By Renae Kranz
What happens when you mix joyful religious sisters with curious high school and junior high students? A whole lot of opportunities for holiness!
Two Pro Ecclesia Sancta (PES) sisters, Sister Eileen and Sister Lynn, arrived in the Diocese of Sioux Falls in mid-summer to establish a new PES house in Sioux Falls at the invitation of Bishop DeGrood. Their mission (or charism) is to live and promote a vocation to holiness, reminding people of their call to be holy in all vocations. The sisters will be primarily working with youth, children and families, especially at O’Gorman Junior and Senior High.
The PES ecclesial family of sisters, brothers and priests was founded in Peru in 1992. Their name means “for the holy Church.” Over the years, they have established houses in Spain, Rome, Ecuador, Uruguay and the U.S. (first in California, then Minneapolis and now Sioux Falls).
Sister Eileen grew up in Lima, Peru, with one brother and a large extended family. Her grandmother, who she saw pray every day, had a profound impact on her faith. Just before she turned 16, she met some PES sisters, and their youth and happiness caught her attention. At about that time, she had a deep experience with the Lord during a retreat, but she admitted she didn’t want to be a sister.
“I understood that the Lord loved me, and he wanted me to be a friend and that it was possible to have a friendship with Jesus,” Sister Eileen said. “Holiness became a reality.”
She continued to help the PES community, went to college for business, and generally led a happy life. But during her senior year she started to ask herself if this was all life had to offer.
“I had everything that I wanted. I was happy. I loved my school, what I was studying, my work. But I think it wasn’t enough,” Sister Eileen said.
She said at that point the Lord put her in a situation where she had to think about what he wanted for her. Once she realized he wanted her to be a religious sister, she said yes, “very fast.” She joined the PES sisters and has had no regrets, only peace.
Sister Lynn grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with one older sister who she was very close to. She went to Catholic elementary and high school and met PES sisters while going to college in Minneapolis where she was studying to be a dietician.
While discerning her vocation, she felt the calling to the religious life, and after spending time with the PES sisters (including Sister Eileen), entering their order seemed like a natural fit. It helped that her older sister had also entered the order a year earlier. This was a challenge for their parents at first, but they quickly became joyful for their daughters once they learned more about Pro Ecclesia Sancta.
The PES community’s charism of living holiness drew Sister Lynn to the order. “It was something I had heard before, we’re all called to go to heaven, but I never really understood what that means or how I could live that,” Sister Lynn said. “I thought it was just for the saints. They showed me and taught me how, even in my college life, I could strive for holiness in doing my homework well, in studying or just being with my friends or roommates having a good time, in doing the little things in love and with the Lord. That really caught my attention. And of course their joy and their youthfulness and closeness to the Lord.”
Now coming to Sioux Falls has been a blessing for both of the PES sisters as they settle into their new home. They will be serving the students and faculty at both O’Gorman High School and Junior High by helping with the campus ministry programs, prayer groups, having lunch conversations and large-group prayer, attending extracurricular activities, and helping the school’s leadership team with spiritual formation, just to name a few things.
Kyle Groos, president of Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools, said the sisters have been a huge blessing already. “Sister Eileen and Sister Lynn are wonderful examples to all of us and have quickly demonstrated practical ways of how we all can work to serve as ambassadors of God’s love.”
The faculty who have been working with the sisters are excited about the impact the sisters will have on students.
“Even though we are early in our school year, you can already see their impact on our students, staff and faculty,” Wade Charron, principal of O’Gorman Junior High, said. “Many of our students have never really been around religious sisters, so it’s fun to see the interaction between Sister Lynn and Sister Eileen and our students.”
“I think they expose students to the vocation of religious life and also the call for all of us to be holy,” Brian Stai, campus minister, said. “They carry a joy within them that is contagious and helps point people to God.”
If you’d like to hear more about the PES sisters, you can listen to the complete interview with them on the Catholic Views podcast at sfcatholic.org/catholic-views.