By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — The way the Sisters of Charity and the Benedictine Sisters acted, you’d think there was a 1,000 miles between Leavenworth and Atchison, Kan., instead of 24.
Those two communities of religious women came in droves May 2 to St. Thomas More Parish for the annual “Blisters for Sisters” event. They came not just for the love and appreciation showered upon their work and sacrifice from the sponsoring Serra Clubs on both sides of the state line.
They also came to be with each other. It is one of the unexpected side benefits from the event which this year drew some 125 sisters from 15 different communities.
Sure, the lay people love them for their lives dedicated to service. And sure, all their communities have different charisms and missions, all in service to God’s people regardless of that sacrifice.
But perhaps the only other person who knows exactly what the consecrated life is like is another person who has thus dedicated her life.
Take a pair of first cousins, for example.
Benedictine Sister Mary Rae Schrick served 42 years as a physician’s associate. Sister of Charity Paula Rose served as a nurse for 45 years.
They may tease each other about which chose the “best” religious order, but the love of two women who grew up together is also apparent.
“This is the only chance we get to see each other,” Sister Mary Rae said.
Sister of Charity Judith Jackson also appreciated the love from the Serra Club. But she said she feels appreciated every day of her life as she continues to work with Catholic Charities Hospice on the Kansas side.
“If you want appreciation, care for the dying,” she said.
Women religious are perhaps most remembered for teaching in their schools, but they also worked in hospitals, worked in parishes, and worked overseas in missions, and all for the same pay that the late Bishop Raymond Boland spoke of in a 1994 speech, challenging lay people to preserve what women religious built.
“They worked for a pittance, and when the parish couldn’t afford a pittance, they worked for free,” Bishop Boland said.
Sister Josephine Boyle, a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist, can testify to that.
She once worked at the same time as a classroom teacher and school principal, and her pastor asked her to lead adult faith formation on top of that. Her pay?
“Fifty cents a day,” she said.
It isn’t an easy life, but you couldn’t find at Blisters for Sisters a sister who would have lived their lives any other way.
And they are continuing to attract young women.
Laurie Parker is a novice with the Sisters of Charity.
“You know when something is right,” she said. “I just felt called and I discerned a long time. It was probably the hardest decision and the best decision I ever made.”
Jodi Hart, a novice with the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, agreed.
“I like their balance between work, prayer and community,” she said. “Everybody could use balance, and that’s hard to find.”
And just in case there was the slightest doubt left about the love of the church and its people for women religious, Father Richard Rocha drove the point home again in his homily at Mass, just before the sisters enjoyed a grilled hamburger and hot dog lunch.
“This is a day to give thanks to you for making such an impact, not only in our diocese, but also throughout our country and the world,” said Father Rocha, chaplain of the Serra Club, whose chapters on both sides of the state line sponsor the event.
“That love of Christ that you sisters continue to bring out will continue to live on,” he said.
“What a great time it is to wake up the world that more young women who do hear the call might also have the courage to say, ‘Yes,’” Father Rocha said.