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Imagine Sisters: A Joyful Movement, by Brandon Ocampo of Catholic Memes

In a world full of darkness, hate, and chaos, a chosen few rise up and shine light, love, and peace in the world. These chosen few are… Catholic Sisters!?

Okay, so the whole superhero movie approach to vocations is totally awesome and shines a new light on spiritual warfare, but that’s not the point here. Sisters are great, not just for the Church, but for the world. After all, the world needs sisters! God shines His eternal light in a special way through these wonderful women. But these women weren’t always sisters, at one point, they were normal girls who received a special call to love from God.

Christ has always called people in different ways, but in today’s age, He’s using social media. The Imagine Sisters movement desires to help Christ with this divine mission. The movement seeks to assist Christ in calling out to those young women who are discerning consecrated life. Whether it’s by a Facebook post, a retweet, or by an Instagram post, Imagine Sisters is spreading the beauty of consecrated life. Through online resources and social media, the Imagine Sisters movement works to help young women with their vocational discernment.

Imagine Sisters is THE movement to turn to if you’re a young women discerning the beautiful call to consecrated life. All this wonderful work is done with an amazing and contagious joy. I mean come on, even Matt Maher thinks that both the movement and nuns themselves rock! Any other argument is invalid. The Imagine Sisters movement really does remind us all that one sister can change the world. And that’s pretty awesome.

Also, just to set the record straight:

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You can help Imagine Sisters continue their ministry with a tax-deductible donation here!

 

 

Working Together for Vocations: The Future of Imagine Sisters

Before Imagine Sisters, I always wondered why there had been no widespread vocational outreach for women’s religious life like there is for priests. Then when I discovered Imagine Sisters, I was so excited that someone was finally making it happen!”  – J., an ISM follower

That is precisely what the Imagine Sisters Movement is for: widespread vocational outreach for women’s religious life. Imagine Sisters is meant to be more than just a Facebook page that posts cool nun graphics. God’s dream and our mission is for Imagine Sisters to be the locus for young women to come to learn about the vocation, for exposure to religious communities and retreats, help with discernment, a community of prayerful support, friendships with other young women discerning, and if it be God’s will, the strength to give their lives to Christ.

Imagine Sisters is also intended to be a channel through which religious communities can share their light with young people, via photos, videos, testimonies and vocation stories, contact information, and retreat schedules. We want to bring the beauty of religious life to the world, in hopes of bringing many young women to religious life.

In regards to the cool nun graphics, Imagine Sisters works to raise awareness of the beauty, fruitfulness, and fulfillment in religious life–simply by showing proof! The Imagine Sisters Movement seeks to remove our negative cultural stigma of nuns as angry, mean old women– to “retire the ruler” as we say at ISM. And it works: my non-religious best friend from public school told me, “Kelsey, I used to think nuns were scary, but now I think they’re really cool because of you!”

Many people do not understand why their daughters, sisters, or friends would want to become a sister, and even for those who do understand and support the vocation, their sacrifice can be difficult. The Imagine Sisters Movement wants to minister to the needs of these people, through parent resources and outreach, forums for families of sisters, print materials for young women on how to talk to their parents, and informational materials women can give to their families to help them understand and support their discernment of a religious vocation.

The Imagine Sisters Movement is available for parishes, youth ministers, campus ministers, catechists, and religion teachers to reach young people with high-quality resources about women’s religious life. In the majority of my generation’s upbringing, sisters were mentioned only as a sidenote, if at all. So many young, faithful Catholics have never met a sister, and just do not know that religious life is “still a thing.” At first, even my close friends told me, “Kelsey, you’re like the only person under 80 years old I have ever heard talking about wanting to be a nun.” Imagine Sisters can work with priests and the laity to reintroduce women’s religious life to young people at a parish and school level.

