Contemplative Sisters

More than 150 years ago, St Mary Euphrasia Pelletier founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd in Angers, France, to serve women and children who were in need.

She recognized that each person as well as that person’s culture and background, deserve our greatest respect. Today, the Good Shepherd Sisters, urged by the profound realization that Christ, in a special way, is in each person who suffers and who weeps, serve in 67 countries around the world.

What is contemplative? A good way of talking about it is to say that “ It is a long, loving look at life, at the universe and all of creation in the presence of God whom we know is unconditional Love. “How does it manifest itself in everyday life? When we allow the ocean expanse to calm our hearts and free our spirits and when we recognize that we are connected to every star and every human face, we contemplate the mystery of God. When we soak ourselves in Scripture and let our hearts and minds be fashioned by Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we are in an intimate relationship with our loving God. While all these may sound great, we actually balk when we come face to face with a reality that we wish would be otherwise, that we’d like to change, control or manipulate according to our own ideas, our own way of seeing things. To be a contemplative, and everyone has a built-in capacity to be one; we must come to a profound self-knowledge that is both frightening and liberating. We learn to surrender and yield to a God whom we cannot understand most of the time but dare to trust! We let go. We believe God’s Word and care for God’s world with no strings attached. We accept who we are. We also let ourselves be like furrowed ground that lies in wait for the seeds of transformation, confident that God will bring these to fruition in us.

All Christians are called by the gospel to awaken the world to the presence of God, alive and active within their very selves and in every circumstance, every event, every situation, no matter how bleak, no matter how pain-ridden. This awakening brings about a peace and joy, a security and a comfort that this world cannot give. A contemplative community nurtures this presence by a life of prayer and study, characterized by simplicity and by helping others to realize the depth of their human communion in the family of God and in all of creation. Contemplative communities believe that one of the most time-tested way to bring God’s reconciling love and peace into the world is through a contemplative vocation nourished daily by a rhythm of prayer, work and leisure . This structure is balanced with hospitality and welcome of guests and by a readiness to pray with and for others.

The preferential option of the Congregation for social justice and peace is lived by the contemplatives sisters through an attitude of inclusivity. No one and no human concern is ever outside the embrace of their prayer and interest, particularly those served by their apostolic sisters. The unevenness of the global economy and the oppressive structures that feminize poverty, warring nations and nuclear weapons, make up the stuff of their work. Moreover, whatever work they do, for example, cards they create, alter breads they package or music they compose, they weave in together the different strands of our world, and always keep in mind those who feel alienated and alone.

To be in solidarity with the poor the contemplative sisters are engaged in a variety of work such as sewing liturgical vestments and church linens, making soaps and candles from scratch, embroidering sweaters, crocheting afghans and packaging altar breads for parishes. They also quilt, create flower arrangements, wreaths, frames and cards. Theses items are sold in their gift shops and at Church bazaars.

Contemplative Religious Women

The contemplative sisters of the Good Shepherd belong to an international congregation founded in Angers, France, by St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier (1796-1868). They have a mission of prayer for women and children, particularly those served by their apostolic sisters. In a life of contemplative presence to God and to all people, the sisters live in community, and together create a holy space where the needs of all are brought to the shepherd’s heart. As they listen to God’s Word and to humanity’s cries of suffering, they hope to pierce the world with the silence that is able to see God’s care and concern for everyone and everything. Their dream is to help build a world that nurtures compassion and reconciliation.

The Dream that Guides the Action

In 1825, when Mary Euphrasia Pelletier was thinking of new ways of rebirthing God’s tender mercy, it came upon her that there were women who allowed themselves to be found by God and for whom God wanted the greatest gift that could ever be given, a life of intimacy and friendship such as Jesus had with his Father. Thus was Mary Euphrasia’s founding insight for the contemplative branch of the Good Shepherd congregation born.

St. Mary Euphrasia made St. Mary Magdalen the model for her new contemplative community. She hoped that the sisters would pour out their lives to God and to others. She urged them to seek the one thing necessary - listening to the words of Jesus in true discipleship. St. Mary Euphrasia dreamt that just as Mary Magdalen was the first apostle of the resurrection, her contemplatives would ever announce to all God’s reconciling love for everyone.

Today the contemplatives hold Mary Euphrasia’s dream like a light in the night sky. Like her in 1825, we seek new ways of giving birth and giving flesh to God’s infinite care for all but particularly to women and children cast off to the peripheries of our aching world. We choose to stand with women who suffer and children who are undernourished and underserved and we humbly join our own to their cries for deliverance to a God who saves. While we keep sacred space to nourish our relationship with God, we seek to understand how we can be a visible presence in our local church and be a sign of God’s immediacy and care.

If You Dream Dreams….

. You have read the Dream that guides our action and resonate with it.
. You are a woman for whom God is so important and you want to totally commit
yourself to this God.
. You are genuinely concerned about serving rather than being served and agreeable
to be shaken out of your comfort zone.
. You have the ability to live a life of solitude and silence kept in perspective by
living in community with a group of women with reverence for sacred space.
. You will allow your prayer (that is, your relationship with God) to be in service of
women’s struggle for equality, justice and freedom.
. You seek a better way of life for children who are traumatized and ravaged by war,
hunger, prostitution, drugs and abuse and believe that through transformation of
self in Christ you can help transform our world where children are safe, children
eat, children can touch the stars and touch God.

Then, it may be that God calls you to do exactly that by helping us build a world that nurtures compassion and reconciliation.

If you would like more information please call or e-mail Sr. Rose Behrend at : 508-432-5582 or [email protected]

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