Practical skills and spiritual growth were to be stitched together into one fun event when a New Ulm, Minnesota, community rallied to support a local religious order on March 10.
The Handmaids of the Lord convent invited locals to visit as part of the National Catholic Sisters Week celebration from March 8-14. Visitors were to have received an on-site snapshot of the sisters’ daily lives, in addition to hands-on experience learning the intricacies of constructing a religious habit.
“I hope people will come and share their talents and just have a day of conversation and getting to know the sisters and being able to engage with different families and new faces of all ages,” said Jackie Finstad, the organizer of the event, dubbed Sewing with the Sisters.
The convent of the Handmaids of the Lord is a relatively new presence in New Ulm. Only 10 years old, the order is mostly made of up 20- and 30-something year olds. Their charism is Marian, diocesan, Eucharistic and evangelistic.
Finstad, a 39-year-old mom of seven, is glad the next generation in New Ulm has a chance to witness the enthusiasm of the youthful order. “It’s been important to us as we are growing in our Faith to get our kids to know our priests and our sisters on a personal level,” she said.
This year marks the fourth annual celebration of the National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW). Events across the country were scheduled to celebrate the remarkable contributions of Catholic sisters, in tandem with National Women’s History Month. Sewing with the Sisters is one of 67 events funded by a grant from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, the headquarters of the NCSW.
Molly Hazelton, co-executive director of NCSW, noted that Catholic sisters are too humble to seek the spotlight, as they are usually too busy with their ministries to do so. But those ministries can inspire the masses, and the goal of NCSW is to share those stories.
“In a time when there isn’t much good news, we need more than ever to hear stories of how Catholic sisters help and heal a fractured country,” she said. “They can also unite a divided church, generating feel-good stories about Catholicism.”
Christina Capecchi, NCSW spokeswoman, told Our Sunday Visitor that NCSW wants to demonstrate common ground to young women who may have not had exposure before to Catholic sisters, showing that the values of religious orders resonate with their own, leading to a natural kinship with each other.
“We have delightful stories demonstrating these bonds,” she said. The modern young woman is still pursuing religious life, Capecchi noted. Approximately 100 women enter every year at the average age of 32 — and NCSW is eager to share their stories.
Seeing the call lived out
Finstad said bringing together the sisters and the community would ensure that the younger generation in attendance would pepper the sisters with questions concerning their lifestyle. She added that it’s been a blessing for her family to experience relationships with religious sisters, especially when she herself didn’t have that opportunity as a child. In fact, the busy mom says the dynamic of the Handmaids reminds her of a big family. Which is the type of relationship NCSW hopes will develop all across the country as a result of the 67 planned events.
“National Catholic Sisters Week is the time to reach out,” Hazelton said. “Meet a sister, hug a sister, pray for a sister, research a sister, write to a sister, take a sister out to dinner. You won’t regret it.”
Mariann Hughes writes from Florida.