Ultimately, the Imagine Sisters Movement exists to rebuild a culture of vocations in our Church. It is intended to move young people to authentic discernment, with informed minds and open hearts. The effects of this outreach are not limited to women’s religious vocations: young vocations encourage other young people to give their lives to Christ, and meeting young women religious often inspires young men to consider a call to the priesthood.

~ * ~33 days for VOCATIONS

Currently, we are in the midst of a “33 Days for Vocations” fundraiser, to support the life of this ministry. Approximately half of the fundraising goal is intended for travel to youth conferences, webpage upkeep, and most especially for three special initiatives for what Pope Francis has deemed the 2015 Year of Consecrated Life. These initiatives are an on-the-go Imagine Sisters smartphone app, a redesigned website, and a video and blog series about religious life. Trust me, as Imagine Sisters’ resident NON-techgeek (“You’re getting a Mac Notebook? Is it wide-ruled or college?”) I can say that the smartphone app, new website, and video series aren’t just some pricey new-fangled gadgetry. These features have such tremendous value for the New Evangelization, especially in the Year of Consecrated Life:

An Imagine Sisters smartphone app means young women can easily access articles, information, retreat schedules, inspiration, prayers, photos, and videos… all to help them discern whether Christ calls them to be His bride. We want to have every woman religious in the country saying, “Lord, I wish I had something like this when I was discerning!” The smartphone app also means young women who are just learning of Imagine Sisters and the beauty of religious life can share the app among their friends; this way the Movement can spread further and faster, to set hearts on fire for Christ through the radiance of His brides.

The newly-designed website will keep Imagine Sisters up to the standards of other high-quality, secular media that aggressively vies for the attention of young people. A beautiful, sleek design attracts young people and encourages them to take the content seriously, to trust it as something worthwhile. As we also plan to enrich the website with deeper, more comprehensive content written by women religious, a new design will drive the impact this content can have.

Videos have always been crucial to the Imagine Sisters Movement! People need to see the beauty, love, joy, fruitfulness, and fulfillment that exists in religious life, in order to believe it! They need to see other young women living this vocation in order to imagine themselves doing the same! Similarly, blog posts are a major way that young people learn from and relate with others; therefore, a dynamic blogging campaign featuring posts from women religious and young women considering religious life would be an incredible way to aid young women in their own discernment throughout this upcoming Year of Consecrated Life.

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These first two years at Imagine Sisters have been difficult, because we have always been a tiny group of young volunteers trying our best to serve this great need in the Church.

In our first year, Imagine Sisters was made up of Dan, Amanda, me, and a couple of helpers. This past year, Dan stepped down because he began major seminary in California, my own contribution was all but nonexistent because I was taking 24 credit hours of classes each semester in order to graduate from Loyola in Chicago, and the other helpers also became too busy in their own lives. That left Amanda in Ohio, who was already working two jobs at 60+ hours a week in order to support herself. This was the weakened state of our organization.

Just a few months ago, we were uncertain how the movement could possibly be sustained considering our circumstances. We sought counsel from others and prayed to God to direct Imagine Sisters, which has always been a movement of the Holy Spirit, along the path He desired for us. Amanda and I traveled to meet together in person, and during that time the Holy Spirit absolutely swept us away! Our zeal skyrocketed, and the Church responded, as we have gained over 10,000 followers in the last 2 months! We saw how well we work when we are together for inspiration and encouragement, and how with each other and the Lord we can move mountains– if only we have the time.

Imagine Sisters is in great need of benefactors to support the life of our ministry. We eagerly desire to better serve young women, religious sisters, and the Church, yet the problem all comes down to our poverty of time, which is due to our lack of funding. This is why we have launched our “33 Days for Vocations” fundraising campaign. The other half of our $75,000 fundraising goal is allocated for staff wages. These salaries, small but sufficient, would mean that Amanda could quit her job to work as director of Imagine Sisters full time, and I could work as assistant director for Imagine Sisters throughout graduate school, rather than us both spending that time at outside jobs.

