Thursday, May 12, 2011

Daughters of Charity, Sisters of Charity, what?

The other day, I had an interesting conversation with my principal. He's known for months that I'm applying for pre-postulancy. And before the school announced it was closing, we even had a fun plan of me continuing to work there as a pre-postulant, but alas, God had other plans. Anyway, that day, at lunch duty, he turns to me and goes "So next year will your pre-postulancy. What are the Sisters called again? The Sisters of Charity?"


My answer was complicated "They're the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Some people call them the Sisters of Charity though so you're technically not wrong. But there ARE other groups that are Sisters of Charity" and then I attempted to explain the whole Setonian (St Elizabeth Ann Seton) history and the handful of communities she founded that are named "Sisters of Charity".  I decided not to explain the fact that the Sisters in Emmitsburg still are registered financially under the name Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. Good grief, he probably just wanted a "yes" or "no" answer but he ended up with a long dissertation from me.


Also, believe it or not, there are other groups that are "_______ of Charity" that have nothing to do with Elizabeth Ann Seton or Vincent de Paul! Crazy, huh? This is probably making your head spin. Don't worry too much about all the differences...maybe I'll explain them more in depth in a different post!


But, as I was telling my principal, although there may be too many religious communities to know, all these differences really speak to the universality of the Church. Each religious community has a specific charism - that is, their own personal spiritual characteristics shown by their mission and/or values they find important. (And how many religious communities are there in the world? My guess is thousands. ) Franciscan Sisters are different than Benedictine Sisters, Carmelite Sisters different than Salesian Sisters, Salesian Sisters different than Daughters of Charity....and those are just a few!


St Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan charism,
which includes a love of personal
poverty and a dedication to a simple
straight-forward living of the Gospel
Point is - in this great Church of ours, everyone fits. The Church doesn't expect us to be the same. She knows that each person is different - each person has different gifts, each person finds God in a different way and serves God in a different way. It's always frustrating to me when people lump Catholic Sisters (or really, Catholics in general) as all the same. Just do a little investigating in religious orders and you'll find out just how different we all are! (Not to mention, the Church asks us to practice our own personal charism, even if we're not priests, brothers, or Sisters!)


Obviously, I was talking about my Catholic Church just then but I also know that overall, this is a characteristic of Christians in general. I have a good number of Protestant friends that are able to use their own personal charism, their own personal spirituality, in their church. One in particular that I admire deeply is a friend, belonging to the Church of God denomination, who is currently working as a missionary in Bogotá, Colombia by working with at-risk kids and youth.

Jesus called each disciple in a different way. Even the Letters (of the New Testament) show us how different each writer was, how each connected to God in a different way. Peter and Paul were quite different, but they were both great followers of Christ. In the Old Testament, we see two prophets - Moses and Elijah - that experienced God in two different ways...Moses in a very active way through the burning bush and Elijah through the more contemplative "whispering wind". One experience wasn't better than the other - just different as our own personal charisms are. 


Go in search of your own personal charism...how do you feel called to serve God ? how do you experience God? what Christian values do you cherish the most? which saints or personal spiritual heroes inspire you?...and live it!

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