Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sacred Space of Twelve

Why worry about numbers? As a Temporary Professed Religious Sister, I am asked if I worry about the decreasing numbers of Sisters. I’m sure you’ve heard about this. As for me, that’s not something I worry about. It’s all about God’s call and will. That’s why I am Sister. Presently our congregation consists of around 580 sisters, so why would I worry right? Well, let me share about a recent experience I had in May. I was in Trinidad and Tobago with some of my Dominican sisters. One of my Sisters was going to renew her vows. So all eight sisters who live in Trinidad gathered including myself and three other sisters who were visiting from the US, too. This was a small gathering of 12 in comparison to our large gatherings of 300 or so. We began to prepare by setting up the environment with colored cloth, flowers from the yard, the St Dominic statue and our constitution. We also prepared the place settings for dinner following the ceremony. The environment looked beautiful. When everyone gathered the ceremony began. All I can say was WOW! The presence of God and the Holy Spirit filled the room. It could be felt and heard in the singing, the scripture reading, in the reciting of the Lord’s prayer, in the preaching and in the renewal of vows. I thought to myself what if this was our present number of sisters in the congregation and all I could think was “Thanks be to God!” Religious Sisters are not about numbers but rather about a community of women who have made a commitment to God. They also make a commitment to journey together as faithful women of God. In this moment, this space became the sacred space of twelve. Do you have worries about smaller numbers of Religious Sisters? If so, I’d be interested in knowing why, if you’re willing to share.
Sr. Priscilla Torres, OP
San Antonio, TX


  1. Small can certainly mean great in many ways. All the best to Sr. Gail Jagroop on your first profession on August 8th 2010. We here in Trinidad will be praying for you and offering up Masses. Blessings!!!!!

  2. Powerful moments can certainly transpire in small gatherings of faith-filled people. I've experienced that sense of "God's presence among us" in my Small Church Community through our prayer time, discussions, and the things we can accomplish together.

    My concern over the dwindling number of women religious may be a reflection of my own inability? unwillingness? hesitation? to have the same deep-rooted faith which believes that God (providence) has provided & will provide. I see growing numbers of women religious in their retirement years and worry about how they will be supported and cared for when fewer sisters are available to work and to minister to them.

    I wonder about the ministries of the younger sisters and how they may be re-shaped or re-directed by the needs of the congregation and the financial implications of spreading out membership and ministry. I've always been amazed and in awe of the variety of fields in which your sisters minister to others.

    I also wonder how (or if) charism may change if congregations need to merge out of necessity.

    I suppose if the will and desire to love and to serve God and others is strong enough, these others concerns become issues we place in the Lord's hands. Maybe that's why I struggle with the questions.

  3. 1st anonymous: Thank you for our Sr Gail’s blessings on her first profession. It was truly a beautiful profession and she is truly a gift to our congregation. Blessings to you in Trinidad.

    2nd anonymous: Thank you for sharing about your experience of “the presence of God” in your small faith-filled church community. It truly is a blessing to experience right? Also, thank you for sharing your concerns about the dwindling numbers for women religious. I hope you don’t mind, I would like to comment on your concerns and provide a view from a younger religious who is at the opposite end of most sisters who are aging/retiring. I believe God will provide for sisters because God has always provided. In looking at past history, sisters started with little and so if they end with little, it will be. A question that comes to mind, if we are all disciples of Christ, are we not all part of God’s community? Women religious are a part of that community, too. Sisters have supported many a community over many years. I believe they will have the necessary support by communities as well in years to come. Our care/needs met, will not be lavish nor, without some sacrifice, but the necessary means will be there. For I believe “our life is not our own.” As for young sisters’ ministries, I’m sure they will change. For as sisters, we are called to meet the needs of the times which is one of the reasons, for the variety of fields sisters’ minister in. Many of our past ministries are done by lay people today and how glorious the work they are doing and the many needs they are meeting. As for the loss of charism, as a Dominican sister, our charism is to be preachers of the Gospel, this will always be a need. Though how it is preached, may change. As one of my professors and a fellow Dominican brother says “charism is a gift for a need.” Who knows what new charisms will emerge for new needs in the future. Thank you for sharing your questions and struggles. I’m sure others have the same or more. I can simply say that I joined my congregation knowing it was an aging congregation. It is by prayer and faith, I continue to put my life /our life, as sister(s) in God’s hands. Blessings to you and your wonderful small faith-filled community.
    Sr Priscilla

  4. Sr. Priscilla,
    Blessings to you for expressing your optimism and deep-seeded faith regarding religious life. Thank you for giving those of us who are trying to sort things out the opportunity to ask questions and learn from everyone's sharings. I have experienced the healing power of placing things in God's hands and having faith, but struggle trying to do so as a way of life. Why is "letting go" of control that we don't actually possess so hard?!

  5. Hello anonymous,thanks for sharing. You have asked an excellent question and If you don't mind I would like to post and answer this question on my next posting here in Sept. Blessings to you!


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