By Susan Flansburg
For The Catholic Messenger
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — When inquirers arrived for the One-Stop Vocation Retreat at St. Mary Monastery on Friday of Labor Day weekend, they had no idea what to expect. Would the Sisters be nice? Would their presentations be helpful? Would the company of the other inquirers be nourishing?
The answers were yes, yes, and yes!
On Friday evening, our guests arrived and met their weekend Benedictine Sister partners. The partners accompanied our guests to prayers and meals, led tours, answered questions and enjoyed some lively conversations.
Saturday began with Lauds at 9 a.m. Next, our panel of nine Sisters from eight nearby communities shared their traditions and lifestyles. They included the monastic Benedictine Sisters, the cloistered Trappistine Sisters, and the apostolic Sisters from several Franciscan communities, along with the Humility, BVM and PBVM communities.
The Apostolic Communities
• Apostolic Sisters care for God’s people through their work, whether education or health care or outreach to the poor. They often live alone or in groups of two or three Sisters, sometimes far from the congregation’s motherhouse. Their primary focus is their ministry, often dictating where they live and what their schedule is like.
Sister Kathy Carr, BVM, says, “The apostolic Sisters have more in common with one another than they have differences. The BVMs’ particular focus is bringing justice to women and children.”
In fact, the Dubuque congregations —PBVM, BVM, Franciscan — collaborate on many ministries, including Maria House and Teresa Shelter, housing resources for women in need.
• The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, LaCrosse, Wis., participate in perpetual eucharistic adoration. “Everything else flows from this prayer,” Sister Romana says of the practice that involves two people praying before the Blessed Sacrament day and night.
• Franciscan communities — including the Dubuque, LaCrosse and Clinton groups — embrace the spirituality of the goodness of God. The Clinton Franciscans run the Franciscan Peace Center, advocating for social justice issues and care for the earth.
• The Humility of Mary Sisters, Davenport, provide outreach through their Humility of Mary Housing and Shelter facilities.
The Monastic Community
The Benedictine Sisters of Rock Island live, pray and enjoy leisure together, much as a family does. They pray the Divine Office together three times daily. They serve in ministries ranging from education and parish work to spiritual direction and campus ministry. Prayer and community are the focus of the monastic lifestyle.
The Cloistered Community
The Trappistine Sisters of Dubuque do not leave their monastic grounds. They pray the Divine Office together seven times daily. They work and enjoy leisure together within their monastic enclosure. Like the Benedictine Sisters, they follow the Rule of Benedict.
Prayer, community and silence are the focus of the cloistered lifestyle. They have no apostolic outreach. Their communal prayer and work — they make caramels to support themselves — form the shape of their day.
After lunch Saturday, guests were encouraged to take time for themselves to reflect on all they had experienced so far.
Later, we watched “Sisters,” a documentary about four apostolic Sisters and the choices they have made.
Saturday evening included Vespers, supper and games. Guests and Sisters gathered in chapel for Vespers at 5 p.m. Supper followed. We then gathered in the community room for games with the community.
Sunday morning was Lauds, Mass and brunch. We had lively discussion with the Sisters over brunch.
Introduction to Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina is translated from the Latin as “sacred reading.” It’s a method of listening to the Word of God that is foundational to Benedictine and Trappistine life. Benedictine Sister Mary Core, OSB, led the group in a Lectio session.
Later that day, the film “Women and Spirit,” about the history of women religious in the U.S. was watched.
Monday brought an end to a weekend. Participants enjoyed Lauds, Mass and lunch together before departing back into the world, to review, reflect and wonder: Could I be a Sister?