[This is the second in a series of blogs on “Women & Spirit,” a current exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum.]
It’s interesting what surfaces after the fact. When the Leadership Conference of Women Religious set about the task of creating this exhibit, no one could have known the power of the story to be told or the timeliness of its unveiling. Seeing “Women & Spirit” as a woman religious, brought some unexpected feelings to the surface. Could my little life, given in love to God and my monastic community, be part of this great story? Are my failures and gifts some thread in this massive quilt of faith and service? Whoa… All those women…all those faces in holy habit and 70’s polyester…they are my sisters – every one! I am still unpacking the blessing of this truth.
I was struck, too, by the variety of ministries in which sisters have served over the past 200 years - by the prominent place of American sisters on the front lines of every human need. We did not open schools because sisters belong in schools. We were there because the children needed to be taught the faith. We were not in hospitals because nuns belong in hospitals. We were there because the poor were sick and dying and they needed bodily care and the love of Christ. We didn’t open orphanages because nuns belong in orphanages. We just took in babies who had no one – who had nothing – but a blanket and an empty stomach. It was that simple.
Today, my Benedictine sisters are still living at the edge of the world where human need begs for justice and compassion. My sisters give shelter to homeless mothers and their children. My sisters offer treatment to those who suffer mental illness, or who are overwhelmed by grief, depression or disaster. My sisters access available funds to keep families in their homes and reverse the tide of foreclosure. My sisters teach small children and not-so-small teenagers how to love God and respect one another. My sisters offer spiritual direction to those who seek a closer walk with Christ. My sisters offer compassionate presence to the sick, the dying and the home bound. My sisters train and support tutors who teach English to adults from all over the world who want to make their way in our great country. My sisters do all these things – not because they are what sisters should be doing. My sisters do them because the need is real and Christ asks us to be His hands and feet. Fifty years from now I don’t know what the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia will be doing. But God does…and God is counting on us to say, “Yes.”
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki