Among the tasks Sister Andrew Marie Tyler had to take care of before she entered the convent was to close any bank accounts in her name.
What seemed routine for members of a religious community was a point of concern for Sister Andrew Marie’s mom, who had watched her daughter, now 39, gaining her independence as she entered into her 20s.
“When I made vows, my mom was like, ‘Your credit score is going to go down, and you worked so hard for that!’”
There’s a certain juxtaposition between the independent spirit of the millennial generation and consecrated religious life — women and men who commit their lives to God, professing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and depending on one another as they live together in community.
Sister Andrew Marie and Sister Amanda Marie Detry, 31, who are currently living in the St. Louis area, are among eight Pauline sisters who share their personal stories of answering the call to consecrated religious life in “Millennial Nuns: Reflections on Living a Spiritual Life in a World of Social Media,” published in July by Simon & Schuster. The book also offers their reflections on living a spiritual life as members of a generation that came of age during the explosion of the internet and social media.
“Religious life kind of turns the whole perspective of what people think millennials are on its head,” said Sister Andrew Marie. “We were raised to be individualistic. You need to do everything yourself, to be self-sufficient. That was a point of pride for my family, that I could have things like my own credit card, my own line of credit.”
Sister Andrew Marie and Sister Amanda Marie were assigned to the St. Louis area in the past year; both are working remotely with the sisters’ publishing house based in Boston, while also helping at the sisters’ bookstore, Pauline Books & Media, in Crestwood.
In doing research, the book’s publisher discovered an interest in the term “millennial nuns” in internet searches and approached the Daughters of St. Paul, who have been dubbed the #MediaNuns for their use of media as part of their charism, about a collaboration. The sisters saw it as an opportunity to share their stories with another audience about religious life — and more importantly, who Jesus is, said Sister Andrew Marie.
Through their personal vocation stories, the sisters shared what it means to have a fulfilling spiritual life, and where they’ve found God’s presence in their lives.
“It’s being connected with the Lord through the means that He gives us and His Church,” said Sister Amanda Marie. “That requires a daily contact with Him, and a daily listening and attitude of listening. I think being open to the ways that God is speaking to us … and then responding, turning that into action. It’s not a checklist or itinerary we draft up — it’s putting ourselves in the presence of the Lord and listening for His itinerary.”
On social media, the sisters have gained a following. Sister Andrew Marie, for example, has more than 15,000 followers on Twitter; several other daughters of St. Paul, including Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble and Sister Helena Burns, have large followings on various social media platforms.
But the sisters say that the number of followers isn’t something that they focus on; it’s each sister’s personal choice as to how they want to use social media. Rather, they see using media in a positive way to share the Gospel message with others through their interactions with others.
“It’s like having a public conversation that anybody can listen in on,” said Sister Amanda Marie. “I’ve seen evidence that people are able to learn more about the faith through those kinds of platforms,” whether that’s sharing something specific about the faith — doctrine, for example — or simple interactions with one another.
“All of those ways are invitations to see the Gospel in action,” she said.
>> The millennial generation
Pew Research Center defines millennials as anyone born between 1981 and 1996; anyone born from 1997 onward is part of a new generation.
Most millennials came of age during the internet explosion, and entered the workforce facing the height of an economic recession. Many of their life choices, future earnings and entrance to adulthood have been shaped by this recession in a way that may not be the case for younger counterparts. The long-term effects of this will be a factor in American society for decades.
Millennials also are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry — and optimistic about the future.
Source: Pew Research Center
The charism of the Daughters of St. Paul is focused on evangelization through the media. Founded in 1915 by Blessed James Alberione, the Daughters of St. Paul started with pamphlets, newspapers and books, and later added recordings, radio and television. They have since adapted to the digital world of the 21st century.
A number of Daughters of St. Paul have a presence on social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. On Twitter, the hashtag #MediaNuns is used to share more about their lives as consecrated women religious and the Catholic faith.