Striving to be “salt of the earth” that gives flavor to their evangelization, the Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace, Daughters of Mary of Nazareth and Brigittine Servitores have much zeal to share, especially as the Church celebrates the Year of Consecrated Life.
None of these orders are pontifically approved, but they have diocesan approval, which is one of the first steps for a new community.
Virtually no community jumps to pontifical status immediately; they move through various stages in their original diocese and then get received into other dioceses, building toward the day when they can apply for universal recognition by the Holy See.
Of Divine Grace and Mary
The Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace are based in Port Sanilac, Mich.
Their community, founded by Bishop Joseph Cistone, began in 2010 in the Diocese of Saginaw. They are members of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR).
The sisters were previously part of the sedevacantist community of the Congregation of Mary, Immaculate Queen in Spokane, Wash. Sedevacantists do not accept the legitimacy of the popes since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958. A smaller number holds that the last legitimate pope was Pius X. The Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace are now in full communion with the Church.
“We were at our community in Spokane when we made our leap of faith into full communion. We were given time to discern. Four of us came to Michigan to be mentored by the religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma,” explained Sister Mary Inviolata, a pastoral administrator for the combined parish of St. Denis (Lexington), Our Lady of Sorrows (Port Sanilac) and St. Patrick (Croswell).
The sisters’ apostolate is parish work and ecumenism.
“We are revitalizing parishes through catechesis, perpetual adoration and Marian devotion,” Sister Mary Inviolata said. “We hope to expand to teaching.”
She continued, “Ecumenism is part of our charism. We have a vacation Bible school with the Methodists and Lutherans. We have a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.”
A unique aspect of their apostolate is making nun dolls. “Nun dolls are a reminder for people to pray for vocations to the religious life,” Sister Mary Inviolata said. “Nun dolls are a way to expose girls to consecrated life.”
“They make you smile,” she added.
Although the order currently doesn’t have new postulants, Sister Mary Inviolata is optimistic about the future: “It’s an exciting time to join this community. We don’t have centuries of sainted members and history: We are creating our spiritual heritage.”
“Consecrated life is integral to the Church,” she added. “We point to the reality of heaven: that there is a God and that he loves us.”
Sister Mary Teresita also belongs to the order. She said she feels blessed to be part of the community and in full communion with Rome: “After 36 years of being a member of our former community, by the grace of God and the prayers of the faithful, I realized I was in error and needed to return to full communion in the Catholic Church.”
She observed of her new community, “God in his loving providence has wonderfully blessed us in ways beyond our imagination. We strive to promote a greater unity in the truth of Christ.”
Another religious who feels blessed is Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart (pictured, center, with her sisters), who survived the Iraq wars; now, she is the foundress of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth in Chestnut Hill, Mass. She started her order in December 2011; it totals 10 women, all of them novices and postulants.
In 2005, Mother Olga entered the Catholic Church — from the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East — in Boston and professed her final vows to Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
Mother Olga has been involved in campus ministry for the past decade, addressing the deepest longings of young people: “Students want to be accepted as people. They hunger and thirst for truth.”
Since same-sex “marriage” is legal in Massachusetts, she and her fellow sisters often engage in outreach to those who have same-sex attraction, too.
“The Church doesn’t agree with the lifestyle, but respects the individual,” she explained. “We try to explain that this [homosexual activity] isn’t what God intended when he created humanity. We clarify the Church’s perspective. We have Courage [an apostolate for those with same-sex attraction, which helps them lead a chaste life], so they can choose to live the Church’s teaching and be celibate.”
The order is entrusted to the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. “I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness and mercy,” Mother Olga said. “God took my limitations to serve Mother Church.” She considers St. Joseph as the head of the spiritual household.
For women considering her order, she said, “People have to choose this life and choose it for the right reasons. The religious life is not an escape.”
