by John Heuertz
LEAWOOD — Mother’s Day is not until Sunday. But the spiritual mothers of Catholic men, women and children across the archdiocese were honored last weekend at Church of the Nativity Parish in Leawood.
Serra Club members from both sides of the state line hosted the sixth annual “Blisters for Sisters” walkathon, Mass and luncheon at the parish to raise money and awareness — and to say “thank you” for the vitally important work that Catholic women living consecrated lives do to help build up the kingdom of God in Missouri and Kansas.
Door prizes and raffle prizes went to over 100 nuns, ranging in age from 20 to 85 — along with everyone’s gratitude for the Sisters’ exemplary lives of quiet self-sacrifice in education, health care, and a variety of new and interesting ministries.
“The job of each Serran is to say, ‘Thank you for being a Sister’ every chance we get,” said event chairman Tom Coppinger of Kansas City, Mo.
The festivities started around 9 a.m. with a walk from the parish grounds east to State Line Road and back, with nearly everyone dressed in highly visible orange T-shirts pulled over habits, dresses and men’s shirts.
“It’s fun to get together. We appreciate what the Serrans do for us,” said Sister Mary Pat Johnson SCL, currently in residence at St. John the Evangelist Church in Kansas City, Kan. “Plus it’s good to get a walk in.”
“This event is a wonderful idea,” agreed Sister Therese Steiner, SCL. “Even everyone wearing the same outfit signifies we are all one in Christ through baptism.”
Over 300 families attended.
“It just warms my heart to see all ages come together for the Sisters,” said Nicole Pierce of St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, Mo., who drives the event’s support vehicle each year.
“It’s been a beautiful experience every year,” said Sister Maria Larkin, OSB, a retired modern languages professor at Benedictine College in Atchison, whose work exemplifies the creative spirit the Sisters bring to the never-ending task of ministering to a broken world.
Sister Maria taught French and Spanish to Benedictine students for over 30 years before retirement.
But Benedictines don’t retire, as the saying goes. And before long, she found herself filling another important role in the community by doing something completely new to her — ministering to inmates at the Atchison County Jail because she was fluent in Spanish.
“When the archbishop came, we could tell him that we were tending to his flock at the jail,” she said.
Hers is only one example of the creativity that Catholic religious women have in approaching the world. Sister Therese took a different path.
Her project is called “Heartland Charity Volunteers.” It’s a chance for young people, ideally just after graduating from college, to volunteer a year of their lives at one of several community service agencies in the archdiocese.
“They can live together, live simply, and live in service to the community,” Sister Therese said of the project, which is headquartered in the Argentine district of Kansas City, Kan. The first class is slated to start work this August.
In his homily at the Mass, Serra Club chaplain Father Joe Cisetti touched repeatedly on the holy zeal of Catholic Sisters working in the United States, from the time of the Civil War to today.
Abraham Lincoln commented on the efficiency of Catholic Sisters as nurses tending the wounded of both sides, noted Father Cisetti.
“They carried out their work with a holy determination,” said Lincoln.
Today, Father Cisetti said, “You [Sisters] take one or more aspects of the Christian life, things about which we should all be concerned, and highlight them. . . . You have stepped out in deep faith.”
“Blisters for Sisters” started in 2006 with 57 Sisters and $6,000 raised in support of their various ministries. This year, 19 communities will receive $1,000 each.
“It’s all due to the generosity of Greater Kansas City’s Catholic community,” said Coppinger.