In this episode, Rocky Pierson shares her conversation with #NCSW2017 mini grant recipient Sister Mary Kay Brooks, SSND. Sr Mary Kay talks about the development and execution of Trolley Tour to Meet Catholic Sisters in MN, a trolley car based singing tour of Catholic sisters through the twin cities.
This is the first episode of our second season in which we will be sharing the events of NCSW 2017. And, we have a lot of events to talk about. This year’s NCSW had a large number of events and a large variety of event types. So many of them were incredibly fun and creative. As we have been releasing teasers and preview, there have been certain events that we’ve shared a particular excitement for. In this episode, we will be talking about one of those events. This event originally was going to involve a flash mob at the Mall of America, but due to Mall of America policies got shut down. However, that didn’t stop the sisters from getting out in the metro and singing. To talk about this event from development to completion I interviewed Sr Mary Kay Brooks before and after the event. In our first interview things weren’t completely fleshed out, but that allowed me the ability to capture this event as it was developing and beginning to come together. I got to see what options were on the table, somethings that were just coming to be, and all of the hopes and dreams the event holders could have for the event. Talking about it, here is Sr Mary Kay.
Sr Mary Kay Brooks:
I’m Sister Mary Kate Brook's, School Sister of Notre Dame, originally from the Minnesota area, now I'm living in Dallas. And, I'm currently a member of our vocation ministry team for the entire North American continent. There's five of us on the vocation team, and we want to do something to respond to the fact that people say, “sisters aren't visible anymore” or, “not as much as they used to be.” So, we wanted to do a flash mob at the Mall of America, which we soon learned was not permissible. So, we've been brainstorming and trying to be creative since Christmas. And, we came up with a trolley car event where we're going to rent a trolley car and go to different locations around the St. Paul Minneapolis area, and stop and either sing or do some kind of activity and try and promote this throughout the area. So, there are two groups of people who will be there: friends of ours will be there and different sisters will be joining us on a trolley car. We'll try to have a mix of different religious congregations, but we haven't gotten to that point to invite them yet. We're still in the planning stage.
The idea came from one team member, Sister Bridget Waldorf, who during one of her gatherings in a leadership team meeting, they were trying to bring different ideas to become more visible, and she came up with the flash mob somewhere. We then talked about different locations. The Mall of America came up, and when that choice was no longer an option, then it was, “how else could we go around and be seen?” So then, the idea of the trolley car came up. I've already contacted a group in St. Paul, and we can rent it. There’s no problem for us. It's not an issue of a religious group can't go into a public place. So, in a trolley car, which can be on the freeways, it can be on the side streets, we can park in front of different locations, we're looking at different churches, different universities, a place that would have a large group of people. I've contacted Comal park to see if we can go into the conservatory and do a little song or two. And, just where a group a large group of people would see us. It’s a lot of dreaming and what-ifs. “What if this,” and “what about that,” and “can we do this,” and just bantering ideas around with different people.
With a trolley car lined up, hopes of singing across the Twin Cities, potential involvement from religious communities, and a list of dream locations Sr Mary Kay Brooks and the five member vocation team continued to work on their event. And, in the end, the Trolley Tour to Meet Catholic Sisters in Minnesota was a full day long journey embarked on my a group of Catholic Sisters brought together in song.
Sr Mary Kay Brooks:
It was a blast. We had so much fun.
The trolley people could not have been nicer. It was Renee's Royal Valet service. Their driver was phenomenal. Very professional. Just the nicest guy. Right on time when he picks at that Lumen Christi. We had a special blessing from the parish as w e loaded the trolley. And, just so much excitement with the sisters because this is different and it's creative, and it's novel.
We left from Lumen Christi and went over to Annunciation in Minneapolis and spent a little time with the parishioners there. Came back to Annunciation, and they had already finished their liturgy. So, we kind of miss them. And then, spent about an hour at Mickey's diner and had a blast because we went in and sang, and talked with some of the patrons there, and just kind of hung out. And, as people walked by, we answered questions. But, the best part for me was the conversations that were happening in the trolley when we were going from place to place. People sharing stories, because we had different communities on the trolley with us, and, you know, “what ministries are you doing now,” and, “where are you now?” And, two of our sisters are from Vietnam, they are from a different community, but they're studying with us in Mankato, they're studying English. So, this was totally different. This was just so different than anything they've ever experienced, and just everybody was so excited and happy. The college kids at St. Kate’s and St. Thomas, we brought candy to them in a library, they were thrilled. And, we had little stickers on the candy bars that said, “you’ve been sistered” with the hashtag #NationalCatholicSistersWeek.
And, it started to snow. It was a beautiful snow. Toward the end, it just was a pretty snow. So, it was phenomenal, and just a great community builder. And, good witness I think for folks, just to say, “hey, here we are.” We had a sign in the back of the trolley. So, anybody driving by knew who we were, and where we were, and what we were doing. I would do it again.
And, the other thing that was fun, one of our sisters from New York came in, she on our vocation team, to see how it works. She wants to do a double decker bus in New York to commemorate our 178th anniversary this summer of arriving in New York. So, there are ideas that are spinning from this event. Then Boston, the sisters want to do maybe one of the duck boats and do something. And, St. Louis wants to do something with their brand new trolley that has just been completed. So, the sister and other areas are now coming up with some creative ideas that they could do for awareness, and it doesn't have to be National Catholic Sisters Week. And, then the other really grand one, was if we could do a boat trip from St. Paul down to New Orleans and stop at significant places for a variety of communities down the Mississippi River.
Oh, that would be so neat!
Sr Mary Kay Brooks:
Wouldn't that be neat?
That would be so neat.
Sr Mary Kay Brooks:
So, the ideas are just popping out all over with different things. Now that someone does one creative kind of off the beaten trail type events, then other ones start coming up, which is fun.
I know in the write up that I did for the grant was the question, “would you be willing to do this/ to apply for a grant again?” And, I said, “absolutely, I’ll apply for a grant!” I'm not sure we'll do a second annual trolley ride, we might come up with something even more different, but we might do a trolley ride again. I don't know. But, I definitely will do something next year to promote National Catholic Sisters Week.
Do you have any advice for other people thinking about this or looking at doing it again next year?
Sr Mary Kay Brooks:
Start earlier. We did start early, but for our original idea, where we wanted to do the flashmob at Mall of America, we got no’s. So, for me anyway, we were a little late in getting the trolley ride. So, we were behind the eight ball with some publication and publicity. So, plan early, if at all possible, and get through all your details to make sure everything's in place. But, other than that, be as creative as you possibly can. Try something totally outside the box because you never know who sees it.