Building bridges

Showcasing the breadth of religious life is a priority for Sister Carolyn Puccio, CSJ, and her alliance with the National Catholic Sisters Project has helped her do just that.

Sister Carolyn takes her job title seriously: Delegate for Consecrated Life for the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis.

“We have the whole spectrum of women religious here, from very conservative to very progressive, fully habited to no habits, and we’ve worked very, very hard to create a climate of acceptance and support, not just tolerating one another but celebrating and embracing the differences that we bring to this life,” she said. “It’s been a goal of mine to build bridges. We need to model it for the church and for society, that differences are to be celebrated and embraced, not feared or tolerated.”

To bring that goal about, Sister Carolyn recently formed a Commission for Consecrated Life. The Catholic Spirit published an article on the new group.

Being a partner diocese with NCSP has spurred her along, connecting her to the project’s multiple strands. Earlier this spring, for instance, Sister Carolyn hosted multiple successful NCSW events. She also plans to send two local women to the June curriculum workshop in San Antonio titled “Teaching the Lives of Catholic Sisters: Engaging Tweens and Teens in their Catholic Faith.” Last year she sent two, who reported that it was an incredibly valuable experience.

Perhaps best of all, Sister Carolyn said, being a partner diocese has given her a powerful ally in the NCSP National Coordinator Sister Ann Oestreich, who points out resources, shares ideas and provides funding. “She is just wonderful. She’s very engaged, very supportive, very interested in us and what we’re about. She encourages us to think creatively.”

Thanks to NCSP funding, Sister Carolyn is planning a special event to be held Sunday, Aug. 25 at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, Minn. All women religious in the archdiocese are invited.

The event will be keynoted by Sister Mary Pellegrino, CSJ, a visionary leader who served as president Leadership Conference of Women Religious. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have her,” Sister Carolyn said.

In anticipation of the gathering, attendees will all read the same book, to jumpstart conversation and turn the Aug. 25 gathering into a turbo-charged book club. The book, “In Our Own Words: Religious Life in a Changing World,” is a collection of 13 essays by a variety of women religious.

NCSP funding is providing attendees with the book and covering the cost of the sought-after national speaker.

“The funding is extremely helpful,” Sister Carolyn said. “These are things we would never be able to do without the funding.”

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.