By Barb Arland-Fye
Several communities of Sisters are collaborating on a Labor Day Weekend event designed for women contemplating a vocation to religious life.
“Who are Sisters Today: A Discernment Weekend” is open to single women ages 22 to 45 and will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, Ill., home of the Sisters of St. Benedict. Participants will be guests of the monastery, and will pray and share meals with the Benedictine Sisters.
The weekend features screening of the film “A Question of Habit” with filmmaker Bren Ortega-Murphy in attendance, a panel discussion with Sisters from various religious communities describing their experiences of religious life, and an exhibit on the history of Sisters in the United States titled “Women in Spirit.”
Sisters from apostolic, monastic, active and contemplative communities in the Upper Mississippi Valley will participate in the panel discussion. Religious communities to be represented include Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, BVMs, Presentations, and Sisters of Humility, Davenport.
Sister Bobbi Bussan, vocation director for the Benedictines at St. Mary Monastery, will facilitate the weekend. She explains how the idea for this experience developed:
The Benedictines had an opportunity to obtain the Women in Spirit Exhibit for a month and partnered with Christ the King Parish in Moline, Ill., to house the display because of its size. In the process of making arrangements for the exhibit, the Sisters decided to offer a weekend experience for women inquiring about religious life.
“We’re reaching out to women who have expressed an interest in religious life, yet they might not be sure what avenue or type of community exists or might be attractive to them,” said Sr. Bussan. The Benedictines also decided to invite Sisters from other communities to help provide inquiring women with “a broader understanding of religious life.”
The Sisters feel fortunate to have Ortega-Murphy present for the showing of her film “Question of Habit,” which will be screened Saturday morning, Aug. 31. That afternoon, Sr. Bussan will facilitate the panel discussion. On Sunday, Sept. 1, participants will travel to Christ the King Parish in Moline for the Women in Spirit exhibit. They’ll discuss the impact of women religious in U.S. history and then focus on more local communities.
Sr. Bussan said she’d be happy with up to 10 women contemplating a religious vocation to participate in the weekend. The smaller number would make for a more personal experience, she added. Women from the Quad Cities are welcome to come and go as they are able or their schedule allows.
Reaching out to new individuals contemplating a vocation is challenging, she added. “We offer a variety of vocation discernment opportunities for women, however, this is the first time we have combined a vocation program with an outside speaker or exhibit. If this weekend is well received, then I hope to create similar events that might be inviting to women.”
Sr. Bussan, who works part-time in campus ministry at Augustana College in Rock Island, is one of 47 vowed members of the Benedictines at St. Mary Monastery. Three work in Peoria, Ill., and the rest work in the Quad-City area or are retired. Last month, the Benedictines celebrated with Sister Stephanie MacDonald as she professed perpetual vows July 11 on the Feast of St. Benedict.
Who: Single Catholic women, ages 22-45
What: A Discernment Experience featuring Sisters from apostolic, monastic, active and contemplative communities.
When: Fri. Aug. 30 – Mon. Sept. 2
Where: Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, 2200 88th Ave. West, Rock Island, IL, 61201
Why: To gain greater understanding of the different types of religious communities available along the Upper Mississippi River Valley
Cost: No fee for the weekend.
To RSVP by Aug. 15, contact Sister Bobbi Bussan, OSB, at (309) 283-2300 or rbussan @smmsisters.org.