Shared from the 2/4/2018 San Antonio Express eEdition

BELIEF by Sister Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI

Living and learning in God’s extended big family


Sister Martha Ann Kirk is a professor of religious studies at University of the Incarnate Word.

Most of my adult life and I have been enriched and stretched, living among women from Ireland, Mexico, Belgium, Vietnam, and Nigeria, as well as, the United States. As a Catholic sister, both international sisters of my group, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, and of other groups have shared convent living space.

The Mexican American Catholic College (MACC) hosted a forum Jan. 20 to learn of the first-ever Study of International Sisters in the United States. Sisters ministering in the South Texas area who attended were originally from Italy, India, Cameroon, Ireland, Bolivia, Mexico, Vietnam, Uganda, Nicaragua, and the U.S. Their presence reflected the study’s findings: Texas is benefiting extensively from these internationals devoted to service.

The study, conducted by Trinity Washington University/ Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), found more than 4,000 sisters from 83 countries on six continents serving in the U.S.

Speakers included Sister Mary Johnson, a professor of sociology and religious studies at Trinity Washington University, and Sister Thu T. Do, Sister Lovers of the Holy Cross-Hanoi, Vietnam, who recently finished doctoral studies in higher education administration at St. Louis University. Both shared pathways that brought the sisters here, contributions they make, and the challenges they face.

MACC has been helping to build interculturality, the mutual learning between hosts and newcomers. The gathering was funded by the GHR Foundation, which also funds other MACC programs for international and intercultural education.

In the past century, Europe was the main source of international sisters coming to the U.S., but today we are blessed by more coming from Mexico, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Of the current international population, four in 10 entered convents outside of the U.S. and subsequently were assigned here, one in 10 came to the U.S. for study and one in 10 came here for religious formation. Only one in 10 is now retired.

Almost all international sisters speak at least two languages, sometimes more. Two-thirds of them are educated with college and/or professional degrees. Five percent don’t know English yet.

Part of the presentation considered how these women are received in the U.S., and whether they have a sense of “culture shock or homecoming.”

It’s important that we reflect on this. Are we welcoming? Are we willing to engage in “interculturality?” Will we learn of others’ cultures, as we expect people to learn of our culture?

Nigerian or Indian sisters might feel at home coming to a convent filled with sisters from their home country but find ministry challenges on the outside.

They might be principals of schools at home, but not have credentials to teach in the United States. They might join convents where they miss some of the communal customs of their country — preparing and eating all three meals, for example, or doing enjoyable things together on Sunday.

A world of sharing, justice, and peace is built one friendship at a time. Not only as Catholic sisters, but as people of faith and people of good will in the U.S., let us learn to really accept and embrace internationality. We can help to heal our broken world.

See this article in the e-Edition Here
Edit Privacy