With more time to devote to Imagine Sisters, we would be able to develop a religious community membership program so as to include so many more sisters in our Movement– we have a spreadsheet of contact information on over 200 faithful communities, whom we long to engage! We would be able to compile and print resources for parents and families, keep our merchandise store open more frequently, respond to e-mails and suggestions from followers, and so much more.

We need your help in order to continue and fortify the work of Imagine Sisters. We need your help to make the Year of Consecrated Life initiatives come to life. We need your help to enable young women to truly imagine themselves as sisters, and to gain religious vocations for the Church.

This fundraiser is extremely important, because if the funds do not come through, it is possible that the Imagine Sisters Movement will come to a halt, due to a poverty of time. Many are looking to Imagine Sisters as both a window and channel to authentic women’s religious life, and we want to give all we can to religious communities, young women, families, friends, parishes, and the entire Church. We know that God desires more and the Church needs more than what we have already done. Pope Francis has designated this entire next year as the Year of Consecrated Life: will you help us in this mission to rebuild a culture of religious vocations and inspire young women to give their lives to Christ?

If you are willing to donate to the Imagine Sisters Movement’s “33 Days for Vocations” fundraiser, please click here to be directed to our campaign.

 

Please remember us in your prayers, and share this message with others who believe in the mission of Imagine Sisters!

In God’s love,
Kelsey

Dear Imagine Sisters…

Over the past few weeks, we have received countless emails from young women who will be entering religious life in the upcoming year. We hope you will join us in praying for these courageous young women in the coming weeks as they prepare for entrance with their communities. One email particularly struck us, from a young woman named Amanda who allowed us share her email with you, so that you might share our joy! Take a look below to see what Amanda had to say about her discernment, and to learn a little more about the community she will be joining!

 


 

Dear Imagine Sisters,

Thank you so much for your ministry! Two days ago a Sister, from the order I’m entering, tagged me in your Facebook post about those preparing to enter! I want you to know that God is using you!

A year and a half ago a friend of mine reposted a post of yours on Facebook. I saw it and immediately went to your page. I began following you that day. Through your posts over that next month or so God spoke to my heart and in a moment of silence with Him, I heard His gentle call to me, asking me to be His bride. In April of 2013, God led me to the Sisters Of St. Joseph The Worker in Walton, KY! I was accepted last June and have been tirelessly working to pay off debt so I can enter. God has worked miracles and I have had hundreds of people helping me, and more importantly, praying for vocations!

Praise God! I will be entering as a postulant on the feast of the Assumption, August 15th this year!!! Thank you for all of your prayers and know of mine for all of you and this ministry! God used you to get me to discern His will for my life, that I promised to do, and got a little off track. Thank you, thank you! You mean so much to my vocation, and I’m sure others’!

God bless you all!

Prayerfully and with gratitude,
Amanda,
Candidate, Sisters Of St. Joseph The Worker

 

Did You Know: The Imagine Sisters headquarters is officially moving to Steubenville, OH!

Imagine Sisters is packing up and moving to Steubenville!So in the past, our squad has been scattered across the country– Chicago, Cleveland, California, Detroit, New Jersey! We have been able to accomplish a lot via technology, but there is great value and encouragement in working together in the same place. So, we dreamed it and God made it happen: Imagine Sisters will, for the first time ever, be headquartered in one location! What does that mean for us? No more relying on dorm rooms, school libraries, and coffee shops to carry out our work; we’re renting a house! We will finally have an office room, storage for an Imagine Sisters warehouse, space for get-togethers with volunteers, and a prayerful, energizing environment in which to live and work. (We will also have a relic of St. Thérèse, thanks to our friends at the Institute on Religious Life!!)

Why Steubenville, OH? It was where the Lord naturally lead us. Amanda has already been living in Steubenville the past year, working in the development office of the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R and at Walgreens. Kelsey just graduated from college and is beginning graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Franciscan University is also populated with thousands of vibrant, young Catholics with so much to contribute to this Movement. So, what does this mean for all of you, who are part of the Imagine Sisters Movement? It means we can better serve you, with more collaboration, organization, and zeal for vocations to religious life!

