Change is always difficult and exciting and a whole lot of other emotions at once. Religious life is one big adventure and you never know where you will be next which is such an awesome opportunity to meet and serve God's people. I've been thinking a lot lately about the vocation to religious life and identity. Many people ask me at times, is your community liberal... are they conservative, are they traditional... are they progressive? And, I never have an answer because my answer is that we are Catholic religious sisters.
As I've been reflecting on the ability to give of myself completely to others in imitation of Jesus, I have found that there is far too much resting on labels like those above. Although it is true that I act in a more conservative manner and I pray in a more traditional manner; conservative and traditional are not my identity. Being a sister to all is my identity. And it is such a wonderful and life-giving opportunity to let go of comfort zones.
I feel comfortable as a conservative and traditional religious sister; but if I polarize someone by not being able to leave my comfort zone and enter into theirs, how will I ever be able to show them that God loves them and that the Church loves them? I can't tell you how many uncomfortable situations I have been in at times because of this labeling and I continue to try to escape any label other than sister.
I am doing a summer camp right now in the inner city. Many of the kids are not Catholic, and many don't understand what a sister is, except that we really love them and like to have fun with them. Well, yesterday a four year old came over and asked myself and a sister who looks just like me (it really makes things difficult, no one can tell us apart! We're also the same age in religion!) "Are you two sisters?" Sister M. answered right away, "We are Catholic religious sisters but we aren't related, we don't have the same mom." Our dear little angel then offered, "Oh, I get it, you have the same dad," and skipped off on her way. Well, we thought it was hilarious, but it offered for me another opportunity to examine the attitudes I have. I was able to accept her for her lack of understanding and her lack of exposure to sisters.
Now, we didn't continue the conversation there, but it continued in a more subtle way throughout the days we have spent with the children. They see that we love them, that we care about them, that we want them to be happy and safe, and in that they see a sister. They may not be able to put that into sophisticated words but I can tell by the way they hug me and talk to me that they know that I am their family in God.
Now as I get prepared to go out on the mission I hope and pray that this understanding continues to grow so that I can meet all people and work towards bringing us all into the Church together. It is such a gift to be a sister and nothing else to those who need us most. Thank you, Lord.