GREEN BAY — When Srs. Maxine Kollasch and Julie Vieira professed their final vows as Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2006, they wanted to share the joy of their religious vocation with others. The two sisters started an online ministry aimed at reaching young people, especially young women.
Today, the ministry is known as “A Nun’s Life Ministry” and its outreach now extends across borders and oceans as well as internet platforms. One of their outreach projects is a field trip, where Sr. Maxine and current “Nun’s Life” program director, Franciscan Sr. Julie Myers, visit motherhouses around the United States and Canada and host live podcasts called “Ask Sister.”
On May 9 and 10, the sisters were in Green Bay to host their “Ask Sister” podcast at St. Francis Convent, motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross. It was the 35th field trip, which they call the Motherhouse Road Trip.
During the one-hour podcast on May 9, which included a live audience of sisters, associates and other guests, Sr. Maxine interviewed two members of the Bay Settlement community: Sr. Laura Zelten and Sr. Mary Kabat. On May 10, a podcast featured a live audience with seniors in the Christian Lifestyles class at Notre Dame Academy and seventh and eighth graders from Holy Cross School.
In an interview with The Compass, Sr. Maxine said the high-tech approach to vocation awareness is like being on mission in the social media landscape.
When she and Sr. Julie began A Nun’s Life Ministry, social media platforms were just getting off the ground, she said.
“Facebook (began) in 2004, Twitter was in 2006, the year we started the ministry,” she said. “YouTube was a year before us. Our ministry grew up in that culture and it was a way for us to reach out to people, not just about religious life, but about vocations and looking at life as a vocation that all of us are called to by God.”
In addition to their website, anuns life.org, the ministry hosts a variety of podcasts and is active on social media. Their goal is to connect Catholic sisters and nuns with the world, sparking conversations related to spirituality, vocations, prayer, ministry and growing closer to God.
Sr. Maxine said it’s “a great honor” to travel around North America and visit motherhouses.
“This is our 35th motherhouse road trip and we’ve talked to hundreds of other sisters and the commitment in these women’s lives is astounding,” she said. “The love that the sisters have for people — it is something that refreshes my soul. It never gets old. I can’t think of something I would rather do.”
A former corporate communications professional, who holds master’s degrees in theology and advertising, Sr. Maxine sees a bright future for young adults and for religious life.
“I think the young people today have so many challenges, but to be able to really look at their lives (as a calling from God), could be a source of hope and energy,” she said. “I think the generation coming up is going to be spectacular. … People are still being called to religious life. I think God will take care of this and I will do my part to see how I can help that along.”
Sr. Laura, one of the two Franciscan sisters participating in the hour-long podcast, is no stranger to young adult ministry. She serves as Catholic Campus Ministry director at UW-Green Bay. Sr. Laura said the Nun’s Life online ministry is a great way to reach millennials.
“I just think it’s the new way of doing (ministry), and the more we get used to it, the better results we are going to have in terms of getting the message out about who sisters are today, who the church is today,” said Sr. Laura. “This is a new way of doing evangelization in many ways.”
During the podcast, Sr. Laura and Sr. Mary answered questions submitted by two women, one in high school who is discerning a religious vocation and one college student who is writing a novel about a sister. “Then we had questions about what are vows and what does it mean to be Franciscan,” said Sr. Laura.
“Any opportunity that we can give that will help young people find their way in life is just a great thing,” added Sr. Mary. “It was exciting for us to meet these wonderful women and to be a part of their ministry.”
Sr. Maxine said her visit to St. Francis Convent was an opportunity to witness the love the Franciscan sisters have for the Green Bay area.
“One hundred and fifty years of commitment. You don’t do that without loving a community,” she said, alluding to the religious community’s 150th anniversary. “I would say that the commitment and the love are tangible.”
Sr. Maxine, who will next visit a religious community in Oregon, sees the online ministry continuing for a long time.
“Our mission from the beginning has been to help people discover and grow in their vocation, wherever it is God is calling them,” she said. “Our great hope and wish is to bring some of those traditions of religious life — prayer and spirituality and community — into the conversation with people’s everyday lives because there’s a lot in the tradition of religious life that can be of benefit to everyone.
“For us, as religious, to hear from people about what their needs are, what their desires are, it’s how we build community,” Sr. Maxine added.
To listen to archived “Ask Sister” podcasts, visit anunslife.org/podcasts/ask-sister.