Spirit Days focused on new membership, fun

By Dave Eck

DAYTON – The annual Spirit/Jubilee Days were busy for Precious Blood Sisters as they handled several business issues, heard a presentation on new membership and celebrated the Jubilees of Sisters marking 75 and 50 years of religious life. Sisters from across the country, Chile and Guatemala returned to Dayton for the June 28-July 1 gathering, which was themed “Called to Faithful Love.” The topic for Spirit Days was new membership, which grew out of a directive at last summer’s assembly to continue discussion on the issue, said Sister Joyce Lehman (M. Leanne), president.

In her opening remarks, Sister Joyce spoke of a series of workshops by the Religious Formation Conference in which participants are seriously looking at a deep desire for change in religious life in North America. She encouraged Sisters to consider letting go of the old paradigm and be open to God’s desire.

“We can do this,” Sister Joyce said. “We have the wisdom, insight, experience and the promise of a Faithful Lover who declared to be with us always. Are we willing? Willing to be contemplative, to wait, to be faithful to a future yet to come, a future for others, a future we will not see fulfilled, a future from which God will arrive to meet us? I believe we are. The next two days will give us the chance to continue our practice of contemplative waiting together, of letting go, of being with and for. Great things await those who know how to wait.”

During the June 29 day-long presentation on membership, Adorer of the Precious Blood of Christ Sister Maria Hughes presented data from the National Religious Vocation Conference CARA 2009 study that dispelled misconceptions of religious life. Among the findings she shared were: more than 70 percent of all religious communities report having new members in formation and 20 percent have five or more people in formation; the average age women who entered religious life since 1992 was 32 and 71 percent of those in initial formation are under age 40; men and women are drawn to various types of religious life; 70 percent of new members have at least a bachelor’s degree and 90 percent were employed prior to entering their institutes.

Sister Maria urged Precious Blood Sisters to identify opportunities within their community that could be embraced to invite new membership.

“There will always be a place for consecrated life in the church. It’s not about us changing so people want to be with us. It’s that we have a life that people really do feel called to, but how do they come to know us?” she asked. “The message for the Sisters here is we are not inviting people to be younger versions of ourselves but they are going to build a religious life that is yet to be.”

Congregational business reports and committee updates were on the agenda for June 30. Topics included vocations, the Vocations Ministry Committee and initial formation. Updates on the Salem Heights repurposing project, Maria Stein Shrine, stewardship planning, communications and Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) were presented.

After the business portion and dinner, it was time to recognize six Sisters of the Precious Blood celebrating milestone Jubilees this year. Both Sisters Carmen Voisard and Rosalie Kastner are celebrating 75 years of religious life while Sisters Nancy Kinross, Marie Kopin, Carolyn Hoying and Mary Garascia are marking 50 years. The Jubilarians received gifts and roses from the congregation as they were recognized. As in the past, each Sister was honored with a personal slide show. Photos of the Sisters from childhood through their religious life were shown on a large screen in the Salem Heights chapel. Unique quips jotted onto the slides had Sisters chuckling.

“We thank you, Sisters, for your fidelity,” Sister Joyce said to the Jubilarians. “We thank you for the way that you have shown the rest of us how God can work in someone’s life and how in the times of trial and times of stress and in the times of joy that fidelity, both from you to God and God to you, can be so strong.”

Spirit Days ended July 1 with Eucharist and a banquet honoring the Jubilarians.