Pope Francis has made it easier for a religious order to dismiss a member who…
Religious sister shares the joys and challenges of living in community
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered our community after graduation from college, but I quickly found out that community life is all at once a wild adventure, a worthy work and a great joy. On entrance day, I stepped into a community of sisters from varied cultures (across the United States and Canada, and as far as Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Ireland), ages (from early 20s onward) and walks of life, and I learned to marvel at the work of the Holy Spirit — the only one who could bring all of these women together and make of us a family. The mystery of who he chooses, how he calls and at what time in the individual’s life and in the life of the community is cause for wonder and gratitude.
I was surprised — to my great delight — at the range of personalities found in my community. Far from the common assumption of the “cookie-cutter” sister, the religious life actually brings out the unique beauty of each sister. There are areas of growth and integration, of course, and we try to live in deep and loving unity. But that does not mean checking our personalities at the door! Rather, each sister is encouraged to be exactly the woman God created her to be, so that the richness of life that he intends for us to experience may flourish in community. The result is a beautiful sharing of varying gifts, interests, histories and spiritualities that allows each sister to learn from the others while all grow together in virtue and holiness.
Are there personality conflicts on occasion? Of course! But community life lived well is imbued with reverence for the other. So when another sister’s qualities or habits try my patience, or communication is difficult, it is an opportunity to take a step back and marvel how God made us so differently and yet loves each of us so much. As sisters, we commit to living in mutual reconciliation, which means we promise to God and to each other that we will not let misunderstandings, mistakes or sins cause division in our community. We desire and commit ourselves to choose love, repentance and forgiveness wherever and whenever it is needed so that we always remain united as a family.
As Sisters of Life, we intentionally live an intense community life, and we spend almost every moment of every day together. So we come to know each other quite well, in all of our strengths and weaknesses. And this is a great gift, because my sisters can help me to see my blind spots so that I can work to grow in virtue and be transformed in Jesus. It may come with a pinch to my pride at times, but this is also a gift.
Ultimately, it is Jesus himself in the Eucharist who unites us. We trust that God has brought us together and given us a shared charism, which means our hearts are united in love for the Lord, for his Church and for his people. I live with sisters who desire holiness, who want to be saints! And that fire in our hearts brings with it a constant source of encouragement, accountability and prayer with and for each other as we move daily toward that goal.
In my own experience, after stepping into the unknown in entering the convent, I thank God constantly that these women who were once complete strangers are now truly my sisters and my deepest friends. Each of us has come for Jesus, to give our whole hearts and our whole lives to him, but he is never outdone in generosity — we quickly find that the hundredfold is real! We receive with joy the immeasurable blessing of each other and of belonging to something far greater than ourselves: a family, God’s family — a foretaste of heaven on earth.
Sister Lucia Christi is with the Sisters of Life in Denver.