Mother Olga, who felt the call to the religious life since she was 14, sees herself as a bride of Christ: “By being proposed to by the Lord, I give my life to him. My life becomes his life. It is about serving those in need, to listen to people, to pray with people. My identity comes from the One who called me; my mission comes from my Bridegroom. His heart is so full of love, compassion and mercy. As his bride, I need his heart, to take his love and mercy to people.”
Down south, Sister Margarita Igiriczi-Negy is the foundress and only member of the Brigittine Servitores in Tyler, Texas, which became a public association of the faithful in 2011. Prayers, such as the Brigittine Divine Office, are said in Latin. Sister Margarita teaches Latin at the parish of St. Joseph the Worker. Worldwide, the Brigittines have 800 members. Other than Sister Margarita in Tyler, the only other Brigittine convent in the United States is in Darien, Conn.
Sister Margarita, who is independent of the Connecticut branch, had a long journey in founding her order. Raised a Presbyterian in Hungary, in the 1960s, she entered the Catholic Church. The Marian spirituality of the Brigittines attracted her to the order’s charism: “St. Bridget (of Sweden) was very intelligent, lived in turbulent times and kept her focus on God.”
Her order is related to the Brigittine Brothers in Amity, Ore., the sole male Brigittine order in the world. Brother Bernard Ner Suguitan, the prior, has worked with Sister Margarita for the past four years. He said, “Her prayers are priceless.”
Sister Margarita is seeking women who are attached to the traditional Latin liturgy. “At the present, the Brigittine Servitores is the only order of the Brigittine family that follows the Latin traditional liturgy,” she said. “Furthermore, it is contemplative in nature. Contemplative prayer is a strong source of graces, both for the individual and for the whole Church.”
Her religious life is anchored in her desire to be united with Christ: “I have espoused Someone who will never betray me, and I trust him.”
Anna Abbott writes
from Napa Valley, California.
Fraternas Lives the Faith in the World
Fraternas, numbering about 120 around the world, are consecrated laywomen who live in community but work in the world.
Luis Fernando Figari, a Peruvian consecrated layman, founded it under the name “Marian Community of Reconciliation” in 1991. In 2012, they received canonical approval as a society of apostolic life. In the United States, the Fraternas are currently in California, Colorado, Connecticut and Texas.
Barbara Symmes, originally from Chile, now lives as a “Fraterna” in Denver. She described her life by saying, “An important part of our charism is living in the world. We are laypeople, just as other people who have been baptized. Laypeople have the mission to change the temporal order, according to the Gospel.”
A typical day starts with Morning Prayer, Mass and then going to work in offices or at parishes. The Fraternas take on commitments of celibacy and obedience. They are answerable to the authority of the bishop of their diocese. Their full motto is “Through Christ to Mary, and through Mary more fully to the Lord Jesus.” They are detached from temporal goods in order to focus on their apostolate, which is centered on working with youth, families and the needy, evangelizing culture and protecting life.
Symmes witnessed Fraternas in her native Chile: “I saw how they loved each other; something very powerful happened in my heart: I recognized in myself a deeper calling.”
“When our Lord Jesus was at the cross, he gave John as a son to Mary, inviting her to be a mother not only for him, but to all Christians,” she explained. “So we believe Jesus himself invited each one of us to live in communion with Mary as our mother. If I go to Mary’s heart, she will bring me to Jesus; and if I go to Jesus’ heart, he will bring me to his Mother.”
Patricia Pollack is with Fraternas in San Antonio, which is involved in pro-life activities and ministry to the poor.
“We meet Jesus in action,” said Pollack, who joined the order in 2002. “We are serving teenagers, the poor and families. We work directly with the parish. I see Jesus as a brother who walks that path before me.”
Marian devotion is essential to the Fraternas’ life. “When we first encounter Jesus, we see one of his great loves is Mary,” Pollack explained. “Mary is full of love for Jesus Christ. Mary teaches us to be women of faith: She is strong yet tender. She teaches us how to … have undivided love for Jesus Christ.”
— Anna Abbott