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Religious sisters seek to promote consecrated life in new project

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Sister Carolyn Puccio, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, said it's unfortunate there's not a line of women wrapping around the block waiting to enter religious life.

"It's meaningful to be part of a group of women who are bright, articulate, engaged, educated, dedicated (and) generous," said Sister Carolyn, the delegate for religious for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "To be a part of that is a tremendous gift for me, personally, and an honor. And it humbles me."

She considers religious life a "best kept secret," but hopes that will change with the recent launch of the National Catholic Sisters Project.

In addition to National Catholic Sisters Week, held March 8-14 each year, the new initiative will include developing curriculum for Catholic schools, parish religious education programs and campus ministry; promoting religious vocations in Spanish-speaking Catholic communities; and a diocesan outreach program. The archdiocese is emphasizing the latter in its part in the project and was among the first of eight diocesan partners to sign on earlier this year.

Other partners are the archdioceses of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee and San Antonio; and the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa. A grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is funding the project.

Sister Carolyn said her role will be promoting the life and work of local religious sisters year-round — especially to young women — and partnering with appropriate representatives to expand the project's outreach.

"My hope is that through the efforts of the National Catholic Sisters Project, the richness of the diversity and the gift that women religious are can be recognized," Sister Carolyn told The Catholic Spirit, archdiocesan newspaper of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "Part of the goal of this is that young women will see that as a viable option for their lives and respond to a call from God, ultimately, to live their baptismal commitment in that way."

In highlighting religious sisters' presence and contributions to the Catholic Church and society, Sister Carolyn said she's especially committed to showing their diversity, noting there are at least 42 different religious communities alone in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"What we're being told by people is if you don't get your story out there, nobody knows," she said. "And in this case, young women aren't going to be interested in continuing the legacy of who we are and what we're about."

Since its inception in 2014, National Catholic Sisters Week has been part of National Women's History Month in March and is coordinated at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. A large part of its efforts to bring religious sisters and laywomen together has been through www.sisterstory.org, an ongoing project that connects the two groups to share religious sisters' stories. 

RELATED ARTICLE(S):Before the Cross | Consecrated life requires total surrender to Christ's call

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