October 25, 2013

Be Our Guest / Elizabeth Escoffery

Film shines light on beauty, joy of religious sisters’ vocations

Elizabeth EscofferyLook around your parish, your school or your archdiocese. Can you imagine sisters?

Imagine Sisters is a social media movement whose goal is to promote women’s vocations to the religious life.

Since the fall of 2012, the movement has produced a blog, a Facebook page with more than 16,000 “likes” and, most recently, a 66-minute film, Light of Love, which tells the stories of five perpetually professed sisters, each from a different religious community.

By featuring perpetually professed sisters rather than postulants or novices, there is a greater depth to the stories and a maturity that comes with having promised God and their community that they intend to live this vocation for life.

Often postulants and novices tend to get the attention in media stories and, although they are closest in age to most discerners, they are still discerning their call to religious life.

As a society that struggles with long-term commitments, this witness of faithfulness is important for all of us to see and is something we ought to celebrate in religious life, consecrated life, priesthood and marriage alike.

Produced by Lighthouse Media and Altius Media, the cinematography of Light of Love is fresh and captivatingly simple, providing, for the first time, a high-quality film that has an ability to transform the way we think about women in religious life. This follows the innovative style of the 2006 Fishers of Men film, which made an impact on vocations to the priesthood. Light of Love features one such religious, Servant of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara Sister Maria de Los Angeles Garcia.

In Light of Love, Sister Maria says, “Religious life, it’s a sure way of following Jesus, it’s a sure way of not doing your will but his will all of the time, it’s a joyful way of following Jesus.”

Christian discipleship is a key motif in this film as the sisters are seen at their apostolates, at prayer and at play. There are many moments of spontaneous laughter and smiles. The joy is undeniable.

Sister M. Talitha, a Sister of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, also shares a glimpse into joy, but also the seriousness of her life as director of nursing in a hospital’s cardiology unit. She works with patients who are experiencing heart attacks, and she and her staff are often able to bring them back to life. She expresses the joy in being able to share good news with the grief-stricken family and share in the healing ministry of Christ.

Franciscan Sister of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother Sister Carrie Ann McKeown describes an encounter she had at the community’s thrift store with an atheist woman, and her approach to meeting her where she was as Jesus does with each of us. She sees the delight in the woman’s face when picking up a birdhouse in the store, so Sister Carrie Ann offers it to her to take for free.

Each sister’s ministry is tangibly nourished by her personal and communal prayer life. In this way, the film intentionally demonstrates how prayer and a relationship with Jesus are the cornerstones of each sister’s faith.

In a similar effort to demonstrate the importance of prayer, vocations and discernment, the archdiocesan Vocations Office recently concluded the “Called By Name” program in the Batesville and Connersville deaneries in which parishioners were asked to submit names of men and women who they think have qualities that would make them great priests, religious brothers or religious sisters.

The nominees were invited to adoration, Mass, dinner and presentations at St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright. Sister Sandy Howe, a Sister of Charity from Cincinnati, presented to the female participants in a break-out session on her own beautiful vocational story, and answered questions about religious life.

The questions asked by the 14 young women in attendance—including, “Do I have to give up my gifts and talents if I become a sister? How often will I see my family? When do you know you are ready to make final vows? What does a typical day look like?”—are answered in Light of Love. This film cannot replace the experience of meeting the religious sisters who teach, serve and pray in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, but it is a close second.

As we work to promote a culture of vocations in our archdiocese, let us utilize and share this free, online resource at www.LightofLovefilm.com, so we can all begin imagining new sisters within our families, schools and parish communities right here in in central and southern Indiana.

(Elizabeth Escoffery is associate director of vocations for the archdiocese.)

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