Young women produce documentary to kick off NCSW19

Two 20-something women have produced a documentary on women religious that will premiere March 8 to kick off National Catholic Sisters Week. It is intended to debunk misconceptions about women religious, showcasing their remarkable diversity and surprising relevance among young adults. Titled “Missions of Hope,” the documentary features four fascinating Catholic sisters: Sister Belinda Monahan, OSB, an archeologist in Chicago; Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, a former fashion designer in Chicago; Mother Maria Francis, a leader of the Little Sisters of the Poor in St. Paul, Minn.; and Sister Mumbi Kigutha, CPPS, a newly professed Catholic sister from Kenya who has worked for the United Nations.

“These sisters have influenced me so much,” said Rocky Pierson, 22, a SisterStory production assistant, who made the documentary. “They see everyone as equals and believe there is dignity in each person that cannot be denied. They’ve inspired me to try to do the same.”

For example, in her work as a principal office specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneaoplis, Rocky said she has tried to elevate groups who are overlooked, such as homeless youth. “If you’re not searching for those discrepancies, you might miss them.”

In their quest for social justice, Rocky added, these Catholic Sisters are indefatigable, advocating for those in need and bringing about change with remarkable alacrity.

Pa Ying Vang, 23, a fellow SisterStory production assistant who helped create the documentary, said she has also appreciated the impact of women religious. Mother Maria Francis’ leadership style made a particular impression. “She is soft spoken, but she knows what she wants and she will get what she wants. She’s very gentle but also very strong. It’s something I would definitely try to emulate.”

As a recent college graduate trying to launch a career, Pa Ying said she found comfort in hearing the sisters open up about their discernment process. “There were moments when they had questioned whether they were choosing the right path. And that’s OK. That questioning period is something I’m living through right now. Everyone goes through it. It’s when you try to find out who you are and be the most faithful to yourself. I’m learning to be OK with the uncertainty.”

Garrett Tiedemann, NCSW's media director, guided Rocky and Pa Ying in creating the documentary. “I think it shines a great light on the lives of women too easily stereotyped and really works to rewrite the narrative,” he said. “I’m proud that the documentary feels relevant. Each of these stories addresses the questions and issues we are dealing with today and provide a great deal of hope for people on whatever road they walk.”

NCSW Site Director Molly Hazelton echoed that observed, sharing an example. “The documentary addresses race in a way that is affirming and makes for a fresh dialogue,” she said.

Hazelton first came up with the idea to produce such a documentary after surveying the media landscape and recognizing the need for something like “Missions of Hope.”

She said she’s proud that the documentary was produced by young women and has distinct young-adult appeal. “This is a film done by young women with the perspective of young women. Things they found interesting, they filmed. They went to a New Year’s party in Chicago and filmed it! They got such fun footage. Rocky and Pa Ying were amazing.”

The documentary, titled “Missions of Hope,” will premiere March 8 here.

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.