Do you have a question for a Franciscan Sister? Please feel free to email Sister Julie Ann at email@example.com.
Here are some questions others have asked.
Could you comment on Gary Chapman’s Love Language of physical touch and how it relates to religious women?
Gary Chapman seems to have written the Five Languages first and primarily for married couples and then expanded on his theories for singles, children, workplace relationships and more. For a celibate person, man or woman, the physical touch language takes on unique forms. Two days ago I was invited to hold a baby only 4 days old. Within 24 hours I held the hands of an 84 year old Sister in my Community as she entered heaven. The two forms of physical touch seem to encompass the gamut of the physical language of love for a celibate woman.
I am often in unique positions to comfort, to affirm, to console and to reassure. In each case a form of physical touch is appropriate. For a celibate, physical touch is not to be erotic but to convey the love of Jesus to the person at hand. This touch is not limited to people I know but is often called forth at the bedside of a stranger, at the table of an acquaintance, at the joy of new life and at the wake and funeral of a parishioner, client or friend. Those who touch me offer those same sentiments of consolation, joy, shared grief or affirmation. Physical touch is, truly, a love language that is adapted to life style, circumstance and need.
What is your favorite part of being a Sister?
I am truly grateful that God called me to be a Sister. There are so many beautiful aspects of this vocation, but I would have to say my favorite parts are living in community, being able to serve in ministry, and having the time to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. I got to know our Sisters and was attracted by their joy. When I visited the Motherhouse in Manitowoc, Wisconsin I felt at home. Each day I learn more of who God is calling me to be, and I am delighted to be His.
Has God ever directly talked to you? How did He speak to you?
I sense that God has talked directly to me many times. It is in a sense, feeling/ intuition to know something, to do something, act on something or refrain from acting on something.
The strongest time was when I was on retreat and pondering the Baptism of Jesus. In my mind, I was standing on the shore watching as John Baptized Jesus. At the same time, Jesus came and stood beside me, put his arm around my shoulders and said, “My Father is speaking to you as well: ‘You are my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased’.” This was a great moment of love and confirmation of my religious vocation.
Do Sisters have phones?
In our convents every Sister has access to a telephone. There are some ministries that come with a cellphone. These Sisters are given a cellphone, because it is necessary to their service. In Arizona, our ministry on the Indian Reservation requires us to each have a cellphone because of safety reasons.
What’s the hardest part about being a Sister?
While there are challenges with being a Sister, it is remarkable how God transforms them into either opportunities for growth or better experiences than could have been imagined. An example is having limited communication with my friends during Novitiate. This was difficult at first. But then, God allowed me to know that I could love them most by using this time to pray for them. God who loves both them and me knows best what they need.
Do you always wear what you are wearing now? Do people ever approach you with questions or give you strange looks/rude to you?
Yes, I always wear what I am wearing now. These clothes are my habit. By wearing them, I witness to people that I am a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity.
Wearing a habit does invite people to approach me with questions about being a Sister, asking for prayers and just wanting to talk about a concern. I always try to smile at people as I pass them and greet them. Most often they have a smile and greeting for me as well. On a few rare occasions someone has said something rude. All I can do is pray for that person to be able to find joy and peace in their life.
Once you receive your new name, do you ever go by your old name again?
Before Vatican II, Sisters were asked to give three suggestions for possible names as religious. They did not suggest their own name. After Vatican II, Sisters were given the option of returning to their baptismal name or keeping the name they received in religious life.
Today, young women, requesting to enter the novitiate, give suggestions for names in religious life and one of those suggestions can be to keep her baptismal name. All official documents are in her legal name.
My own family calls me several different names.
Do you get paid for being a Sister?
I found this an interesting question. It presents a misunderstanding of the vocation to be a Sister. I don’t get paid to be a Sister just as someone does not get paid to be married. Being a Sister is a response to God’s call to serve him. We live in Community as Sisters, like a family, and the structure of the communal life gives a foundation for our response. We do not respond alone just as one can not be married alone. We have Sisters with whom we share our life. Each of us adds to the relationship of the Community and therefore supports me in my vocation and I hopefully support them.
The part we may be paid for is the ministry we do. Note that I said “we” get paid for. Each of us takes a vow of poverty. Because of this vow and the vow of obedience the ministry that I do is assigned to me by those in charge of the Community. The payment for this ministry is paid to the Community not to me. The check is even made out to the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. This supports the communal life that is addressed in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2.
Of course there are times of exception to this in regard to the payment. Sometimes a Sister may do work that is approved by the Community and is paid in her own name, but even then the money is turned over to the Community to be able to continue to support each other and to live the vow of poverty.
If one sister receives income from her work in the ministry (say nursing, or teaching), is she allowed to give some part of that to her family, or does it all have to go to the sisterhood community? I know an individual sister can’t keep money, but I’m curious as to what happens when one of you has for example an aging parent or sick sibling who may need care but cannot afford it themselves.
Yes. All of the money that our Sisters receive whether through a parish stipend or actual salary (e.g. through a health care facility) is sent directly to our Motherhouse and put in a community fund. The Congregation provides for each of us the necessities of life, but always according to the spirit of poverty. Aware of the poor in our midst, we give what is left to charity. If one of our Sisters’ families is in need, a Sister is free to make a request and explain the situation through our Community Director and her council. Our Community and its leadership are aware of, and grateful for the gift that our families give to the Church in supporting our vocation. Thus, generosity and empathy mark the help that our Franciscan family generally offers to our original family.
Not finding the answers to your questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.