Spirituality for Today – Spring 2019 – Volume 23, Issue 3

Sisters Rock Is Coming to a Parish Near You

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

"We need it to have it more often, not just one visit."

And what was the "it" Elda Olvera, ministerial assistant at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Alice,Texas was referring to? Sisters Rock, of course. "It" was the brainchild of Sister Gloria Rodriguez, MJMJ, Director of Consecrated Life and Women's Vocations for the Diocese of Corpus Christi, and her vocation team.

During a meeting early in 2017, Sister Gloria asked us what could be done as a group project that could be held during National Religious Sisters Week, March 8-14, 2018. Inaugurate would be a better word, as Sister Gloria wanted to take the project to as many rural parishes as possible after March. Thanks to the input from the committee members: Incarnate Word Sisters Anna Marie Espinosa, Jo Ann Saenz, Rose Mariam Gansle, Lou Ella Hickman, Sister Lucia D'Cunha, SSA and Sister Mary Elizabeth Albers, SOLT, "Sisters Rock" was born.

The program has been a simple one: games, food (feed them and they will come) and a time for questions and answers about religious life. During the question and time phase the sisters are able share their vocation story. The initial project was funded by a mini-grant from the National Sisters Week program, which in turn was sponsored by St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The grant paid for refreshments and t-shirts with the logo "Sisters Rock", which were given to all the young people who participated. The t-shirts were so popular they were all taken.

I was aware more was needed than just the grant Sister received to get the project going. So, after the meeting, I contacted my "spiritual athletes." These "players" are two communities of cloistered nuns I know personally; one is the Lufkin Dominicans and the other community of nuns who are affectionally called The Pink Sisters. Yes, they do wear pink habits and their official title is Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration. I sent group pictures after each event, so the nuns would see the faces they were praying for. This year I made it a special point to add another spiritual athlete—a friend of mine. I asked her if she would make Sisters Rock a priority when she prayed. Knowing her as I do, her prayers will also be powerful in supporting our efforts to reach out to young people.

When we met with the Life Teen members in Alice not only provided the young people with an opportunity to get to know the sisters, they in turned performed a short skit they had been working on for the parish Confirmation Flame Retreat. The highlight of game time was the paired balloon pop. Each student was paired with a sister and they stomped on balloons attached to their ankles. "It is important that our young people see how happy the sisters are as their perception is that they don't have fun. This event might open their hearts with the idea of becoming a sister," Olvera said.

Sister Gloria pointed out that many young people, especially in the rural areas, do not know religious sisters. "Our goal is to reach out to youth of junior high and high school age to get to know us and ask us whatever questions they may have about our life so as to plant the seed to awaken thoughts of a possible vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life. Vocations begin with knowing that God calls whomever God wills. Our task is to respond to that call in faith," Sister Gloria said.

Father Peter Stanley, pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Taft, also hosted "Sisters Rock". He knew the event would allow young people to see the humanity of religious sisters. "This is especially important when they live in an area where they don't see a sister on even a weekly basis. We don't have the funds for a sister to be on staff and it would be difficult for her to even volunteer as she would have a long way just to get here," Father Stanley said. At one point, Sister Gloria shared with me that since the year 2000, sisters in these parishes have all but disappeared.

The most recent parish event for "Sister Rock" was held in Mathis at Sacred Heart on Nov. 12, 2018. Justine Sablatura, youth minister, and her group of teenagers hosted the sisters that afternoon. Sablatura told me that the youth "loved it!" She added that the best part of the program was that the young people saw the sisters in a new light—they, like themselves, enjoy having fun.

Another eye-opener for many in the group were the sisters' testimonies (vocation stories) and how they were "regular people" like themselves. The impact of the sisters did not end when they walked out the door. Sablatura told me that some students met a few of the sisters some time later and, thanks to the connection they had made, the students knew the sisters would be approachable. "They were so moved by the sisters' joy and the fact they would take time, quality time to be with them," Sablatura said.

Sister Gloria saw to it that one of the perks for the students who attended the Sisters Rock event, the time would count towards hours either for CCD or Confirmation classes. As a result, the event has been a win-win situation for everyone.

Sister Anna Marie, vocation director for the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, said, "I love to participate in the "Sisters Rock" events. The part I really enjoy is responding to the teenagers' questions and they ask impressive ones. Finally, praying with the group at the end of our gathering helps us all receive with gratitude God's abundant blessings."

In conclusion, our team asks for your prayers for the success of Sisters Rock!

This article was first published in the October-December 2018 issue of Vocations and Prayer.

Anyone interested in more information about "Sisters Rock" can call Sister Gloria at (361) 882-6191 or email her at SrGRodriguez@diocesecc.org.