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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Sisters are Doing it for the Sake of Others"

From the Sydney Morning Herald
Linda Morris Religious Affairs Writer September 5, 2007

WHAT do three religious sisters pack when they are sent to assist the largest religious gathering in Australian history? Answer: 600 rosary beads, personal prayer books, two guitars, mum's cookies and a frisbee.

Sister Mary Rachel, Sister Anna and Sister Mary Madeline are members of the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. They arrived three weeks ago, as volunteers for World Youth Day next July, at the invitation of the Australian event co-ordinator, Bishop Anthony Fisher, himself a Dominican.

They belong to a tight-knit and revered order of 200 nuns that is considered small by standards in the US but positively blessed in Australia, where vocations to religious life are in steady decline.

So it is understandable that their presence, at a time when many sisters have shed the habit, has been a source of public wonderment.

During a recent sightseeing tour of Taronga Zoo, a visiting party of school children bounced excitedly yelling, "nuns, nuns, nuns" as their teachers sought to hush them.

On their arrival at Sydney Airport, an Australian man quipped to them: "Three nuns, all in habits, all happy and young. It's the second miracle of Mary."

The sisters are the first of what is expected to be a flood of Catholic religious figures who will come to Sydney for the event.

Each woman came to religious life soon after graduating from high school, and each has attended world youth days before and can attest to their spiritual value and influence on their journey of faith.

Sister Anna went to World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 and left transformed. "There was this moment in the [overnight] vigil," she says. "We'd walked 20 kilometres, it was 1am and we were trying to get to sleep.

"I woke up and the Pope's address had been broadcast. He said, 'There are so many of you out there but I see you one by one and I say do not be afraid to follow Christ and live radically.'

"I heard it and I thought, he is speaking to me. It was a moment of grace given of courage."
Recent revelations that even Mother Teresa had expressed a fear of abandonment by God are evidence that no life can be perfectly fulfilled, Sister Mary Madeline said. It reinforced the Christian hope for a new Pentecost, a fresh kindling of the Holy Spirit in each Catholic.

"It's easy to say 'I love Jesus' in the midst of World Youth Day, but when it is over people return to their ordinary lives and there is darkness, but faith tells us we can't rely on ourselves.

"Maybe we don't feel God is with us but he gives us that faith."

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