|The Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother|
in Steubenville, Ohio
With a whole lot of talk about unfaithful, angry women religious in the news, I can't help but think of (and thank God for) all of the faithful, joyful sisters who serve the Church...
It was about 17 years ago that I had the privilege of briefly attending the Franciscan University of Steubenville. The experience was amazing. Defining. I had no idea what I was getting into when I stepped onto campus the first time and had a vague feeling of dread that everyone there would know what a tiny little Catholic I was. Fortunately for me, that campus had the highest concentration of patience and charity that I had ever experienced up to that point! The joy, passion, and faithfulness was in the air I breathed each day. And I began to discover real beauty in that fertile soil.
One of my fondest memories was of the Franciscan sisters who were being temporarily housed on the top floor of my dorm. Their motherhouse was under construction and the students had the pleasure of their daily company until its completion. I was new on campus and very busy between classes, an evening job, and visits with my future husband, but my brief experiences of the sisters touched me deeply...
~ Every dorm had a chapel where students could spend time with our Eucharistic Lord. There were many times when I encountered different sisters during their private prayer time. Faces in love. Foreheads to the floor. Arms raised. Hands folded. Lips silently moving. Each sister was uniquely, completely, passionately in love with her Divine Spouse. They never altered their postures when I entered... oblivious to my presence. With eyes, knees, tears, songs only for Him.
~ I recall one snowy Winter day when I was walking back to my dorm from class. I was cold and eager to get to dinner. My eyes were trained on the ground ahead of me so that I would not miss seeing any patches of ice. I heard the sound of laughter and light hearted yelling and raised my eyes to a beautiful site: A field of white snow dotted with gray habited sisters... flinging snowballs at each other.
~ Joy. They lived a life of joy. There was no question. In their worship, studies, play, meals, and work... they expressed a profound gratitude and joy in their vocation.
The photo above is of those Steubenville sisters in the motherhouse that was built during my time there. I will never forget how their simple presence in the community formed my understanding of vocation. May God richly bless their efforts and increase their harvest!