.- Sister Elvira Maria de Witt, DCJ, is an opera singer turned nun who has found a new way to win vocations to the religious lifeâby going online.
âThe Netherlands had a lot of missionaries. I didnât come into this congregation, give up my whole career as a singer - and I was really good - to let it die. Come on Jesus!â the feisty, young Dutch religious sister told CNA while visiting Rome.
âBut I asked myself, where should I find new people?â
So, after considering going to bars and soccer games to find young people but concluding âI donât think I can go there,â 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.
âSome questions about the faith or that they donât feel well or are depressed,â 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 â most of whom are not Catholic themselves.
âThere 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?â
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 â now extended to Facebook and a blog - is giving answers that are not readily available elsewhere in her country.
âThe Netherlands is a good example of how things shouldnât work: there is no catechism in the Catholic schools, there are no Catholic schools - only in name - but inside you see nothing,â she said.
Despite those obstacles, the religious vocations keep coming â just not from Catholic households. In fact, the conventâs two latest recruits are not even baptized.
âSo, there is the whole process of catechism, of telling them about the Catholic faith, asking if itâs what they want, being baptized and confirmed,â Sister Elvira explained.
After joining the Church, the sisters ask that they live their faith for âa couple of years or soâ 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, âI found Jesus!â
âI was a singer, singing in Berlin and Amsterdam in the big halls, then Jesus came and I followed him.â
Sister Elvira can be contacted at http://www.roepingen.nl