Open houses allow discernment, exploration of religious life

To celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life, religious communities in the archdiocese are opening their doors -- for young people discerning the call to religious life and for visitors to explore the religious orders living their charisms.

Next up are the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, both hosting events the weekend of March 7-8.

The Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help will have an open house Sunday, March 8, at their offices in Kirkwood at 335 N. Kirkwood Road, which is behind the building housing the Post Office. Starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m., the timing is perfect for people attending Sunday Mass down the street at St. Peter Parish.

Meanwhile, the School Sisters of Notre Dame will have a day of discernment for young women -- "Listening to the Whisper" -- Saturday, March 7, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the sisters' campus just north of Jefferson Barracks County Park.

Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

An offspring of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate in Joliet, the community was founded in 1901 by Sister Solana Leczna, Sister Ernestine Matz and Sister Hilaria Matz to teach children of Polish immigrants at St. Stansilaus Kostka School on 14th Street.

From their motherhouse on Gasconade Street, the community of sisters taught at numerous schools in the area, then went on to teach African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans in Louisiana and New Mexico. They served for seven years in Phuket, Thailand, at the invitation of a bishop in Thailand, and expanded their ministry into health care.

The sisters once owned the land in Ferguson where Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and School and McCluer South-Berkeley High School stand today. They still minister in education and health care, but also provide pastoral care, youth ministry and social services in 13 states. They're international, as well. Sister Mary Joann Kremer is ministering at an orphanage in Haiti.

They're also contemporary with several "green" initiatives in keeping with their decision in 2007 to focus on environmental concerns. They call the effort, "Franciscans for the Earth," and and host an eco-film series at their offices, with the documentary "DamNation" scheduled for Tuesday, March 3. They have a demonstration vegetable garden at their Tau House in DeSoto, where they're involved with farmers markets and food pantries.

School Sisters of Notre Dame

Founded in 1833 by Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger in Bavaria, the School Sisters of Notre Dame have more than 2,500 sisters in more than 34 countries. They came to the United States in 1847 and to St. Louis not long after, educating generations of children in the St. Louis area.

Their teaching ministry continues today with schools throughout the United States, including Notre Dame High School in St. Louis. Notre Dame sisters teach at all levels of education -- elementary, secondary and post-secondary. For instance, Sister Carolyn Sur is on the faculty at St. Louis University.

The sisters also host regular events at their campus, which is home to Notre Dame High School, the motherhouse with its exquisitely rehabbed St. Theresa Center Chapel and the offices for the Central Pacific Province -- among five in the U.S. Upcoming events include "One World, Taizé Prayer" on March 15 and a women's leadership luncheon on March 19 with Notre Dame alum Patricia Martens Balke as the keynote speaker.

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