This week we launch a series of blog posts by religious who tell what their religious life has meant to them. It’s the right time for such posts since the annual National Religious Retirement Collection is slated for Dec. 7-8. The collection is taken up in parishes nationwide to help offset the more than four billion dollar retirement deficit faced by men and women religious in the U.S. who for decades poured what little earnings they had into ministries, such as education, social services, and health care.
Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, perhaps best known for her book Dead Man Walking, which was turned into a movie by the same name starring Susan Sarandon, who played Sister Prejean. Sister Prejean speaks of “Sneaky Jesus,” who led her to correspond with a prison inmate and eventually to minister to those facing the death penalty. “I look back and see God’s good grace that awakened me and carried me – all within my religious community, which may be in my life the greatest grace of all,” she writes. Currently she is writing a memoir, River of Fire, about the spiritual journey that led her to death row. Random House will publish it.
Mother Dolores Hart, the Benedictine cloistered nun who stunned Hollywood decades ago when she gave up stardom to enter the monastery of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. She achieved notoriety on the silver screen when she gave teen idol Elvis Presley his first on-screen kiss. “The extravagance of my Hollywood career only mirrored the extravagance of God’s creative love expressed through His Son…,” she says. “My vocation was never a matter of leaving Hollywood. Hollywood taught me to be an actress. Regina Laudis helped me to live the part for which I was born, within a monastic vocation.” Mother Dolores Hart is author of The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows.
Brother Michael McGrath, an Oblate of St Francis de Sales, whose unique art charms and inspires at the same time. “When I entered the Oblates, I just wanted to learn how to paint and pray, in that order. I never dreamed that one day I would find myself living and working in Camden, New Jersey, doing what I love more than anything else, surrounded by dear and encouraging confreres. When you open your heart and soul to the workings of the Spirit, when you discover the spirituality that works for you and helps you define your life and set your limits, then it doesn’t get any better than that.” Brother McGrath’s eleventh book, SAVED BY BEAUTY: A Spiritual Journey with Dorothy Day, (World Library Publications) was honored in 2013 with two first place awards: one from the Catholic Press Association and one from the Association of Catholic Publishers.
Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, 94, chaplain of the men’s basketball team at Loyola University, Chicago, speaks of her blessings. “Serving as chaplain to the basketball team is a special gift,” she says. “I never miss a game. I pray and reflect with the team and am always happy to discuss game strategy, scouting, our strengths and our weaknesses. As a team, we keep in mind Ignatius Loyola’s message to do all ‘for the greater glory of God,’ but we also have our own mantra: the 3 W’s: Worship, Work, and Win!”