Earlier this month, religious sisters gathered from over 20 orders not only to learn how to draw closer to Christ in their own lives, but to lead others to Him as well.
The sisters gathered in Steubenville, Ohio July 14-16 for Franciscan University’s Religious Sisters Conference. "The Religious Sisters Conference usually gets me fired up and ready to go out until 365 days later when I come on back," said Sister Mary Michael Mackey of the Doors of St. Dominic in Steubenville.
According to a press release from the university, one speaker, author Ralph Martin explained to the sisters that their call to holiness must be a gift to others.
He said, "[When] people come and visit [you], rather than just letting them ask about you and your life, ask about them and their lives, with an eye for: What's the Holy Spirit doing? How can I help them come closer [to God]? How can I help them fall in love with Jesus?" Martin said. "You're not just full-time religious for yourself; you're full-time religious to equip the saints for the work of ministry."
Another talk focused on growth and perseverance in prayer. Sister Therese Marie Iglesias, TOR, shared that once when she was she was sick and awake in the middle of the night, she looked out the convent window and saw a solitary deer in the winter snow. If she been asleep she would have missed this exquisite scene, she said, pointing out the marvels that await those who don't "sleep" through their prayer lives.
Sister Therese Marie also emphasized the importance of living for others.
"I didn't become a sister to proclaim to the world that I'm special," she said. "I became a sister to announce to the world that God is in love with you. And when the world sees me, I want them to say, 'I have a God who is head over heels in love with me'."
On the final day of the conference, Steubenville Bishop R. Daniel Conlon celebrated Mass for the sisters, reinforcing in his homily the importance of bringing others to Christ.
"To be able to help others, that is our task; to help others to understand what it means to love Christ," he said.
Following the talks, some sisters shared what they enjoyed the most about the conference.
Sister Virginia Maria Klonowski said, "I enjoy being with the sisters of the different communities. It's not only a social experience, but it's a very spiritual experience, to be with them and see the commonality of our desire to come here."
Sister Mary Helen Forney of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Erie, PA, has been coming to workshops and conferences at Franciscan University for over three decades.
"I've gone every chance I could," she said. "The desire to become a true religious, the desire to know what God is asking, brought me here."