The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 8, 2000 Issue
Local News

Nine girls experience life in the convent

Bay Settlement sisters invite pre- and early teens to see how they live


By Judy Price

BAY SETTLEMENT - Life is full of tough decisions. And Sr. Laura Zelten knows that kids in their pre-teens and early teens are forming ideas about some important "life" decisions.

Not just "what will I do?" but also "who will I be when I grow up?"

So Sr. Zelten, director of Vocation Ministries for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross (Bay Settlement Franciscans) invited a small group of girls to "get the scoop" on one option: life as a vowed religious woman.

On Aug. 15, nine girls from seven parishes in the Green Bay Diocese arrived at the sisters' home to get a close-up look at life in the convent.

While A Day With the Sisters could only provide a "sample" of life at the convent, Sr. Zelten wanted the girls to "discover the many flavors" of religious life.

"We want to create an opportunity for the girls to see that women from all walks of life are called to serve God," Sr. Zelten said. "Sisters today are pray-ers, teachers, nurses, social workers, missionaries, artists and leaders We use our gifts to respond to today's diverse needs.

"We want these girls to see that you can be an individual as part of a religious community - we feel that we live life more fully in community - and we want them to see an accurate picture of our lives," Sr. Zelten said.

To show the girls an accurate picture, the sisters invited the girls to participate in their daily prayer, liturgy, meals, work, and fun.

Fr. Richard Mauthe presided at Mass in the Community Chapel. He invited the girls to stand around the altar to welcome them to fuller participation in the liturgy.

Each girl was paired with a "Pew Partner" for evening prayer to learn about the importance of daily prayer in the sisters' lives.

Washing dishes, scrubbing vegetables, and picking windfall apples were on the day's chore list, and the sisters were happy to have some extra help.

Chelsea Novinska from St. Phillip Parish in Green Bay said the chores were fun because everyone was working together.

But all work and no play makes a dull sister. So they also enjoyed games and sang songs around a campfire in the sisters' backyard.

As they ate corn on the cob from the sisters' garden, the girls were able to satisfy some curiosities by asking questions of the sisters.

Questions included:

-- What's the best thing about being a sister?

-- How old were you when you first thought about becoming a sister?

-- Why did you decide to become a sister, and what did your friends and family think?

The girls learned that sisters are ordinary people who continue strong relationships with their friends and families. They were surprised to learn about the sisters' diverse lives and ministries.

Abby Bonde from St. Isidore Parish in Newton said, "I was surprised about all the different places where the sisters can work. I think it would be nice to have all these people to talk to."

Kristine Phillips of Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Parish in Green Bay added that just one day was not long enough. She hopes that next time she can stay "for a whole week"

Stephanie Lambert, a seventh grader from St. Mary Parish in Manitowoc learned that life in the convent is "normal," and that "Sisters are real people." She said she was surprised to learn that there are many different congregations of sisters throughout the diocese and the world - each with unique gifts and ways of life.

Stephanie's mother, Mary Lambert, hoped that her daughter would learn "what life in the convent is really like," and is happy that Stephanie had this opportunity. Lambert said that she will likely send her younger daughter if the event is held again.

Sr. Zelten said she is grateful to parents such as Mary Lambert who are cultivating a Christian spirit in their children. She said she hopes to create "more opportunities for the sisters to open our hearts and our doors to people interested in learning more about religious life."

(Price is director of public relations for the Bay Settlement Franciscans.)



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