Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity received questions from Divine Mercy Catholic School, South Milwaukee Fifth graders regarding our way of life. In case there are others wondering about the same things, we thought we would share our responses here.
Why do you wear only black and white?
Our early Sisters chose black fabric, because it was easier to find and was not costly to keep purchasing. In the Rule, Francis does not prescribe any specific color for the habit of his followers, rather he invites them to “wear humble garments,” to “dress in cheap clothing” and wear “dull colors, like that of the earth”. If you visit Assisi, St. Francis’ habit is displayed. It fits this description and had many patches. Our Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity habit clearly identifies us as a community of Sisters.
In our order, sisters have 6-9 years of discernment before they make final vows. It is the hope that in that time, they have developed a strong commitment and can make a permanent decision on where God is calling them.
Why do you only get 2 weeks to spend away?
Religious life is like entering into a new family, and you need to devote most of your time to your new family. In our experience, two weeks has been plenty of time to be with parents, siblings, and friends. Plus, we can make day trips to see our families if they live close by, which doesn’t add to the two-week total. Our Sisters have been able to see family for birthdays and around the holidays without a problem. They are present for weddings and funerals of those they love.
Do you grow food?
Many of our Sisters do enjoy gardening and some even plant and harvest vegetables. Our Sisters always had gardens in the early days. It was our source of food, along with the farm that we ran. Today, our gardens are not our main source of food.
Why do you have to cut your hair when you become a sister?
We don’t have to cut our hair when we become a sister, but short hair does allow more time for prayer and devoting ourselves to other activities. Many cut their hair when they become a novice as a symbol of leaving their former world and entering into a new one. Though, after leaving Novitiate, it is entirely their choice what length of hair they would like.
We are fortunate to have two guest houses and guest rooms on the property. This is often where family members and friends stay, including male visitors and priests.
We have two friars that live in a friary near our Motherhouse. They take care of our sacramental needs. They eat with us in our cafeteria. We also employ some men who assist with various jobs in maintenance on our buildings, properties and vehicles. We are grateful for these men who help us in so many ways.
Do the sisters have to share a room?
While our rooms can be small, we do not share a room.
How could you tell that God was calling you into the vocation?
One will never be 100% certain, but there are definitely strong nudges and indications that one is being called to religious life. Sister Cecilia Joy says: “I personally felt God was calling me to religious life because it just made sense. I saw friends getting married and was so excited for them. Though, it didn’t seem like the path that God was calling me to. It didn’t seem like the way Jesus was calling me to give my life to Him. I describe my life as a bunch of puzzle pieces, and the puzzle pieces formed themselves into an arrow and pointed to the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.”