Imagine what it would be like to dedicate your life to Jesus Christ, and to carry out Gospel living through the spirituality and works of the Church. Imagine what it would be like to have a serious life of prayer, and to live in community with women who shared your faith.
Imagine what it would be like to be a religious sister.
“It’s a totally valid, exciting and meaningful vocation,” said Dan Rogers, director of a grassroots nonprofit called, of course, Imagine Sisters Movement. “Our goal and our title is to invite young people to imagine the possibilities if God is calling you to become a sister. At Imagine Sisters, here is the groundwork, and here’s how it works.”
A click on imaginesisters.org opens a website with links to questions and answers, discernment information, and photos and blogs aimed at the movement’s mission to inspire and support vocations and “to help the world to meet sisters on fire for their faith.” There are contacts for inquiries about vocations and a trailer for “Light of Love,” a 20-minute video that will be released this summer.
Rogers, 25, is a senior at St. Joseph College Seminary of Loyola University in Chicago, Ill., and is studying for ordination for the Diocese of San Bernardino, Calif. He and a couple of classmates started a discernment group on campus to do something for women who felt called to a religious vocation. Ten sisters came to campus to meet with a group of young women, and Rogers, who has a background in video production and graphic design, filmed the event.
“A lot of people started watching it, so we made it into a website and added more videos and made a Facebook page, and that pretty much started what we are doing,” he said.
Rogers spread the word on social media, sent out press releases, and officially launched Imagine Sisters on Pentecost 2012. The staff includes sisters, lay people and a chaplain, and Amanda Houska of Cleveland is religious communities coordinator and assistant director to Rogers.
“We really want to get people excited about vocations and present it in a fresh and exciting way, in the New (Evangelization),” Rogers said.
Discerning the call
There are many great resources for priests, Rogers added, and “Fishers of Men” was the most influential in his own discernment. The vocations video, developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was produced in 2006 by Grassroots Films in Brooklyn, N.Y.
|Seminarians show support for Imagine Sisters. Courtesy of Dan Rogers
“I remember watching it and saying, ‘This is awesome,’” he said. “It really humanizes the vocations. Here are these young guys who feel this call to priesthood. I was in high school when I saw it, and I thought ‘This is cool, I need to check this out and consider a vocation for myself.’ When I started looking for similar stuff for sisters, there was nothing with the quality and caliber of ‘Fishers of Men.’ Nothing as exciting.”
Imagine Sisters Movement approached Catholic Lighthouse Media (CLM) with a proposal for the video, and the organization came on board. CLM President Mark Middendorf called Imagine Sisters “a wonderful and exciting movement that is helping to inspire young women … to discern their true vocation in life and see the joy and love that is found in religious life.”
The video also is being backed by Lumen Vere Media and will be available through CLM distribution and on the Internet. The trailer on the website features a young sister whose face glows with the joy of her vocation.
“Young people are generally attracted to others close to their own age, and they need to see a young, excited sister,” Rogers said. “They think, ‘I could be that sister. She’s young, and most important, she has this relationship with Christ.’ And even if she is not called to be a sister, the video still helps her to understand her faith.”
Houska, 24, has been seriously discerning the religious life since she was 18, and lived for a year as an affiliate with the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R., in Toronto, Ohio. She was accepted for entrance, but will take that step at a later date. Meanwhile, she is handling the inquiries from religious communities (there are a number of original listings) and preparing a community invitation package for those who want to become involved.
“We will have an Imagine Sisters calendar where, for instance, there will be quotes on a community’s Founders Day,” Houska said. “We are always looking for high quality photos and graphics of religious women in our Church. We live in an age where we are visually stimulated, and seeing the visual beauty (of religious life) is one of the ways to promote vocations.”
Imagine Sisters is lending camcorders to religious communities to shoot testimonials and tours of their convents. They also are looking for more bloggers. Current topics include “What is Authentic Femininity?” and “How Can Jesus Have So Many Brides?” There’s a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the patron saint of the movement, information about Imagine Sisters’ Fruits of One Rose campaign and a humorous piece on “Hallucinate (Imagine), Sisters.” Other links list discernment events, discussion forums and opportunities to ask questions.
“A lot of the girls who contact us will say that they have thought about a religious vocation, but they don’t know what to tell their parents,” Houska said. “Those questions are being answered by a priest or religious who has background in spiritual direction.”
Not all the work is specifically aimed at recruiting sisters.
“We’re working to promote a culture of vocations,” she said. “We really want young women to start thinking about what a vocation is, but not all the women we encounter will be called to religious life.”
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania. For discernment information: email@example.com. Communities seeking information: firstname.lastname@example.org.