Prayers for students, prayers for consecrated life

With two religious sisters in their midst, the second-graders of Christ the King School in University City quizzed them about all things religious.

Their calling. Their prayer lives. Their charism.

But one student had an inquiry that only comes from the mouth of a child.

"Do you go to the grocery store?"

"My favorite question," Sister Marysia Weber said later, with a laugh.

Of course, religious sisters go grocery shopping -- they eat just like the rest of us. Also, like most of us, they snooze at night sans head gear, which was another question: "Do you wear your veil to bed?"

Those questioning brought chuckles to Sister Marysia and Sister Marie Josepha Kluczny, who are Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich. They answered those and more practical queries on the World Day of Consecrated Life -- Feb. 2 -- about their day-to-day lives as religious sisters and about their professions.

A psychiatrist, Sister Marysia practiced for the past 25 years before becoming director of the archdiocesan Office of Consecrated Life in June, learning on the fly such things as Twitter and social media and getting a handle on the religious and communities in the "Rome of the West" -- aka #CatholicSTL. Sister Marie is a nurse by trade and spent four years at the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. So, yes, religious sisters can be high-achievers.

A thought-provoking question also came their way:

"Do you get called by God, or is it just something you wanted to do?"

"That's an important distinction," said Sister Marie, 31, a second-year novice who first got the call at about the age of the second-graders but answered to be the bride of Christ just a few years ago. "It's something you're given; it's not for you to decide. You have to listen for it.

"I was impressed by that question."

Also impressive was the young students' knowledge of prayer. In church with the sisters, they prayed a decade of the Rosary before the Q-and-A. They not only correctly recited the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be but also knew the correct sequence of the prayers.

Sister Marysia described the prayer visit with the students as "inspiring ... just to see their excitement to pray with sisters and have the opportunity to ask questions. Praying with them was very special. It gave me inspiration."

Sister Marysia had the inspiration for making the World Day of Consecrated Life special in the archdiocese. In prayer last month in her convent's chapel, she contemplated how to celebrate the day on the heels of Catholic Schools Week Jan. 25-31.

She mulled it over. Consecrated Life. Catholic Schools Week. ...

Bingo.

"Wouldn't it be great if each student in schools throughout the archdiocese offered a prayer for the religious sisters, priests and brothers in St. Louis?" she said. In return, the religious would offer a novena for the students, starting on the first day of CSW and ending on the Day of Consecrated Life. The students number about 40,000; religious about 1,900 in 88 communities. The prayer would be the Hail Mary, because Sister Marysia's "ah-ha moment" came just after she prayed to the Blessed Mother.

She sent the idea to Kurt Nelson, the archdiocesan superintendent of education, and within days, he climbed on board, sending a note to the schools about Sister Marysia's prayer idea. With that, 40,000 Hail Marys and 1,900 novenas went upstairs on Feb. 2 and the week prior.

Some schools, such as Christ the King and St. Joseph of Cottleville, went beyond one "Hail Mary" and added many with the Rosary. At St. Joseph, principal Sister Maria Christi Greve prayed the Hail Mary over the intercom in the morning announcements, then led Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary for about 50 students in the school chapel. Sister Marysia and Sister Marie joined them before treking to Christ the King then to Cardinal Rigali Center for Mass to celebrate the Day of Consecrated Life.

Sister Marysia described Sister Maria Christi, a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, with the students as being "like a spiritual mother surrounded by her spiritual children teaching them to pray before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament."

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