Let us generously support these courageous souls who dedicated their lives to serving those in need without ever asking anything in return.
St. Julie Billiart, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, once said, "courageous souls are needed for the service of the good God." I can't think of more courageous souls than the religious sisters who serve those in need all over the world.
Women religious have always been -- and continue to be -- pioneers in their own right. Inspired by their love of God and the belief of the inherent worth of all of his children, they make it their life's work to build better lives for others. For centuries, this demanded they risk long voyages to foreign lands, learn new languages and cultures, teach themselves medicine, healthcare, carpentry, finance, education, and so much else. They did all of these things not for themselves, but to do God's work. Courageous souls, indeed.
Today, our women religious continue to embody courage and service as they respond to the new and evolving needs of our ever-changing world. While they continue to educate our youth, shelter and feed our homeless, and care for our sick and elderly, they have taken on new missions, as well. They are the leading providers of support to victims of human trafficking, they serve as stalwart social justice advocates for those on the margins, they are present in the world of communications and social media, and they are on the frontlines of the fight for pro-life policies, protection of the environment, and religious freedom.
Like so many Catholics, I had the great privilege of being educated by sisters my entire life. I was also blessed to have had a cousin and great-aunt who were Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, another great-aunt who was a Sister of St. Joseph, and a third great-aunt who was a Dominican Sister of Hawthorne, so I had the somewhat unique experience of witnessing the goodness of nuns both "on and off duty." Through them, I developed a true understanding and appreciation of consecrated life, because, in them, I always saw pure joy.
I have been lucky enough to stay connected to so many incredible women religious throughout my life, both professionally and voluntarily. As a nurse and healthcare consultant, I have worked with many religious orders that operate clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities, and I am always awestruck by the love the sisters show their patients and residents, as well as the joy with which they carry out their work. As a board member and chair at my alma mater, Notre Dame Academy, Hingham, I witnessed firsthand the enthusiasm and dedication with which those Sisters approach education, which continues to transform the lives and minds of our youth. In all of these experiences, I am reminded of St. Julie Billiart's words, and I thank God that I have been blessed to know so many courageous souls.
On Nov. 21 and 22, parishes across the archdiocese will hold their annual Special Collection for the Retired Sisters. Let us generously support these courageous souls who dedicated their lives to serving those in need without ever asking anything in return.
MC SULLIVAN IS THE CHIEF HEALTHCARE ETHICIST OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON.