring our Nun Run we met so many women who desired a radical relationship with God, and to dedicate their lives to the service of others. We saw women so dedicated to Christ that they gave up what the world would call freedom, in order to live a life of true freedom through the Eucharist. We met women whose apostolate involved being mothers to the world, women who dedicate their lives to preparing the elderly to stand before Our Maker with no regrets, and we visited a religious family whose goal is the evangelization of the culture through the prolonging of the Incarnate Word. When we returned from our trip we realized that this was an experience that we wanted to bring to a larger group of people, therefore we decided that for the next year the women’s discernment group would pair with the men’s discernment group and put on a vocation festival for our Archdiocese. During this weekend we brought orders in and recreated the experience that we had for a larger group of high school and college students in Oklahoma.

Our discernment group is built on seeking out God’s will. Everything that we do is a leap of faith towards a much greater cause than ourselves and it is a process. We started out with an idea and a hope that maybe just one person would show up to a meeting or sign up to be emailed. College is the time for discernment and the time to develop a relationship with Christ. An important part of that is developing that relationship within a community. It has been a process, it has been a struggle but also, it has been one of the most influential parts of my discernment process.

“It was not you who chose Me but I who chose you.” John 15:16

Let Fall a Shower of Roses: One Rose Invitation 2014

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The One Rose Invitation is an Imagine Sisters tradition that takes place annually on October 1st, the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. St. Therese is the patron saint of Imagine Sisters, and a perfect model and friend-in-Heaven for those considering consecrated life as a religious sister. She entered a Carmelite monastery at 15, and spent her life loving Christ through prayer and small sacrifices. Before her passing at the age of 24, St. Therese said, “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses.

The inspiration for the One Rose Invitation is drawn from these words. In the days leading up to St. Thérèse’s feast, Imagine Sisters asks our followers to think of and pray about a young woman whom they believe would make a good religious sister. Then, on October 1st, you are to let her know by offering her a rose. This rose is an acknowledgment of the beauty of that young woman’s soul, and a symbol of the invitation to consider a vocation to religious life.

Will you take part in this beautiful tradition? Here are some suggestions!

1. Spend some time in prayer with the Lord, the Blessed Mother, and St. Thérèse. Meditate on the virtues and qualities of a bride of Christ, and think of young women in whom you see those features. Is she someone at your parish? In your dorm? A student in your grade or high school? A daughter, granddaughter, goddaughter, sibling, niece or cousin? A friend?

2. Ask God to help you decide who to present your rose to. If you want to give roses to multiple women, that is absolutely allowed!

3. Next, plan for how you will acquire this rose. There are many options: flower shops or grocery stores are a good bet, and this year’s Feast is on a Wednesday, so stores will be open. Rose bushes are also typically still in bloom at this time in the season, so you could clip one from your own yard, or ask a neighbor for permission to clip theirs! It is for a good cause. 😉 In cases where it is not possible to acquire and give a real rose, some people choose to mail a greeting card with a rose on it, draw a picture of a rose, or even e-mail/post a digital image of a rose. These are all good options!

4. When will you give her the rose? You could ask her to meet with you, or leave it for her with a note, or mail it on Saturday to ensure it arrives by Wednesday.

5. If she has not yet heard of Imagine Sisters, you may direct her to our web pages if she is interested in discerning religious life!

6. Continue to hold her in prayer. Why not pair your One Rose with one Rosary? :-)

For more ideas, photos, and testimonies from the One Rose Invitation in years past, read this blog post!

You may use this pre-designed note if you wish!

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Two Sisters Can Change the World

Written by Daniela, a young woman preparing to enter religious life this month.

“For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1 20-22

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My walk with Christ thus far has truly been one of surprises. He has called me to come closer, to go deeper, and to trust more fully in his love and grace. The world, however, does not foster this intimate relationship. I’ve learned that many times throughout discernment, we can lose heart and feel as though the seed that was planted in our hearts is being threatened by surrounding thorns. Yet God, in his infinite goodness, sends people into our lives to water this fragile seed.

Last summer, my friend Marie went on a mission trip to Albania and stayed with a religious community in Shkodër. She left home with an openness to do God’s will and I was greatly inspired by it. I realized that I too had this desire within me. But what exactly did God want?

As I came to understand through prayer, all he wanted was me, just as I was. That summer I felt his presence as he pursued and continually reminded me of all the ways that he loved me. It was more than a sentiment or an emotion; it was the reality of the Father who goes in search of his children, and rejoices as they return to his embrace. And what I found in his embrace was endless mercy and love, far beyond what I could understand. When Marie came back that summer, things were different. We were filled with true peace; and joy that was constant even in the midst of life’s trials. We prayed, laughed, cried, and encouraged one another to follow Christ, wherever he may call us.

