Spirituality for Today – April 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 9

The Life of a Sister-Servant of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration

By Sister Lou Ella Hickman, I.W.B.S.

She genuflects before the exposed Blessed Sacrament; then steps to a frame kneeler where she will pray for the next half hour. She has done this daily and will continue do it daily as long as she is able. Even though the decision itself may have been difficult, she also gave everything away in order to embrace a silence far too many people have become adept in avoiding. She prays in the silence of mystery for a world torn by fear, anger, and pain. She prays, I tell the students when I give religious vocation talks, for all of us, for each one of them. Such is the vocation of the cloistered nun.

As children often do, they accept this simple statement with their characteristic simplicity. Many adults, however, are not so easily convinced. While they say they appreciate the prayers, they may think —"this young woman could have helped the world so much better by staying in it." Thus, their questions often range from the curious, "What do you do all day besides pray?" to "What could she be running away from?" or "It's a wonderful life, but they have to give up so much." Oddly enough, I have seldom heard such people comment on what loving, married couples must sacrifice in order to be together. In a deeply committed vocation, one doesn't "give up" anything when one is in love; for those in love, giving is always the eager measure of that love.

A photo of the sun coming through the clouds

Yet these people may be far closer to the truth than they realize. Perhaps they know all too well, though not admit, what St. John of the Cross speaks of when he wrote, "Many desire that God cost them no more than words, and even these they say badly..." Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I., in his booklet, Daybreaks, (Liguori, 2005) writes in a similar fashion, "To bless someone deeply is to die for them in some real way, to give up some part of your life for them." And the cloistered sisters on Corpus Christi's Ocean Drive do that for us on a daily basis.

The Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration community was founded in 1896 by St. Arnold Janssen to be a contemplative prayer support for his two other missionary congregations—the Society of the Divine Word (founded 1875) and the Missionary Congregation of the Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit (founded 1889). Even though St. Arnold envisioned the Sister-Servants to be contemplative, they would also be as missionary minded. That is, each sister's prayer life would focus on the evangelization of the world and the sanctification of priests. From their beginnings in Steyl, Holland, the Pink Sisters, as they are now affectionately called, have grown to 22 adoration convents throughout the world.

Nine Sisters came to the United States in 1915 at the invitation of Archbishop Edmund Francis Prendergast of Philadelphia. Another convent was opened in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928 which is now where candidates from United States enter and receive their training. The Sisters came to Texas in 1958 and opened a convent in Austin. The convent had to close in 1983 due to structural problems. The convent on Ocean Drive was begun in 1970, thanks to the invitation of Bishop Thomas Drury who provided his own residence as a temporary chapel and convent. An invitation came from Bishop Glennon Flavin and so in 1973 the Sisters took their ministry of prayer to Lincoln, Nebraska.

When I interviewed the sisters for this article, I discovered another important another aspect of their ministry of prayer is an "open door" policy." That is, their chapel is not for their private use only. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed from 5:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily so that all who are in need of the Eucharistic presence may drop in for a short visit and pray. After all, as one sister put it, "Everyone is looking for God in some way."

"How did you know God was calling you?"

I asked another sister what she thought the one thing people needed to know about a cloistered vocation. She paused for a moment then commented, "We are regular people; we come from all walks of life." Another sister added, "It is a privilege to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. We serve God and the people of God in this way." When I asked Sr. Mary Christia Storm, the local superior, what was the best part of her vocation, she answered, "To go before the presence of the Lord so often and know He can take care of everyone."

I am often asked in my vocation work, "How did you know God was calling you?" or "What helped you to make your decision?" So, I, too, asked. One sister replied that a friend told her about the Pink Sisters. As she was drawn to the Holy Spirit and perpetual adoration, she enquired about entering and was admitted. I also asked how one knew if this was God's call, the answer was simple, "How does anyone know? It's a mystery. Sometimes you just have to try."

My interview with them quickly came to an end as the sisters needed to move on to other duties. As I got up to leave, one sister gave this final comment, "Oh, don't forget to put in about our joy." The words of St. Augustine could echo that joy the sisters find in their daily schedule of prayer and work, "This is my life: to praise You, my God."

Daily Schedule
5:15 a.m. Rise
5:45 Morning Prayer
7:00 Community Mass
Office of Readings
Assigned duties
11:45 Midday Prayer
Midafternoon prayer
Free hour
Assigned duties
3:15 Coffee Break
Assigned Duties
5:00 *Evening Prayer & Benediction
6:30 Supper
Community Recreation
Night Prayer

* Prayer books are provided for those who wish to join the Sisters in prayer. Mass on Saturday is at 5:30 in the evening.

Sister, what do you do all day?

Prayer: We celebrate the Eucharist; we have round the clock adoration; we pray the Liturgy of the Hours; we pray the rosary daily; we read the Scriptures; we pray the Way of the Cross as well as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Work: Household tasks, answering appeals for prayer through letters and telephone; printing; Spiritual Bouquet cards (Spiritual Enrollments)

Study: Sacred Scripture; Liturgy; Church History, Spirituality

Recreation: Community sharing, hobbies, arts; games, music, outdoor activities