Service for the women who serve us

Click here for a Spanish translation of this piece.

The nuns who dedicate their lives to service occasionally need to be served.

That’s why a New Ulm, Minn., mom is organizing a March 10 event to sew habits for the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus, a local religious order that has inspired her family.

The event will take place at the Handmaid’s convent near New Ulm’s Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. It’s being dubbed “Sewing with the Sisters” and is hosted by the cathedral’s Council of Catholic Women. It will be part of National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14), an official component of Women’s History Month intended to raise awareness of women religious.  

“Sewing with the Sisters” is being funded by a National Catholic Sisters Week mini-grant coordinated through St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., and originating from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which aims to support the Catholic sisters who had a vital impact on the legendary hotelier. The grant will cover the cost of materials for the Handmaids’ habits: 25 yards of peach skin for veils; 125 yards of gabardine in black for tunics; and 55 yards of gabardine in white for scapulars.

Jackie Finstad, 39, the stay-at-home mom of seven who is organizing “Sewing with the Sisters,” says it will allow attendees to learn how to make habits and gain insights into religious life.

“This meeting in the sewing room of the convent will inspire many practical and spiritual conversations between the sisters and the local women,” Jackie said. “We will share a meal together and learn from one another about our joys, sorrows, prayers and wisdom gleaned from our faith experiences.”

The Handmaids have a fascinating story. The apostolic order is just 10 years old and was founded to provide the presence of Mary in a parish. Its four-part charism is Marian, diocesan, Eucharistic and evangelistic. “Their lives are not rooted in doing but in being what the Lord calls for them to be,” Jackie said. “To see a young order that embraces this is a beautiful thing.”

The decline of Catholic sisters in the U.S. continues to make headlines, with the number now standing at 47,170 – a 41 percent drop from 2000, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown. Among women religious, there are more sisters over the age 90 than under 60, CARA found.

But the Handmaids stand in stark contrast to this national trend. Their community is growing every year and comprised of 30- and 20-somethings.

“I really believe, if we effectively live our lives, God will call others to join us, and the call actually comes from Him,” Mother Mary Clare said. 


Editor's note

When it comes to planning an NCSW event, a wide variety of approaches is taken! One angle is to serve sisters, be it through sewing or salons. One NCSW event provided a group of local sisters with a well-deserved day of pampering. Others have sent flowers and handwritten notes of appreciation to women religious. Whatever you have in mind, be sure to share it with us so we can spread the word. For public events, please post them there. For private events, just shoot us a quick email summarizing what you have

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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.