Preparations for the biggest National Catholic Sisters Week are underway. As the national campaign aimed at elevating women religious enters into its sixth year, it continues to grow in scale and scope, backed by an innovative mini-grant program.
National Catholic Sisters Week was launched in 2014 as an official component of National Women History’s Month, which runs through March. The week is intended to raise awareness of the profound impact of women religious and, in particular, to connect them with young women through a myriad of cross-country events held March 8-14. Since its inception, Molly Hazelton has headed the National Catholic Sisters Week team, which is based at the Minneapolis campus of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.
The week is intended to honor the nation’s 45,000 Catholic sisters and all who have gone before – founders of schools and hospitals, artists and activists, leaders and spiritual guides for all walks of life. “In a time when there isn’t much good news, we need to share stories of how Catholic sisters can heal our church and unite our country,” Hazelton said. “Raising awareness of their ministries can inspire the masses – and that’s exactly what we aim to do.”
Hazelton said she is expecting record involvement in NCSW 2019. To bolster the event planning, $87,500 in mini-grants are being awarded. They will be allocated in increments of up to $1,000 each and awarded in December 2018 to groups hosting NCSW 2019 events that honor Catholic sisters. The mini-grant funded events advance the mission of women religious: serving the poor and marginalized, building up their local communities and drawing people together with humor and heart. For instance, one grant will support the Daughters of Immaculate Mary of Guadalupe and their pioneering Hispanic outreach in the remote Diocese of Bismarck, N.D., where they help stitch together community among transplants who have relocated there for fracking. The sisters are hosting a concert and a panel to help young adults discern their vocations and consider the beauty of religious life. Another NCSW grant will gather school-aged kids in St. Louis, Mo., to join Sisters of St. Joseph in boosting sustainability in their neighborhood.
Other mini-grants will enable Catholic sisters to go about the vital ministry of healing our fractured nation. Franciscan sisters, for example, will be host a “Listen Up!” campaign to encourage deep listening among people of all backgrounds. The Sisters of Charity of Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, meanwhile, will host a workshop on civil discourse. It is intended to provide attendees with new tools to address controversial topics based on the approach of Catholic sisters working in social justice.
NCSW events support young women who are considering religious life – whether they provide initial exposure or deepen relationships, with gatherings that range from monastery tours to Facebook Live events to retreats. About 100 women enter religious life every year at an average age of 32.
National Catholic Sisters Week is a program of the National Catholic Sisters Project, funded by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and headquartered at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.