By John Heuertz
Special to The Catholic Key
LEAWOOD, Kan. — “Today we express our thanks to you sisters and to those who came before you, for your holy determination.”
Serra Club chaplain Father Joe Cisetti’s homily exemplified the thanks and gratitude of over 300 Missouri and Kansas Catholic families at the sixth annual “Blisters for Sisters” walkathon, Mass and luncheon party at Church of the Nativity parish last Saturday in Leawood.
“Blisters for Sisters” is a Serra Club fundraiser that offers financial and moral support to the Catholic sisters and nuns that do the hard, vital work needed to bring the Light of Christ into the worlds of education, health care and assorted other ministries across the Kansas City area and beyond – sometimes far beyond.
“The job of each Serran is to say ‘Thank you for being a Sister,’ every chance we get,” said event chairman Tom Copinger of Visitation parish.
A warm, sunny Kansas morning greeted the walkers at 9 a.m., when they began the walk from the parish grounds at 119th and Mission Road east to State Line Road and back.
Most were dressed in the event’s distinctive orange tee shirts, pulled over shirts, blouses and religious habits alike.
“It’s fun to get together. We appreciate what the Serrans do for us,” said Sister Mary Pat Johnson, SCL. “Plus it’s good to get a walk in.”
“This event is a wonderful idea,” agreed Sister Therese Steiner, SCL. “Even everyone wearing the same outfit signifies we are all one in Christ through Baptism.”
Over 300 families attended this year’s event. “It just warms my heart to see all ages come together for the sisters,” said Nicole Pierce of St. Thomas More parish, who drives the event’s support vehicle each year.
“It’s a great day of play and conversation with people we don’t normally get to see,” said Sister Barbara Smith, OSB.
Event proceeds support mission by Catholic sisters on both sides of the state line who have at least two members in their community, who have a mission statement, and who are fulfilling that statement in mission.
“This is a small way to thank the sisters and show our appreciation for all they’ve done,” said Len Chmelka of Leawood, a Serra Club member for seven years.
Eighteen religious communities each received $1000 in cash assistance in 2011 from Serra Club fund raisers, Coppinger said. The Serrans also helped defray moving expenses for two different communities with $1000 each of support.
The 112 sisters and nuns present on Saturday, ranging in age from 20 to 85, also received door prizes and won raffle prizes – along with everyone’s gratitude for the sisters’ exemplary lives of quiet self-sacrifice.
The Serra Club has helped support priests and especially seminarians with the material necessities of life for many years. It now extends that support to young women entering a consecrated life too.
“It’s due to the generosity of greater Kansas City’s Catholic community,” Coppinger said.
“As a younger sister, it’s very encouraging to be here and meet so many sisters from different communities,” said Sr. Maria Stella, CJD of Raytown. “And I’m very grateful to the Serra Club for adopting me as a postulant.”
Her order ministers to Polish and Ukrainian Catholics in Vladivostok, Russia’s principal port in the Far East – and Fr. Cisetti touched on the tradition of holy zeal in American Catholic nuns in America in his homily.
“Like St. Paul and St. Barnabas, you have served as missionaries, leaving behind friends and families, often at a great distance, to dedicate your lives as consecrated women in the Church. You have stepped out in deep faith,” he said.
He reminded those present that the heroic dedication of Catholic nuns to wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War did much to reverse the tide of anti-Catholic bigotry that had swept the nation in the 1850s.
Today, he said, “You take one or more aspects of the Christian life, things about which we should all be concerned, and highlight them.”