In this episode, Rocky Pierson shares her conversation with #NCSW2017 mini-grant recipient Sister Lisa Rose, OSB. Sr Lisa talks about sisters and student engagement, building community across generations, and celebrating National Catholic Sisters Week, during Saint Benedict's Monastery's Celebrate With Us event.
Sr Lisa Rose:
My name is Sr Lisa Rose, I’m the vocation director at Saint Benedict's Monastery. The name of our event is Celebrate With Us. We're on a college campus with almost 2,000 students and faculty and support staff. We are going to go around campus on March 14th handing out fun size packages of M&M’s with a sticker that says “celebrate with us,” and “National Catholic Sisters Week.” We plan to give away at least 2,000 packages because we have way over 2,000. We're going to stand at the student bus stop as they get off and on the bus. We're going to walk through the academic offices. And, we're going to you know walk through our own monastery offices. And then, in one of the areas that students frequently pass through, we're going to have a question and answer table for them just to ask questions about the sisters, and then receive an additional package of M&M's if they would so choose. I think it is going to be fun.
Last year we went with a huge program and this year we said, “let's keep it as simple as we can.” And, we thought, “well let's pass something out to the students.” And, we can’t pass out homemade goods. So, we thought it would be good to pass out some candy. And, then [we wondered], “what can we do with the candy?” “Let's put a sticker on the candy.” And, then we found a pack of M&M’s that someone had in her office and put a little sticker on it, and looked really nice. So, that's very simply how we decided to do this. And, because we do have more than the 2,000 that the grant says, there are some area grade schools where our sisters teach and we're going to give them enough for every student and faculty staff in those two or three grade schools. And, we're going to send some out to our retirement center because we have more than 2000, and there's like a hundred and fifty-ish sisters and staff out there. So, they will all get a pack or two. I also plan to send like 100 packs over to St. John's Abbey, because they know we're here, to remind them it's the National Catholic Sisters Week.
We had our mission advancement person make our flyer, and we’ll post flyers throughout campus. Unfortunately, the students are gone the week before, and they come back like the 12th, and our events two days later. So, we're gonna get the pollsters out before they go on break, and have those around to get them kind of ready for something. They're going to, you know, get the message out there that it's happening on campus. And, if you're around and you see one of us you can get a pack of M&M's.
We've had help putting our stickers on by a lot of volunteers, and then some of our older sisters at the retirement center put some of them on. And, we have a few more sisters who want to be involved with that because part of the goal I wanted here was to involve more of our community. If they can’t do the handing out of the M&M’s, they could put stickers on the candy for us.
After assembling their M&M and sticker packets Saint Benedict’s Monastery was ready to go out and celebrate NCSW with students. When I called Sr Lisa Rose back, we talked about the fun everyone had greeting each other during the event. We also talked about some surprise opportunities for sisters to share their vocation stories and students to ask their questions about discerning a vocation and religious life.
Sr Lisa Rose:
What happened? Well, we got over 2000 packs of M&M’s, and then we added some fruit snacks for area grade school. We did send some out to grade schools in the area for the teachers and such to pass out to their students on that date. And, a couple of things . . . One thing that came from that is my nieces took them down to their grade school in Brooklyn Park, and then I was invited back to give a talk on vocations, which I think was really cool. I spoke to a bunch of fifth graders, and we weren't expecting that. That was kind of fun, just to go and meet her classmates. And, another thing that happened, one of our students who sings in the women's choir went to their director that afternoon for practice and the director, who saw their enthusiasm about receiving the M&M’s and being greeted by sisters. So, the choir of the 25 women came over and gave our sisters a spontaneous concert. [They said,] “we came to sing to the sisters, just to thank you for being here.” That blew us away. We gathered as many as we could that day, and we thought, “wow, we did have an impact?” One of our sisters received a flower from her student friend because she wanted her sister to know that she was thinking about her. And then, our security officer, one of the security officers, when he picked up some sisters for a ride that afternoon, he said, “oh, by the way, Happy National Catholic Sisters Week,” you know. So, it reached more people than I think I thought it was going to do. Even though I knew we were going to reach over 2,000 people, the impact for me was like, “wow, this was huge, huge, huge.” So, it was energizing for us. We ran out by noon. So, it was a five-hour event rather than an all day thing, which is fine.
You said that you got to do kind of like an impromptu vocation talk with grade schoolers. How did that go? What was it like for you to do that?
Sr Lisa Rose:
I was excited. So, one thing, I have never done that for one of my family members. And, it was energizing because some of these kids had really good questions like, “why did you think of this for your life?” And the usual, “what is your average day like?” And, those kinds of questions. They've never been exposed to religious sisters in this particular grade school, even though it is a Catholic grade school, just because of the way things have happened and that less sisters are teaching. And, if I think of that same talk, when we went to our grade school right here in town, the teacher said, “you know what, these sisters are our neighbors! How about that?” And, “we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, and they celebrate Catholic Sisters Week!” So, it became a teaching moment for those students, hearing their teacher teach them in relation to National Catholic Schools Week that there is a National Catholic Sisters Week also. And, to hear her, was really informative for me.
Oh! One kind of cute story I guess, because students were getting off the bus when we were handing [M&M’s] out, an hour or two later one of the St. John’s students walked through and said, “oh, by the way, Happy National Catholic Sisters Week!” So, he gave it back to us in that sense. And, that was just kind of fun. I mean other people did too. But, for the student to take the time to remember it as he walked through again and say, “by the way, I have M&M’s, but happy day!” And, students were willing to have their pictures taken with us so we could post them, you know. And, they were excited to see us. And, you never know at seven o'clock in the morning if we are going to get a smile or not, but we put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces at that time of day.