Sister Emily TeKolste: What does it mean to you to be a Catholic Sister today?
Note: Here is the seventh 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 Emily TeKolste has written the seventh of such blog posts below.
I recently attended my cousin’s wedding. Peter and Erin had been together for years (and Erin had been part of our family for years). They recently made it official.
During the reception, we had mixed tables, so I only knew one other person at the beginning of the evening. As we engaged in conversation, my sister’s earlier identification of me as a Catholic sister came out, and as I’ve grown a little accustomed to, people had questions. Luckily, Peter and Erin’s wedding ceremony gave me plenty of material to draw on to explain how I see this life.
The officiant, a friend of Erin’s since college, spoke deeply about their relationship as being one of service to each other to help enable each other to go out and serve the world. Others echoed the sentiment throughout the day. Erin and Peter live their lives in service. As so many loved ones shared, the ability they have to balance each other out helps to build their individual and collective capacity for service.
I see religious life in much the same way: Community at its best strengthens us for service beyond ourselves. The only difference is the specific life form that best strengthens each of us to do the work of world transformation. For me, it’s a life vowed to poverty, chastity, and obedience lived through the lens and in communion with the Sisters of Providence.
For Peter and Erin, it’s a life vowed to each other.
During the ceremony, before exchanging their rings, Peter and Erin had us all pause to pass them around to everyone for their love and blessing. As this ritual was introduced, they explained that their relationship is strengthened and supported by the community, so they wanted the community to participate in this ritual blessing of the marriage.
What a beautiful way to recognize and celebrate this reality. As Sisters of Providence, we build our strength to return to our vows and each other from those outside of ourselves – our Providence Associates, our Partners in Mission, our colleagues in ministry, and our families.
And we do it all with the words of wisdom from mentors and beloved voices. For Erin and Peter, it was the words of J.R.R. Tolkien – the ring poem printed in elvish on the inside of Peter’s ring – and Mr. Rogers – a lifelong favorite of Erin’s. Rooted in prayer as Sisters of Providence, we make time to reflect regularly on the word of God written in scripture, in the words of great sages throughout history, and in our own hearts.
These words remind us and strengthen us for the road ahead.
Like Erin and Peter’s relationship is a gift to them and to those around them, my life as a Sister of Providence is a gift to me – and hopefully to those around me.
Very well said, Emily!! I love the comparison of your commitment to religious life and your cousin’s commitment to marriage. We have heard and read about this comparison many times, but your way of stating it, although simple, is even more clarifying, at least to me. (Maybe I’m becoming simple in my old age.) I feel you have a gift for writing. Keep it up!