Sister Dina Bato: What does it mean to you to be a Catholic Sister today?
Note: Here is the sixth blog in our series celebrating Catholic Sisters Week, which concludes on March 14, 2020. During the week, many sisters will share here on our blog what being a sister means to them. Sister Dina Bato has written the sixth of such blog posts below.
I honestly find it providential to be reflecting on this question right now. I currently minister as the Mission & Ministry Coordinator at a small university in Chicago. As the only person in my department, and the only religious sister at the university, there have been many instances where this question (or renditions of it) caused me to ponder.
Over the past couple of years, for Catholic Sisters Week, I helped facilitate panel discussions on campus with women religious friends around the Chicagoland area. This year, however, I changed course and compiled “Did You Know …” snippets about certain aspects regarding religious life; they will be posted around campus for the week. They include “Did You Know …”:
- There is a difference between a nun and a sister?
- A Catholic Sister helped grow the fellowship known as Alcoholics Anonymous?
- Catholic Sisters are strong advocates for social justice?
- Charism is what drives all women religious communities? But what exactly is it?
- The vows Catholic women religious profess are and aren’t what they used to be?
- Even though most women religious in the U.S. are elderly, women are still saying “Yes!” to religious life?
Looking at these six questions (in this order), and the journey it took to answer them, three pairs of thoughts come to mind:
- Embrace challenge and exercise Creativity
- Embrace uncertainty and look for Possibility
- Embrace smallness and discern concrete Intentions and Actions
The seemingly “negative” ideas in this triad beckon me to consider actions towards other more “positive” unknowns. In our time, like other eras before, we in religious life are facing many challenges, particularly as our world becomes more of a global village. Some challenges include generation and cultural gaps within our communities, shifts in perceptions of the Church (both in and out), and the immensity of choices we have to make, given the realities in our society (especially the Church). I believe we are called, however, to use our creativity to embrace and address these challenges. Our life affords us vast opportunities to harness that creativity collaboratively (both individually and communally). No challenge has quick resolutions, and no Sister (or anyone for that matter) has all of the answers in addressing all of life’s challenges.
Each are equipped with certain gifts to bring resolution to the challenges as they come. Throughout my SP life, I have been challenged to grow in ways I never thought I would. It is quite humbling to ask for help and engage with Sisters, Associates, ministry partners, family members and friends in facing our challenges. There is so much to learn from each other, but thanks be to God that we are all graced with creativity and the ability to learn how to use it wisely.
No matter where we get our news, one thing is certain: There will always be uncertainty, especially in the face of adversity/difficulty. Though uncertainty exists everywhere, I feel it very poignantly in religious life. No doubt, with diminishing numbers in our Congregation, as well as the tension-filled goings on in the Catholic Church and world, there is a lot of uncertainty in our reality.
Why do we/I stay? I stay because I believe God in me is calling me to look for/be open to an abundance of possibility – to follow in our foundress’ footsteps and rely on the Providence of God for our needs and wisdom to utilize our gifts for the common good. Our life of prayer, community, ministry, and mission affords us the opportunities to search out possibility in the face of uncertainty, trusting that God will lead us where we need to go and what we need to do. With this growing awareness of possibility, I am empowered to share that same hope with others, especially those who may be so enveloped by fear and discouragement.
When one of my Sisters passes away, more now than ever I feel a sense of responsibility for the community. I am challenged to consider no longer strictly the why of being in religious life (as I tend to overanalyze things), but to have the courage to take calculated and intentional action in faith moving forward. This calls me to discern/bounce things off with people I trust, both inside and outside of community, for the sake of the mission lived out in community. Community is what drew me, and mission lived out in community (holistically speaking) is what keeps me here.
I see how my Sisters live with passion in the midst of all of life, and that motivates me to continue to grow to become my best self and to give of myself freely for the sake of the mission. Without the mission and the community, I don’t know where I’d be, and I’m ever grateful for the gift and privilege of being a Sister of Providence.