Symposium spotlights sisters

By Ryan Ibarra


Catholic nuns from the San Antonio area gathered at the University of the Incarnate Word Sept. 12 for a unique experience and a chance to learn and grow in their faith.

The event, titled “Catholic Sisters: Who They Are and Why the World Needs Them,” kicked off a nationwide talk series that will make other stops in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California.

Sister Mary Johnson, Sister Patricia Wittberg and Dr. Mary Gautier, coauthors of the book, “New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity,” spoke to an audience of nuns and students in the Concert Hall about Pope Francis’s declaration of the Year of Consecrated Life and the state of Catholic sisters in today’s society.

The speakers touched on many topics including the diversity of sisters today, the changing demographics of Catholicism in the United States, and the influence of the generations on changes within the sisterhood. Each speaker spoke individually but all the topics intertwined, adding to an overall message of what it means to be a Catholic sister today.

Not only were the talks filled with lessons from years of experience and life stories, but also with research and facts to back up the claims. The talks were filled with statistics, graphs and charts, which made the topics being understood more interesting, and relatable to all generations including Millennials, a generation widely discussed by all the speakers.

The event was a great way to learn what being a Catholic sister today is really about, UIW senior Cristen Gonzalez said.

“I had no idea that (Catholic) sisters were really involved especially in the statistical side,” said Gonzalez, a campus minister and president of UIW’s Catholic Daughters of the Incarnate Word. “It was really nice to see on the screen actual numbers and graphs of the change of being a Catholic sister over a period of time.”

The talk highlighted how the involvement and practices of Catholic sisters has evolved. Peace, war, and even things such as the evolution of technology and access of information have all shaped the state of sisterhood and its perception by young women in the United States.

Some of the statistics presented by the speakers showed how the involvement and perception of what it means to be a nun throughout generations and even the possibilities of future generations have changed and the influence each generation has had on others. Examples are preferences of wearing the habit, a traditional garment worn by nuns, choosing to live alone in isolation from the outside world, or even preferences on meditation and worshiping. Each generation has its own preferences that suit their generation but their choices influence the next generations of sisters to come. To some of the students present, this information was eye-opening.

“It really opened my eyes to joining a convent,” said UIW senior Jacqueline Chacom. “It’s something I’ve thought about but I’ve never really pursued it.”

For UIW sophomore Hilary Sanchez, the symposium was enlightening.

“They know so much about the orders and religious life that it makes you want to know more,” said Sanchez, who is actively involved in campus ministry. “At my age, 19, it’s a good time to explore. So this is a nice thing to explore and get to know more about and to see what you want in life.”

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