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Called by God: Vowed Women Religious

Posted on March 8, 2021, by Loretto Community

A woman stands at the front of a blackboard. Three students sit in desks, listening to her lecture.
A Lifetime of Versatility — Webster University professor emeritus Loretto Sister Barbara Ann Barbato taught history for more than 40 years at the college in St. Louis founded in 1915 by the Sisters of Loretto. Among her many other roles during her tenure there, Barbara Ann served as education administrator; coordinator, mentor and adviser for the graduate program in international studies; director of the Center for Individualized Studies; and interim dean of students. (Photo courtesy of Webster University Archives)

For hundreds of years women religious have followed the light of Christ, the light of those in need, the light of immigrants at the borders, the light of people suffering from injustice. Sisters have served, and they have learned from those they served. More than 400 orders of women religious communities exist in the United States. There are hundreds more throughout the world. We may have different works of mission, but we share the same goal: to bring Christ to those we serve and to meet Christ in those we serve. We’re here not to fix everything, but to give people hope and the promise of a better future.

In his book, “A Presence That Disturbs: A Call to Radical Discipleship,” Spiritan priest-author the Rev. Anthony J. Gittins writes, “Founders of religious communities have a vision whose attainment presents immeasurable obstacles. But early community members discovered the power and attraction to keep the dream alive, and religious women today have to do the same.”  

Loretto was founded in 1812 by three women, working with a priest, in central Kentucky. Their story of following the light has expanded into thousands of women following the call of discipleship, following the call from Jesus to be women of the Gospel, women who were ready to serve without limit for others. 

“People should know Jesus’ love because they have met us,” writes National Catholic Reporter scripture columnist Mary M. McGlone CSJ. Most of our sisters entered religious community life when they were 18, after completing high school. The preparation for life in community and mission urged our sisters to share what they believed was the Good News of Jesus Christ found in the Gospels. 

This week’s Loretto Facebook page will continue the story. Look for daily posts about Catholic sisters. See what following Christ means to women religious in today’s world. The task is to see as God sees and to respond. The challenges of our time call us to hear the cries of our world, to see the poverty existing right in our own neighborhoods and to ask ourselves, “How can I respond to a wounded world? What is God asking of women religious today? What is God calling me to be and to do? How can I bring light?” Ask the people what they need … and then respond.


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