The call to educate and offer spiritual guidance to young people has shaped much of our Congregation’s ministries over the past 150 years. Five days after our formation in Ebensburg in 1869, the Sisters opened a boarding school, Mt. Gallitzin Seminary, and welcomed the first class of 14 boys.
From this foundation, a lasting and loving legacy in education grew. Serving as educators and administrators in schools and universities across nearly a dozen states, the Sisters were instrumental in the academic and faith formation of thousands of students. Today, the Sisters are energized by young people who seek to create a world of wholeness and holiness alongside them.
“We want to meet young people where they are, to understand what they value, and to know what makes them passionate,” Sister Valerie Zottola, Coordinator of Vocation Ministry, says, emphasizing the Sisters’ desire to foster a culture of spiritual engagement and dialogue with youth. “We do know that many young people care about diversity and inclusion, the environment, the economy and health care, the ‘least’ of their neighbors – as well as finding meaning and purpose in their own lives.”
In 2018, the Congregation made a commitment to foster a “culture of vocations” to help young adults find their meaning and purpose in life – whether as a religious or a lay person. It’s taking many forms, such as Sippin’ with the Sisters, part of a national movement called Nuns and Nones that seeks to connect Catholic Sisters with spiritually diverse or nonspiritual millennials who long for a more just, equitable, and loving world. More than a dozen young people accepted an invitation from the Sisters to discuss life’s big questions over appetizers and drinks at Trinity House in June.
Crowded onto couches and balancing plates of cheese and cookies on their laps, some with a beer in hand, attendees were warmly welcomed by the Sisters, who encouraged all to reflect on what it means to live a life of meaning. After introductions, small groups dispersed throughout the house, settling into intimate conversations where people who had met just minutes before opened up about deeply painful experiences of loss, addiction, estrangement from family, and crises of faith. Young people talked about everything from their professions to their love lives to how they found a spiritual home, or, perhaps, have struggled to.
Reconvening as a large group before the night’s end, people reflected on how profound the conversations were, describing the time together as therapeutic, inspiring, and restorative – an antidote to the fast and shallow interactions of a social media culture.
Inside and outside the Motherhouse, the Sisters are creating new opportunities to carry their values and mission forward through engaging young people spiritually, ecologically and socially.
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