Let’s rewind about 60 years back to a village in Minnesota called New Prague. As I rounded the bend of my junior year into prom season, I was not happy about what I heard in prayer. It seems that, as Rowan Williams puts it, “God was making a nuisance of Himself.” I felt drawn to a total consecration to God, but was also pretty scared of what I imagined that would call for.
Gradually my usual M.O. took over and I began researching facts about various religious communities. I made a file box with labels: “Never!” “Maybe…” “Possible?” We were a family that might be described as fringe Catholic, and my parents were spooked when I told them what I was looking into. Mediated by our associate pastor, we compromised and I enrolled in the College of St. Teresa in Winona. There I grew up about 10 years in two semesters, beleaguered by doubts, invitations, and potential alternatives that greatly matured–and eventually confirmed–my decision to become a Sister.
Meanwhile my file had narrowed itself down to the Daughters of Charity, mainly because I found their worldwide mission to serve the most poor and vulnerable both clear-cut and convincing. At the time, I was wavering between social work and teaching, and I knew the Daughters were involved in everything from midwifery to childcare centers for parents of the working poor. It seems nothing was out of bounds if it addressed the well-being of those our complex social systems leave behind.
When I eventually visited St. Louis and met real Sisters in real works, I was relieved and delighted to see how original each woman appeared. Not carbon copy personalities. It seemed there might be room on board for the real me!
I’ve decided that entering a community is much like the experience of moving into a marriage. Upon joining my Sisters, I discovered both wondrous and testing realities, the kind you can only live into. For example, the contemplative character of our community is wondrously grounding. It’s like the hidden but vital life blood coursing through our endlessly diverse activities. Ministry can scramble your head and break your heart on any given day. But I’ve found that “The Charity of Jesus Christ Crucified Urges Us” is more than the inscription on our community seal. Our spirit flows from the love of Jesus, who in his Matthew 25 Last Judgment parable, plainly promises to meet us in the poor.
I also discovered that probing, maturing interactions often emerge from our close-knit community living. Interacting with Sisters very different from myself, self-ego learns quickly it is definitely not the master of the house! And at the same time, the Spirit’s joyful orchestration of our unique personalities is ever close at hand. Something beautiful for God!
We often sum up our spirit in the phrase, “Given to God, in community, for the service of those living in poverty.” Concretely, living our spirit feels like balancing a three-legged stool held up by all three supportive legs. Some days, my personal balance is kind of off, but with the help of my Sisters, not for long. Where charity and love prevail… Well, somebody could write a song about that!
- Sister Honora Remes, D.C.
Sister Honora Remes is on mission with the Daughters of Charity in St. Louis. Sister has been a Daughter of Charity for over 60 years and in ministries ranging from formation to education to provincial leadership.