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.