In Our Own Words: New Book on Religious Life of the Present

by | Feb 24, 2018 | Formation, News, Reflections

Sr. Tracy Kemme of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati wrote a chapter in the new book, In Our Own Words, which was published on January 25 by Liturgical Press. Dan Stockman of the Global Sisters Report writes about the book below.

Young women religious who have been making themselves heard through Giving Voice, a peer-led group for sisters under the age of 50, have now put their words into a book reflecting on the hopes, challenges and realities of religious life in current times.

In Our Own Words contains chapters written by 13 younger sisters, including a reflection from Sr. Virginia Herbers of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on diversity and unity in religious life and Incarnate Word Sr. Teresa Maya’s thoughts on younger sisters in leadership roles.

Dubuque Franciscan Sr. Sarah Kohles, who edited the book with Society of the Sacred Heart Sr. Juliet Mousseau, said the idea for the project arose from a Giving Voice retreat four years ago for sisters in their 20s and 30s, when several women in early formation asked what books sisters were reading as they prepared for vows.

“We were all reading the same things, and they had all been written 15 years ago,” Kohles said. “We realized we aren’t reading anything newer because we haven’t written it.”

Sr. Susan Rose Francois of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace said the book will fill a widening gap.

“There’s really been nothing out since I was in formation 12 or 13 years ago,” Francois said. “I knew we needed this book and that all of us who can write need to write.”

Kohles said Mousseau called her, said she felt it was time to start the project, and asked her to help. However, both wanted it to be a collaborative effort.

“We didn’t want just 13 people who send in chapters, but all of us to be in dialogue and shape the process the whole way,” Kohles said.

The authors took a weeklong writing retreat paid for by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which also funds Global Sisters Report. That not only allowed the sisters to pray and write together, but to edit each other’s work and make it stronger, the book’s forward notes.

Francois said because of that collaboration, the book feels like a unified whole rather than 13 disparate essays.

“I didn’t realize that the process they used, how that would create such a common sense in the book,” Francois said. “I feel like I’m in every other chapter, even though I only wrote one. We didn’t all know each other until we met at the writing retreat except through phone calls, but we have so much in common by virtue of our calling in life.”

Sr. Tracy Kemme of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati said younger sisters want the collaboration used to write the book to be a model for religious life, where differences in congregations and leadership conferences don’t create division.

“It was just a real feeling of communion and of being one as we worked on this,” Kemme said. “That’s our future.”

Kohles said diversity was key in choosing who to ask to participate.

“We have no two from the same community. I’m Franciscan, and we don’t even have other Franciscans. There’s charism diversity, ministry diversity, ethnic diversity,” she said. “We have four who wear habits as well as those who do not.”

Kohles said it was also important to the group that it include sisters from congregations in both the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

“I’m glad we did that,” she said. “Virginia [Herbers] addresses communion in her chapter, and it’s beautiful.”

To continue reading the article, click here.


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