A sweet surprise

When it comes to introducing young women to Catholic Sisters, we often hear a familiar arc. First, the young women express nervousness about the encounter. What will they talk about? Will they be able to find common ground? Will they be found religious enough, up to snuff?

Then comes the much-anticipated meeting when they are surprised by the immediate ease they feel around Sisters: comfortable, welcomed, listened to, understood. “Sister Alice was never defensive but accepting,” wrote one SisterStory participant, “and well-educated and tolerant to boot.”

The young women are also surprised to discover, invariably, a wealth of common ground: shared interests, shared values – and more importantly, a shared desire to connect, to listen to each other, laugh together and learn from one other.

Some young women tell us that the Catholic Sisters they’ve met remind them of their beloved grandmothers. Some describe them as a kindred spirit or best friend. Many have described the relationship as profound, even life changing.

Regular readers of the SisterStory blog have traced his pattern time and again.

Roksana Krobi, a sophomore at Caldwell University in New Jersey, is among the latest to write about her experience befriending a Catholic Sister through the SisterStory oral history project, which she signed up for 10 minutes after receiving the invitation.

The biology major was paired with Sister Lena Picillo, a Dominican Sister of Caldwell. Roksana chronicled their first meeting. “At first I was very nervous,” she wrote, “but then I realized this [speed-dating] activity was much more fun than I had expected. Sister Lena and I had a very warm conversation. I felt very comfortable talking to her, and I am looking forward to establishing a stronger bond.”

During their next meeting, Roksana wrote: “We had a very nice, long talk. I learned that Sister Lena and I have many things in common. We both love the beach, and we love helping and giving back to the community.”

After conducting the formal interview, she reflected on her new friendship. “So far my experience with SisterStory has been amazing. I am forward to doing more activities, and even though the class is nearing the end, Sister Lena and I will keep in touch and continue doing all the fun things we do.”

Marissa Ebels, a junior at Aquinas Collect in Grand Rapids, Mich., enjoyed a similar journey, as chronicled in her blog post titled “Mondays with Sister Helen.”  

 “Upon our initial meeting, both of us knew that this was where we needed to be,” she wrote. “For [Sister Helen], it was a bit divine, and for myself, it was a delightful cosmic accident.”

She reflected on their common ground, writing: “Whether it is our upbringing, the role faith had in our life, or the way we ourselves learn how to grow, we can empathize with one another. Despite the many differences in our physical appearance, we can agree that we both experience life and express ourselves in ways that can be difficult for many to understand. She encourages me and laughs when she realizes that I have learned life lessons years before she ever did and nods full of affirmation when I share what is on my heart.”

The relationship generated by an oral-history project has long surpassed the assignment, Marissa wrote, becoming a genuine friendship defined by trust and comfort. “After we finished the recording process with one another, we continued to meet, both eager to continue a connection we felt was only growing stronger. In those moments, I come as I am.”

These stories confirm the importance of our mission. When young women meet Catholic Sisters, many beautiful gifts emerge.

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.