Home Education and Careers Michael McShane, religious education director at St. Jude parish in Lewes, calls...

Michael McShane, religious education director at St. Jude parish in Lewes, calls on Servants of the Lord nuns to fill void for kids

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Sisters of the Servants of the Lord greet religious education students at St. Jude the Apostle parish in Lewes. Courtesy photo.

LEWES — It was the first time some of the students had ever seen a nun.

A pair of nuns from Sister Servants of the Lord visited St. Jude the Apostle Church on Feb. 4-5 to give the religious education students a look at the women in habits. They talked about their call to the vocation, how they live and what it’s like to be a nun.

Students learned that nuns eat pizza, drive and use cell phones.

“I grew up normal,” laughed Sister Refuge of Sinners, saying she loved soccer, basketball, softball and music.

She usually goes by Sister Refuge, joking that you really can’t “call me Sister Sinner.”

The two young nuns exuded joy as they spoke, frequently giggling as they answered questions from the students. They explained their vows, why they take a new name and the parts of the habit. The students asked numerous questions and seemed to relate to the two sisters.

The nuns, Sister Refuge and Sister Light of Confessors, also explained that there can be many vocations and that vocations aren’t limited to living a religious life. Answering a call to serve God is not like hearing a sudden voice from the clouds, said Sister Refuge.

“It usually comes from your heart,” Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara is a younger order founded in Argentina in 1988. They have some 1,500 nuns worldwide in Papua New Guinea, Alaska, Canada and even parts of the Arab world, although they cannot openly wear habits in some countries.

Sisters of the Servants of the Lord greet religious education students at St. Jude the Apostle parish in Lewes. Courtesy photo.

The two visiting sisters were from the Washington D.C. area, still in study at the SSVM Provincial House, and were preparing to travel to Italy in a few days.

There was a bit of disappointment that the nuns don’t wear makeup and hearing that they share a cell phone with the rest of the 30 sisters was met with deafening silence. Still, the children peppered the nuns with questions, even learning that one of them had dated and was in a serious relationship before her life went in a different direction.

In college, Sister Refuge began dating a young man. She said it was a good relationship and she knew she would have been happy living a married life. But she felt called in a different direction. So, she broke up with the young man, who has since entered the seminary.

“I had always believed in God,” she said. “Maybe he was asking me to give him my heart.”

“I wanted to be like Mary,” she added. “Did Mary ever say no to God?”

The pair poked fun at themselves, talking about funny looking nuns. “I heard about these crazy sisters in blue and gray,” joked Sister Light.

Their blue and gray habits are meant to symbolize that Christ is both fully man and fully God, they said. Other orders wear different colors, they said.

Parish Religious Education Director Michael McShane arranged the visit to introduce students to part of the Catholic faith they might not be familiar with. St. Jude’s religious education program does not include any nuns.

So, he reached out to several orders to give students a peek at part of Catholic life. It was also a chance for a little gentle recruiting as he urged students to perhaps give a little thought to what it might be like to live as a nun, brother or priest.

“Just think about it,” he said.

“We know that authenticity is what our young people seek from us, and truly, there was nothing more authentic than the vocational stories of Sister Light of Confessors and Sister Refuge of Sinners from this weekend to our young people,” McShane said. “It has been a goal of mine, as best we could under the constraints of a parish religious education program, to bring as much of the traditional Catholic school feeling, environment, activities, practices, images and icons to our parish families.”

He explained that he has encouraged students to consider a possible religious life.

“It’s difficult for our young men to take my message seriously when I’m not a priest. It’s even more difficult for a young lady when she’s never even met or seen a sister past the stale and frequently grotesque stereotypes of our media.”

McShane noted that both sisters, aged 25 and 31, struggled somewhat before accepting their vocation. That, he said, is not unusual or even unexpected.

The pair talked about what it means to live a consecrated life, explaining that they are devoted to God like the chalice used in Mass, a consecrated vessel. “Suppose I poured a Dr. Pepper in it and drank it?” asked Sister Refuge. “That would be messed up.”

They change names to symbolize that they are no longer the same people as they were before becoming nuns, Sister Refuge said. “I am not living the same (life). The old person isn’t the same.”

She said she was not raised in a religious home, but that a Catholic friend took her to Mass, and she was baptized at age 19.

Sister Light followed a different path, being raised in a religious home and then meeting many good Christians at the University of Alabama. “They were on fire and in love with Jesus,” she said.

However, she still felt a hunger, which she feels was for the Eucharist. She considered a vocation, but rationalized that she could still help the poor, care for the sick and needy and do all the things a nun did without joining an order. Finally, she decided it was about more than just the work, she said.

Sister Light urged the students to not be afraid to consider a calling. “Trust that God knows and loves you,” she said. “Do not be afraid to take that leap.”