Walking, virtually, with women discerning religious life
By Sister Amy Taylor
Accompanying women discerning religious life today requires a wide variety of communication skills, including the willingness and ability to embrace technology. Emailing, texting and calls via phone and video are my go-to practices outside of in-person visits with discerners. In March, when COVID-19 changed many ways of the world, we cancelled a scheduled in-person Come and See, and for most of us working at St. Rose Convent, we packed up and headed home to continue serving while sheltering in place. Since then, technology has become the one true lifeline to discerners as they, too, experienced the total disruption of their normal routines.
Since then we have witnessed the Holy Spirit at work, continuing to inspire discerners to make time, reach out and explore religious life. They have been encouraged to push beyond their ideals of planning road trips and stopping at different convents, traveling instead through their smartphones and laptops.
Infusing creativity into that technology, FSPA is offering virtual Come and See opportunities. We kicked off this mission when we invited several discerners to attend Sister Michele Pettit’s virtual first-vow ceremony, live-streamed on July 25 from San Damiano Chapel at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
At that time, San Damiano had just received permission to open their doors for Masses, as long as they followed the diocesan protocol for COVID-19 safety. A small group of people were able to be in the chapel, and FSPA sisters, family and friends unable to travel due to the pandemic had the opportunity to experience Sister Michele’s celebration online. We reached out by phone and email to the discerners who had watched the celebration from their homes. Together, as a virtual community that includes our discerners, we all witnessed the joy of Sister Michele’s “yes” to vowed life as an FSPA.
The next step into our evolution of virtual visits happened in August when we offered a full-day Come and See opportunity. Zoom was the vehicle for connection as we began the day with prayer and then a virtual tour of Mary of the Angels Chapel. We also met virtually with several small groups of sisters, each sharing different aspects of life as a vowed FSPA: prayer and perpetual adoration, mission and ministry, Franciscanism and ecology. Several sisters shared stories of themselves as new members experiencing the incorporation process. Through video and microphones, conversation flowed, a wide variety of questions were answered and new connections were made.
As we continue to pioneer new ways to meet the needs of women discerning religious life today, we believe that our foundresses would be proud of FSPA. Thank you to all of the sisters who have graciously engaged with discerners in this new modality during such an unprecedented time in our history. The future is created one step — or perhaps one click of a mouse — at a time!
Also in the September 2020 e-edition of Presence:
FSPA welcomes Sister Michele Pettit into first profession
Who is my Sister?
How COVID-19 opened hearts
The path to racial solidarity