by Dianne Davis
In January 2020 I attended the FOCUS’ SLS20 conference in Phoenix. One evening I was at dinner with our friend Bob Flanigan who introduced me to the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word from Alabama. I sat next to Sister Mary Philomena and we felt an immediate connection. But neither of us knew this time together would lead to a beautiful collaboration of our ministries.
A few months later in April, ChristLife partnered with the Archdiocese of New York to host the first virtual ChristLife series. Joining our three Discovering Christ small groups were Sister Mary Philomena, Sister Rita Marie and Sister Clare Marie. During the next few months, the Sisters experienced the kerygma in a new way, along with people from all over NY, NJ, AL, TN, CO who were part of their small groups. They even invited their friend, from Lourdes, France who was lonely and isolated during lockdowns, to join us. Sister Rita Marie shared with me how encouraging it was to hear stories of faith from the other participants:
"It put to the forefront of my mind my own journey with the Lord, both in the past and the present."
The Sisters were so encouraged by the authenticity of the ChristLife teachings and the fruits they witnessed, they asked their Mother Superior, Mother Louise Marie, if they could begin evangelizing with ChristLife at their Casa Maria Retreat House. She gave a wholehearted yes! So they began hosting virtual groups and invited their own family members, some of the hardest people to evangelize. But they quickly began to love the teachings and small group discussions and the ChristLife sessions became their favorite night of the week. One family member shared her testimony with Sister Philomena:
"I just wanted to share that since Monday evening when, through your guidance, I repeated the most beautiful Prayer of Commitment to Jesus, my heart has been filled with a Joy and Peace completely new to me. Hearing Sister Rita Marie, Sister Clare Marie and you pray out loud for me was amazing, a true gift from Heaven."
The sessions were such a success that they have been running the ChristLife series continuously since last Fall. Right now they have two groups, plus they are helping a local parish run two additional groups. Sister Rita Marie, who runs catechetical groups, firmly believes we need to evangelize before we can catechize:
"If we don’t have a personal relationship with the Lord and fall in love with Him, then catechesis becomes just head knowledge and it doesn’t have the right impact on your life."
I asked them if they noticed any difference in themselves after coming through the ChristLife series and running it multiple times with various family members, friends, and parishioners. Sister Rita Marie quickly spoke up about Sister Philomena: "Yes, she’s changed. She used to be timid, but now she’s become confident and empowered by the Lord to do the work of evangelization and making missionary disciples."
They both shared with me how they used to go into town and people would ask for prayer, they would say yes and pray later on. But after participating in and leading Following and Sharing Christ, they felt encouraged and equipped to pray anytime and anywhere. So now when they are asked for prayer, they pray right on the spot!