National Open-House Day Opens Minds and Hearts

Events Held Across the United States to Celebrate the Year for Consecrated Life

A sister of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus gets ready to welcome visitors to the order's open-house event.
A sister of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus gets ready to welcome visitors to the order's open-house event. (photo: Courtesy of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious)

Visitors poured into more than 150 convents, monasteries and motherhouses across the United States this past Sunday, Feb. 8, in a first-ever national open-house event to celebrate the Year for Consecrated Life.

According to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), some convents received as many as 450 visitors in a single location, as sisters welcomed the public and answered questions about consecrated life.

“It was such a pleasure to work with religious sisters from across the country, opening our doors to families of the Catholic faithful and introducing them to religious life,” said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the Sisters of Life and chairwoman of the CMSWR.

This national event became one of the initiatives meant to highlight and celebrate the Year for Consecrated Life that Pope Francis proclaimed for 2015, in order to honor the gift and treasure of religious men and women.

In support of the Holy Father’s proclamation, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations developed and promoted the “Days With Religious” initiatives as one of the main ways to celebrate consecrated life and help Catholic faithful and families across the country learn more about the daily life of religious men and women and experience joyful encounters with them and their daily witness to the Gospel. 

Naturally, sisters eagerly shared the joy of religious life, answered questions about their customs and traditions and recounted their personal stories.

“The nationwide open house on Sunday was a beautiful opportunity to celebrate consecrated life, to open our homes and hearts to all those who wished to learn more and to welcome young women who may be called by God to the vocation of religious life,” said Sister Virginia Herbers, an Apostle of the Sacred of Heart of Jesus in St. Louis.

She captured the sentiments of many sisters who took part: “What a wonderful gift to the Church and the world!”

Each open-house event was unique, as the different communities as the sisters shared their experiences of prayer, faith, service, charism and community life.

At St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood, Miss., the school’s principal, Sister Mary Ann Tupy of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, was delighted so many parishioners and parents came to the open house to spend time with the sisters at their convent. 

“I sensed their pleasure in being able to see our convent home and that we would open it up for them to see and enjoy,” observed Sister Mary Ann. “Everyone left with a smile on their faces, and we felt blessed to have had them in our midst.”

These Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity held numerous open houses in seven different states where they have convents: Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

The joy of religious sisters sharing their ministries also overflowed at the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Washington. There, the Little Sisters of the Poor led guests on a tour where several activities illustrated the past, present and future of the sisters’ vocation.

Elderly residents at the home got involved, too. They sold Valentine pendants and bookmarks they had created and made over the course of several weeks.  Each pendant was presented on a card with a quote from Pope Francis’ World Day of the Sick and Lenten Messages.

“We were eager to expose people to the Church’s teaching on the reverence of human life,” said Sister Constance Carolyn of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“Our activities,” she said, “focused on the heart, not primarily because Valentine’s Day was a week away, but because Pope Francis’ messages for the World Day of the Sick and Lent reflect on the wisdom of the heart in caring for the sick.”

A handful of other congregations holding open houses included the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, Congregation of Sisters, Mary Queen of Mercy in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sisters of Charity of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, and the Sisters of Jesus, Our Hope. 

 The Sisters of Life had more than 600 people come to their five different convent locations in Connecticut, Maryland and New York.

Highlighting the success of this first event, Mother Agnes Mary said, “We are so happy that religious across the country joined in this first-ever nationwide initiative inviting others to explore the mystery of religious life. And we look forward to our 'Day of Service' and 'Day of Prayer' events in the coming months.”