By Garrett Sims, Class of 2018, Chemistry for Secondary Education Major
I have to admit, being a Protestant, the only thing I knew about religious sisters was what I saw in The Sound of Music. Yeah, you could say my understanding was pretty deep. From what I could tell they are irresistibly joyful, their singing voices are unmatched, and their wit is innocently hilarious. The funny thing is, only when I was able to spend a day with Sr. Joseph Andrew, Sr. Mary Lawrence, and Sr. Maria Karol did I realize my idea of a nun was spot-on. No, they didn’t randomly start singing atop mountaintops while the cool spring breeze ruffled their habits. Maybe that was a little disappointing, but in truth, my experience was so much better. On Wednesday, March 4th (50 years to the day of the release of The Sound of Music!), three nuns arrived on Hope’s campus. Little did we know what was coming. Sr. Joseph Andrew marched on stage at Chapel with poise and confidence.
With her Bible close to her heart and her rosary beads at her side she faced a sea of eyes. “Do it anyway.” These wise words, first spoken by Mother Teresa reverberated through the speakers, spoken by the sister now standing on stage in front of me. “The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.” A statement not only spoken, but I am sure lived out by the indomitable sister. “Forgive.” Something not usually taken easily, yet said so gently that it melted our hearts as it rolled off her lips. After Chapel I, like many others, felt revived and rejuvenated, ready to take on the world. Thankfully, my time with the sisters was not over. A few friends and I took the sisters to lunch. There is something about walking around campus with nuns. Whether it was the many stares from passersby or being in the presence of some amazing ladies, something felt different.
We got our lunch and sat down. The sisters had Cokes. Why was that peculiar to me? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I had never really considered nuns as real people. Yes, that does sound strange, but it’s true! They seemed too heavenly for humanity. I couldn’t help but think though, if God calls normal ladies to be nuns, maybe, just maybe he calls for the same righteousness from me and you. A thought I had to consider. All my thoughts came to a standstill when Sister Joseph Andrew asked me to pray for our lunch. I don’t care how righteous you are, nothing strikes more fear in you than a nun asking you to pray! Regardless, I began to pray in my normal, unpoetic voice. As the meal commenced, our conversation tasted even better than the food we were eating (I know, a hard thing to do in a college cafeteria.) The joy of the sisters was tangible. Also, side note: I think it may be a gift from God, but the sisters remembered the name of every single person they met at lunch. It took me a whole semester to remember the name of everyone in my dorm hall! The sisters graced us further with their presence in my religion class. The topic of the day was vocations. Nothing hits home more to college students than jobs. The sisters spoke beautifully of their own calling to be nuns. Each person has his/her own place in the world. It is a place God specifically created you for. Sister Joseph Andrew put it as: “God could have created anyone, but he created you. With all your flaws (if they can be called flaws), with all your problems, and with every part that you don’t like about yourself, God intentionally created you that way. They are gifts. The world needs you just the way you are.” I have to say, He broke the mold when he made this special sister. Later that evening, along with Confession and adoration of the Eucharist, Sister Joseph Andrew gave a talk titled “Heroic Witnesses in the Third Millennium: If Tempted, Everyone can be a Hero.” She went through a montage of true heroes in our era. This ranged from James Wright Foley to John Paul II. It was a solemn night filled with laughter and worship. Echoing her other talks, she added a new spin; God designed each person in order that they may be a hero. With that said we must, like Maria Von Trapp, “have confidence.” God already knows our vocational calling. He made us to be happy as we walk in love. Find, and then be the you God made you to be. As Mother Teresa says, “In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
The video of Sr. Joseph Andrew's talk can be found here.