Sunday, July 17, 2016

Staying with the Sisters: Week 3 Recap

Mission Trip 2016
Our third week with the sisters was one of long, hot days of hard work and a lot of prayer time, AKA the McLeansboro/Millstadt Mission Trip. The sisters, girls, and I led teams of teens as we painted, cleaned, and mulched around the entire campus. In the evenings, we would have reflections that went along with our theme, “May the Force be in you” and collected snapshots to put in a music video.

Mulching and gardening was one of the biggest jobs we had.
We mulched over 600 trees!
As always, Mission Trip was a highlight. I got connected and reacquainted with all of my previous friends and had a deep understanding of how God really works in people. My favorite piece, as it is every year, was sharing  our high, low, and God Moment of the day. Every person took the time to see God in the smallest of ways: a breeze on a scalding day, the work of their group, or a verse in prayer that morning. It was incredible to see the work God did in each person, and how much they adored coming on this trip to find peace in their hearts.

I painted everything that week, including another two doors
and two floors.
Let me preface this next part by saying that peace is always something that I am searching for. While Mission Trip always gave me a little snippet of that, I am not the perfect faithful Catholic that many people think of when they hear, “I’m going to live with nuns for the summer.”  I have differences with Catholic faith teachings like their opinions on homosexuality and the power of women in the Church. I am not a quiet person when it comes to these topics, to the point that I considered leaving the Church in the hardest times. The community of the Church (shown through my mission trips) helped me to stay, though I still find it difficult.

This was part of the reason I was so nervous about coming to stay with the sisters. My opinion of God was one based solely on the love that Jesus preached about in the Bible, not the Church’s old teachings. I knew that these women were strong and independent, and I joked after the first week that the only reason I didn’t change my lifestyle to Benedictine was because of my issues.

I know that God worked through my friends on the mission trip. I saw him every day in the sisters, but I never thought he would take the time to make my life as ironic as it’s turned out.

It was Saturday night after the mission trip group had left, so Sister T invited us to a campfire for the evening. We laughed a lot, talked a lot, and heard the beautiful story about how Sister T was called to religious life. And then, in a conversation lull, Sister T asked us what we thought about homosexuality in the Church. I figured I needed to keep quiet as people talked about it, knowing the topic was too sensitive for me to go barging in saying, “JESUS LOVES EVERYONE, DUH!”

After she’d heard some of the other opinions, T explained that her niece was married to a woman and, because of Catholic law, she couldn't be accepted for communion.

“We are missing out on so many good people by pushing them away,” she said. “I mean, Jesus hung out with tax collectors and killers and sick people. I just don’t know.”

I nearly cried. Here was a woman who was called by God, expressing the same discomforts about the Church that I have. I thought, maybe it’s just T. She’s pretty spunky. She may just be different.

The next morning after prayer, I caught sight of a group of sisters  hugging and speaking with a person on the side of the pews. Sister T explained to us that the woman had entered and left community years ago before changing sexes and marrying a woman.

"And we love him still,” she said. “They are both family to us."

She explained that the sisters have several other couples who always volunteer and donate. The man who owns the house we are staying in uses it to come and visit his boyfriend’s family, but offered it up to the sisters whenever they wanted it. Two men in town volunteer at least once a year on the grounds along with many others.

As I write this, I can just hear some of the sisters say, “Duh, why wouldn’t we?” But I couldn’t believe it. Here I am, with a community of strong, independent Catholic women who believe in loving a person before condemning their sexual orientation? These women believe that a person is everything that they are and should be welcomed in the Church, not just in spite of their sins, but because of their sins, just like everyone else.

That day I started to understand what Benedictine Hospitality truly is, and found that it is everything that I want my Church to be.

Matthew 22:27-29 -- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."

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