Anne-Marie Welsh

     Catholic Sisters Week 2020, a project of the national organization, Communicators for Women Religious, will be celebrated March 8-14.

     While shining the spotlight on the good works of sisters might appear to be an easy task, it “is made difficult by the sisters’ deep-rooted humility and avoidance of any accolades,” say Stephanie Hall and Gary Loncki in an op-ed written for this year’s occasion. As directors of communications for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania and the Sisters of Mercy NYPW serving Erie, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Rochester, respectively, they are in a good position to offer thoughts on the topic.

Sister Rosemary O'Brien, SSJ, center, is featured in some of the material
used in
this year's Catholic Sisters Week campaign.  
Photo/Communicators for Women Religious

     “(The sisters) don’t do what they do to garner praise,” they write, “they merely seek to serve God and God’s people.”
     Eventually, sisters decided to take advantage of the annual event, and now use the week to share their spirituality, to grow service networks, to invite young women to consider vocations to religious life, and to point to their pastoral and prophetic works.  
     In the Diocese of Erie, Catholic Sisters Week will get an early boost as Erie Mayor Joe Schember, Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper and State Representative Bob Merski plan to present proclamations to representatives of the region’s communities of women religious at a news conference on Thursday, March 5.
     Citing the all-inclusive, life-giving contributions of women religious, whose work transcends religious, racial, gender and socioeconomic boundaries, Hall and Loncki remind readers that Catholic sisters “helped construct and support the infrastructure of our communities.” While women religious established hospitals and schools, the writers note that today’s sisters “continue to tend to the needs of the most vulnerable in our community, often providing what society does not. They stand for and with the oppressed while advocating for change.”

     Catholic Sisters Week began in 2015 as a part of National Women’s History Month. It is now an official component of that celebration. It was authorized by Molly Murphy MacGregor, co-founder of National Women’s History Project, who was educated and deeply influenced by Catholic sisters.
      Hall and Loncki urge readers to pause and give thanks for the many contributions of women religious.
     “If you are so fortunate to have been guided, influenced or inspired by a Catholic sister,” they write, “perhaps you might reach out and say, ‘thanks,’ or at least, pay it forward and be an inspiration to someone in your life.”