That fall, we went on a discernment retreat to a convent in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Before the retreat even began, we found ourselves kneeling before a little grotto behind the Motherhouse (divine providence or trespassing…?) As we sang before the statue of Our Lady, we were filled with the grace to go in haste, and not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word that was sown into our hearts.

Marie is now back on mission in Albania (and has been accepted for entrance!) as I prepare to enter the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist this fall. We thank God for blessing us in great abundance with one another, and even more brothers and sisters who heard the word, and were commissioned by the Spirit to proclaim it to us and to all they encounter.

My prayer for those discerning will continue to be that you may carry the word within you, and by joyfully answering “yes” you may witness to it with your life like Our Mother Mary.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.” John 15 16-17

His grace and peace be with you!

See you in the Eucharist,
Daniela

“Go, sell what you have…” by Mabel, a young woman entering religious life.

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Getting compliments on your personal belongings takes on a whole new meaning when you’re about to get rid of everything you own. In recent months I’ve made more than one loose acquaintance — including my doctor — very uncomfortable when I eagerly asked, “Do you want it?” after they told me they liked something I was wearing.

A good friend who is also hoping to enter religious life this summer put it so well: getting rid of your belongings in preparation for religious life is like standing on a precipice looking into eternity with everything that has always distracted us suddenly behind us. There’s nothing left: just me and the Great Unknown. In fact, as he pointed out, everyone will end up at this moment at some point in their lives, we’re just getting there a little earlier.

I keep running back to that scene in the Gospel, when the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He has kept all the commandments, but he knows there’s something more. And Jesus looks at him, loves him, and says, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk. 10:21). The young man’s reaction — going away sad because he had many possessions — has always broken my heart. In the past few years especially I’ve found myself wanting to shake him. You’ve just been offered the world, I want to shout at him. How can you walk away?

But here I am, faced with a similar invitation, and every day there’s a little twinge. That little porcelain boat from the Dollar Store my sister gave to me for Christmas back in 1991 — it’s a silly trinket, but I’ve carried it around for years, and I admit to a tremor at the thought of letting go. The baby blanket my five-year-old self used to use as a royal robe when playing dress-up … my books and my piano … so many of things we take for granted, right down to the use of that comfortable word, “mine.”

Yes, even letting go of “my” friends is proving to be a lot harder than I ever expected (and I never fooled myself that it would be easy).

God doesn’t ask any of us for halves. That’s what I’m facing in so many concrete ways right now. When he asks us for everything, he means everything. (And by the way, he asks all of us for everything.) He pushes us past the point of comfort, even past discomfort, to that place where the tears start and we cry, “But I can’t!”

This isn’t relegated to those of us discerning religious vocations. We’re all called to this. It’s part and parcel of the Christian life, dare I say, of being human. When you feel you’ve done enough, you’re wrong. There’s no such thing as “enough” for the soul that’s marching towards heaven. The question should always be, “All right, Lord. What now?” Because we can’t give him everything in one action, once. We’re temporal creatures, constantly moving from one minute to another, so giving our all must also be a temporal thing, an act repeated at every moment until we finally reach eternity.

And when you get right down to the nitty-gritty doing of it? It’s epic.

– Written by Mabel, a young woman entering religious life this August.

The Winners, Announced!

Here are the winners of the Guess the Orders contest! Thanks for all of the submissions, we received over 500 answers! Here are the winners, we’ve protected their emails by adding – in the addresses. We’ll send you an email in just a few days… the prize pack is a Scott Hahn book, a Lighthouse CD, and a ton of nun cards! Thanks for playing!

Day 1 – SSVM Janelle – J-N@yahoo.com
Day 2 – FMA Megan – F-E@gmail.com
Day 3 – TOR Anna – A-A@verizon.net
Day 4 – Martyrs Krystle – K-N@gmail.com
Day 5 – Carmelites Maria – R-S@woltornist.com

Congrats to the winners, and thanks for all of those who entered!

Signs of the Sacred

(Editor’s Note: Very Rev. Paul Stein is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and a guest blogger for Imagine Sisters)

Having been the parochial vicar of two parishes and the pastor of a third, each with a parish school, I have been struck by the great tragedy of the general absence of religious sisters in parish life.  It is not primarily because in the past they made Catholic education affordable or because they are great teachers of the faith – both being most certainly true – but because of the importance of who they are.  While religious profession as a sister is not a sacrament as ordination to Holy Orders is, it is nonetheless a sacramental.

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