As a new vocation director for the Sisters of St. Agnes, Sister Edie Crews had been looking for a compelling way to promote religious vocations. The prospect of collaborating with St. Catherine University to conduct SisterStory oral histories immediately interested her.
“It allowed me to connect young women with sisters in a unique way and get our name out there at the same time,” Sister Edie said.
She recognized Marian University, a Catholic university in Fond du Lac, Wis., founded by her congregation, as an ideal stage for oral histories. So Sister Edie signed on, undergoing a three-day training program led by the St. Kate’s team in St. Paul, Minn., recruiting six students and six Catholic sisters with input from Marian’s campus minister and coordinating the production of their oral histories throughout the spring 2015 semester.
The friendships forged between the six Marian students and their respective sisters astonished Sister Edie. “The bond that grew weekly was amazing,” she said. “Each student grew to love their sister and vice versa.”
Those connections were sometimes surprising. One student and sister discovered they had both grown up on farms. Another student, Soledad Theel, is from Argentina and was paired with a sister who speaks Spanish. “Sister Miriam has taught me Christ,” Soledad reported back. “She teaches me new ways to look at hard situations.”
A senior named Kelsey was struck by her sister’s uncanny resemblance to Queen Elizabeth. The two met at the motherhouse every Tuesday. Sister Germaine, age 93, would stand by the door waiting, and when Kelsey arrived, they headed off to their meeting space hand in hand. “Sister Germaine trusted God and He guided her down a wonderful path, which led to a beautiful and meaningful life,” Kelsey later blogged. “She told me that I should put my trust in God and He will help me through all my troubles.”
It wasn’t just the students who came to admire their sisters, Sister Edie noted. “The sisters each have come to me to tell me how they learned so much from their students. They commented that the students are hard working and want to do well. One said, ‘I didn’t think there are any young people like that anymore!’”
For her part, Sister Edie had worried about putting too much pressure on already-busy students to manage their oral histories, but her fear quickly dissipated when she saw that the students found the work to be very rewarding, sometimes a highlight of a crammed week.
An added benefit, Sister Edie reported, was “phenomenal” bonding among the six Marian students who conducted oral histories.
“I would highly recommend SisterStory to anyone who would listen!” Sister Edie said. The experience was so positive, in fact, that she has signed on to supervise another batch of oral histories during the fall 2015 semester. “It gave me a great chance to work with young women as a vocation director, and I have so many contacts with Marian that I feel that it has broadened my scope of vocation.”
If you would like to learn more or consider becoming a partner university, contact Director Molly Hazelton at firstname.lastname@example.org.