Did You Know: Imagine Sisters is not actually run by religious sisters?

Nope, we’re not nuns! At least, not yet.  As we shared in our first “Did You Know?” blog, the Imagine Sisters Movement grew out of a university women’s religious discernment group–as a grassroots, lay movement. In the very beginning, Imagine Sisters was staffed primarily by two young women, a diocesan college seminarian, and a young Jesuit scholastic. The work was (and is currently) all done on a volunteer basis in our spare time, with spiritual support and guidance from many holy religious, priests and laypeople. Over the last two years, the Imagine Sisters team has both grown and shrunk, but the Lord has worked beautiful things in every phrase of our development. Today, Imagine Sisters is run by just two young women who really love nuns: co-foundress and leading lady Amanda Houska, 26, and co-foundress and backseat driver Kelsey Porada, 21.

* * *

Typical closing remarks at the end of an Imagine Sisters work day!

Typical closing remarks at the end of an Imagine Sisters work day!

Matt Maher Thinks Nuns are Awesome-Sauce!

Exactly one year ago today we shared this little message from Matt Maher with our followers. Today, we wanted to share it again, simply because we love the fact that Matt Maher thinks nuns are awesome-sauce! A few days prior to posting the video, a friend of mine called me out of the blue with an extra ticket to a Matt Maher concert near my home. I was so stoked to be able to attend the concert, and was even more stoked for the opportunity to connect with Matt after the show! I was curious to know if he had heard of the Imagine Sisters Movement and what he thought of the religious life. It turns out that he loves nuns and he relies on the prayers of nuns to do what he does! Don’t believe me? See for yourself below!

 

Did you know?

The Imagine Sisters Movement first took root in early 2012 within my young women’s religious discernment group at Loyola University Chicago. Over time, we learned that young women all over were feeling called to discern religious life, but were afraid or unable to express it. Meanwhile, perhaps due to the lack of media attention given to young sisters and thriving religious orders, we knew many other young women were unlikely to envision religious life as a beautiful, fruitful, and real option for their lives. Still others lacked support from friends and parents, and were lost and unsure of how to begin their discernment. Soon, it seemed clear that the call to religious life was on so many young women’s hearts, but nobody was talking about it!

So we decided to start a conversation. On March 19, 2012, our group held a dinner event on campus inviting students to meet fifteen joyful, inspiring, and young religious sisters. Religious sisters from several communities around the Midwest came to the event, giving talks and vocation stories while inadvertently spreading their joy and love of the Lord like wildfire. Discernment resources and t-shirts were given bearing our signature logo of a sister, and the word “Imagine.” By God’s grace, the event sparked much attention and discussion on the topic of religious life on campus. The event was professionally filmed and then edited by Dan Rogers into a short video clip, under the official heading: The Imagine Sisters Movement.

 

One Year Later – Kelsey’s Reflection

canyouimagineOne Rose. One Year. One Sister.

And God willing, many roses, years, and sisters to come!

Through the intercession of Our Lady, St. Therese, and the countless prayers of all involved in the Imagine Sisters movement, God has given us the grace to carry out this mission. Our mission? To bring the beauty of consecrated Sisterhood out into the world, especially by means of social media. Why? Sisters are visible signs of God’s love in the world – the “Light of Love” – and an encounter with a faithful sister, as with an encounter of God’s love, has the power to change hearts. Through these encounters, in addition to the great amounts of prayer and service, one sister can change the world.

We also believe that the Lord is truly calling young women to the Sisterhood more and more in the 21st century. Personally, this became very clear to me about a year and a half ago. I began to feel that relentless, nagging pull to look into religious life – wondering about my present state in life, Googling vocation stories at 3AM, falling more in love with the Lord… yet it all absolutely terrified me! (I didn’t even know any sisters back then!)

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