Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, is home to approximately 150 Sisters of the Holy Cross who reside in various convents on the motherhouse grounds. Ranging in age from 21 to 103, these novices and sisters have ministered throughout the United States and globally in education, health care, social work, pastoral care and other human services that benefit the people of God. Today sisters at Saint Mary’s are engaged in a life of ministry that is varied, including service at local organizations, parishes and schools, as well as service to the Congregation in leadership, care of the sisters, and administration. All Holy Cross sisters are engaged in the ministry of prayer. For sisters who are battling health challenges and are unable to engage in ministry outside the convent, their physical ailments and sufferings may be redirected in prayer for the needs of the Church, Congregation and world.
Ministry of Prayer
Prayer life at Saint Mary’s takes many forms and is central to the sisters’ life together. While COVID-19 has disrupted and changed the ways the sisters gather and participate in the liturgy, they continue to pray faithfully—individually and in their local communities.
Although Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto has been suspended since March 18 due to the pandemic, the Congregation’s Liturgy Office has created ways to bring worship and prayer safely to the sisters and to the church’s worshipping community. As the coronavirus established a foothold in the United States during the season of Lent, the Liturgy Office developed videos for worship and contemplation during Holy Week for the sisters and the worshipping community. These recorded services were shown to the sisters via the closed-circuit television system in the convents. Currently, the Liturgy Office provides daily pre-recorded devotionals and livestreams Masses for the sisters, and facilitates a virtual gathering of the Loretto worshipping community via Zoom on Sundays.
On Saturdays during the month of May, many sisters at Saint Mary’s participated in a Marian prayer that was broadcast over the closed-circuit television system. During this devotional time, the sisters remembered all those affected by the coronavirus, and expressed gratitude for the caring staff at the motherhouse and for so many people who have reached out to the Congregation with love and support.
In large measure, the ministry of prayer happens in the sister’s room or in her small local community. Sisters also spend time in private prayer in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto, the Chapel of Loreto, and the chapels in Rosary and Augusta convents.
Sister M. Alberta (Zimmer), CSC, who resides at Saint Mary’s, reflected on her own daily schedule of prayer. “Most of us have a personal schedule we follow from moment to moment when we are awake. I spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament to pray for all the needs of the Congregation, our country, our Church, our world, Pope Francis, our benefactors, the sick, those with special needs as with the coronavirus, and many other problems. I pray that I will have the grace and the strength to continue to do this each day as long as God plans for me to be on this Earth.”
Sister M. Rose Anne (Schultz), CSC, also residing at Saint Mary’s, talked about her relationship with Christ through prayer. “Daily I am called to faith. To live heart to heart with Jesus; to grow to ‘No’ in judging and ‘Yes’ in forgiving.”
Looking toward heaven
Prayer is an essential element of the Christian life. St. Thérèse of Lisieux said in her autobiographical manuscripts, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
We know God delights in our intercessory prayer for others and thus, the Sisters of the Holy Cross open themselves up to participate in this “look toward heaven” for the needs of our world.
The Sisters of the Holy Cross have long invited friends and donors to submit their prayer intentions with the promise of prayers from the Congregation. The intentions received from those outside the walls of the convents serve as an important connection for the sisters to the needs, hopes, joys and difficulties of their brothers and sisters around the world. This month, we thought you might be interested to know a bit about what happens to your prayer intentions and who they reach.
“I spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament to pray for all the needs of the Congregation, our country, our Church, our world, Pope Francis, our benefactors, the sick, those with special needs as with the coronavirus, and many other problems. I pray that I will have the grace and the strength to continue to do this each day as long as God plans for me to be on this Earth.”
“Daily I am called to faith. To live heart to heart with Jesus; to grow to ‘No’ in judging and ‘Yes’ in forgiving.”
Sister M. Rose Edward (Goodrow), CSC, director of development, encourages donors to share their prayer intentions with the office. This may be done through email or submitted via mail as a space for intentions is included on return envelopes and in each issue of the Congregation’s inSpirit magazine. Each year, thousands of prayer requests are received by the Development Office. Every week those prayer intentions are gathered together and compiled by Sister Rose into a single document that protects the identity of the individual submitting the request. Sister Rose says putting together the prayer intention document is a humbling experience.
“The joys, challenges and cries from the heart of our benefactors and friends are deep and varied. Very often the intentions relate to the needs of others in their lives, showing the loving care they have for friends and family as well as prayers of thanksgiving to God for a joy received in their lives,” said Sister Rose.
The prayer intention document is then printed and distributed to the convents at Saint Mary’s. In this way, sisters are continually engaged in prayer on behalf of the intentions received from donors and others. Sister Rose reflected on how the beauty of prayer strengthens the relationship between the Congregation and its friends and benefactors. “We need each other,” she said. “Prayer is perhaps the most important way we can always be there for one another in spiritual communion before our most gracious and loving God.”
Likewise, Sister Joan Carusillo, CSC, who lives on the Saint Mary’s campus, reflected on prayer in her life. “Prayer means everything to me,” she said. “ Jesus’ incredible words, ‘Make your home in me as I make mine in you’ (John 15:4), have made me deeply aware of God’s loving presence within each of us. This intimacy gives me joy and peace and the courage to pray confidently for the needs of my sisters and brothers, as well as my own, knowing that God will always respond with what is best for us. I hold members of our Holy Cross family and the intentions they have requested in my heart and prayers. At this time, I join with millions of others praying fervently for all those affected by the coronavirus, asking God to embrace them with compassionate love and healing, and bring an end to this global pandemic.”
Your gifts to the Retirement Fund of the Sisters of the Holy Cross support the ongoing care needs of sisters in retirement. The Sisters of the Holy Cross are deeply grateful for all that you have made possible to ensure sisters’ essential needs are being met.
“Prayer means everything to me. Jesus’ incredible words, ‘Make your home in me as I make mine in you’ (John 15:4), have made me deeply aware of God’s loving presence within each of us.”