“We need priests!”
You’ve almost certainly heard this comment before. Maybe you heard it in a homily, at a vocations event, or from someone at your parish. You may even have said it once or twice yourself As a seminarian studying for the priesthood, I know I certainly hear it a lot – nearly every week, in fact! The truth is, we do need priests because we desperately need the grace of the Sacraments only they can provide for the Church. We need Christ’s presence, both in the priest themselves and in the immense gift of the Masses they offer.
I’m glad we recognize this, most especially when I see how many other men are invited to consider the priesthood for the first time, just because someone saw the need for holy priests and took the chance of encouraging him. As one of those guys, though – the ones being invited and formed for a vocation to the priesthood – I want to tell you about the unsung heroes in my own journey of discernment and formation: Religious sisters. I always met these women in unexpected times and places, and I was always surprised by the humility and quiet joy they radiated without speaking a word.
I remember the first time I met one of the sisters, when, three years ago – give or take a week – she and several of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia showed up for Eucharistic Adoration at my campus ministry. Two years of discernment and one seminary application later, the same sister stopped me on the sidewalk in Washington, DC . . . to tell me that she’d been praying for me since I began discerning the priesthood.
Many of these women have inspired me to try to be a better person than I am. A few have legitimately changed my life. The Poor Clare, barely noticed in her rural cloister, who quietly supports me through her prayers. The Missionary of Charity who wakes up every day to make dozens of beds and wash the dishes, who handed me a mop and told me with broken English and an eloquent smile, “By doing, you learn.” The many, many friends who are so willing to hear Christ’s invitation to live as His brides, and to offer Him their lives and vocations.
Yes, we need priests.
What you won’t hear as often, though, is this:
Priests (and seminarians) need sisters.
They are our spiritual mothers, who devote themselves to praying for us, as flawed and human as we are, so that we might one day be able to bring Christ to the world in a very real way. They are witnesses to the true joy we can find in giving ourselves totally and completely to God and His Church. They are the ones who hold us up and keep us going with their sacrifices. God has given these women a crucial mission, but as much as we need their intercession and support, they need ours, too. If we want to create a culture that will nourish their vocations, we need to pray for our religious sisters and discerners, support the people and organizations –like Imagine Sisters – who exist to show the world the beauty of the consecrated life, and invite others to do the same.
We like to say, “One sister can change the world.”
I know they’ve certainly changed mine.
– Cassidy Stinson is a Seminarian for the Diocese of Richmond