Nuns are cool

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The tweet asks: Got nuns?

The answer in this town is a resounding, "Yes."

Where would we be without them? There's no denying their important role in building the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Strong-hearted, pioneering religious sisters came from Europe in the 19th century to lay the foundation for Catholic education, health care, social services and more. Then, smart and savvy religious sisters built on that foundation in the 20th century, bringing education to the masses and delivering quality health care while still ministering to the poor and downtrodden on society's fringes.

Almost two decades into the 21st century, the ministries of religious sisters remain as vital as ever to the archdiocese, just as they have been since 1818 when St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and five compatriots sailed the Atlantic Ocean from France, traveled up the Mississippi River in canoes and became the first religious sisters in St. Louis.

Now, they're looking for a few good women to carry their vital ministries well into the 21st century.

Several communities are collaborating for a "convent crawl" on Friday, Feb. 17, and Saturday, Feb. 18, a vocations tour for women exploring religious life. It's a clever name for a vocations event, appropriated from "pub crawl" and drawing on its best aspects — a social-gathering and travel among like-minded-people. Though older sisters might be unfamiliar with "pub crawl," the target audience of millennials knows what it means.

By using "convent crawl," religious communities connect with contemporary young adults, showing that religious sisters are in-tune with the modern world and aren't like their parents' nuns of yesteryear, seemingly ubiquitous in the vocations boom of the 1950s and '60s.

Vocations have decreased since the late-'60s and some orders removed veils and black habits after the Second Vatican Council, but it's the same as it ever was for religious sisters — pioneers in many fields, among the first women to receive advanced degrees in math, sciences and the arts. Make no mistake: These are accomplished women, with master's degrees in multiple fields and letters such PhD, EdD, MD or JD behind their names, living their dreams in joyous fullfillment, helping people and serving the Lord.

"In so many professions, religious sisters were able to work together to be all they could be for the sake of mission," said Sister Amy Hereford, a lawyer and Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She noted that in a community, one group of sisters went off to earn an education while another group stayed behind to minister, then they'd swap places "to make sure everyone got an education. It's so important that if you're going to help people, you'll really need to have as much skill yourself."

In this issue of the Review, Sister Brenda Fritz of the Daughters of Charity and Sister Teresa Maya, congregational leader of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, are profiled. Religious sisters such as the Daughter of Charity do a lot of cool things in St. Louis, which earned the nickname "Rome of the West" in part because so many religious communities live here.

At least seven of those communities will participate in the Convent Crawl, which will feature stops at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The Daughters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, Adores of the Blood of Christ and Society of Helpers also will participate, with several other communities as possibilities.

Interested women will experience how religious sisters live, pray and minister in St. Louis circa 2017, and maybe someday they'll help answer the question: Got nuns?

You bet. 

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