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Dutch sister’s online vocation efforts bearing fruit
By David Kerr
Sr. Elvira along with members of her community in 2011. Courtesy of Sr. Elvira Maria de Witt
Sr. Elvira along with members of her community in 2011. Courtesy of Sr. Elvira Maria de Witt

.- Sister Elvira Maria de Witt, DCJ, is an opera singer turned nun who has found a new way to win vocations to the religious life—by going online.

“The Netherlands had a lot of missionaries. I didn’t come into this congregation, give up my whole career as a singer - and I was really good - to let it die. Come on Jesus!” the feisty, young Dutch religious sister told CNA while visiting Rome.

“But I asked myself, where should I find new people?”

So, after considering going to bars and soccer games to find young people but concluding “I don’t think I can go there,” she came up with her bold broadband plan.

From a slow start in 2001, she now receives up to 300 e-mails a week, and they are mostly from the young.

“Some questions about the faith or that they don’t feel well or are depressed,” she explained. Others are from girls who are pregnant and have nowhere else to turn for advice. Still more are young people wanting to know about the Catholic faith and religious life – most of whom are not Catholic themselves.

“There are questions about how to pray better or how to pray the Rosary or questions like how do I go to confession? What should I say and where can I find somebody?”

Sister Elvira is the novice mistress at the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus convent in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht. She believes that her online presence – now extended to Facebook and a blog - is giving answers that are not readily available elsewhere in her country.
 
“The Netherlands is a good example of how things shouldn’t work: there is no catechism in the Catholic schools, there are no Catholic schools - only in name - but inside you see nothing,” she said.

Despite those obstacles, the religious vocations keep coming – just not from Catholic households. In fact, the convent’s two latest recruits are not even baptized.

“So, there is the whole process of catechism, of telling them about the Catholic faith, asking if it’s what they want, being baptized and confirmed,” Sister Elvira explained.

After joining the Church, the sisters ask that they live their faith for “a couple of years or so” before they enter the convent.
 
Not that such things worry her, given that she herself never really went to church until she was 24 when, in her words, “I found Jesus!”

“I was a singer, singing in Berlin and Amsterdam in the big halls, then Jesus came and I followed him.”
 
Sister Elvira can be contacted at http://www.roepingen.nl


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