CATHERINE BARRON '25
A Realistic Perspective of Sisterhood
Today, Saint Ursula Academy is an environment that promotes growth and passions, and is a place where young girls can grow into women of faith and knowledge. As you walk the halls at SUA you can feel the presence of the young women of past, present, and future that Saint Ursula has crafted into leaders, thinkers, nurturers, and profits. We all have to thank the courageous women of faith that have built the community we call home. The women that sometimes go unrecognized are the Ursuline Sisters that built our Academy and are the foundation of our ideals and values. Unfortunately, due to the diminishing population of the Ursuline Order of Cincinnati, as a generation we do not have the same relationship with the sisters as girls have in the past, so we miss out on the opportunity to learn from their knowledge and faith.
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati is still a prominent and thriving group of nuns in the Cincinnati area, and from them we can learn the true insight and impact of religious life that would otherwise go unnoticed. A member of the Sisters of Charity, Sr. Louise Lears’ story fully encompasses the passion and mission of the sisterhood, from which we can learn the realistic perspective of religious life. Sr. Louise has committed herself to impacting others lives and has done missionary work in Cuba, Mexico, El Savador, and Guatemala, and now lives in Washington DC. campaigning for human rights. Therefore, from her thoughts and life perspective we can embellish our own faith, and broaden our perspective of global issues.
Finding your vocation is a very daunting task because we must reflect on what God is calling us to do for the rest of our life. Sr. Louise did not follow the traditional path into Sisterhood and did not enter the order until she was thirty-five years old. Although she knew from age eighteen that religious life was of interest to her, her religious journey took a couple of turns until she found the Sisters of Charity. After graduating college, Sr. Louise started searching for an order that fit her as an individual, but was unsuccessful. It was not until she was no longer in search of a religious community, that the Holy Spirit brought one to her. After being born and raised in Baltimore, she took a nine month trip to New Mexico before she was going to settle down into a teaching position for the rest of her life, when she encountered the Sisters of Charity for the first time. As soon as she met these women she felt at home, and she expresses, “As I got to know these women the call got stronger and stronger, truly the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will place you in this opening and see if you will accept it.”
In joining the Sisters of Charity, Sr. Louise has been given many opportunities that have brought about change and impact. Along with many of her mission experiences she also takes part in many peace in justice rallies in Washington, D.C., living on the principle of “Showing up, speaking up, and standing up.” One of her biggest motivations to her courageous actions is living according to Catholic Social Teachings. Sr. Louise explains, “The Catholic Social Teachings are known as the best kept teachings of the Catholic Church. Showing how to put social teaching into practice, and it is the basis for action.”
Through Sr. Louise’s experiences of ministering around the world she has seen the global challenges that women have to face and change that needs to occur. One of the biggest issues is gender discrimination in the church. Sr. Louise believes that “Women have always had leadership in the church, but they have not been in decision making roles.” So while the church has gone a long way in the past decades, Sr. Louise expresses there is still a long way to go, including women’s ability of ordained ministry in the church. Also she offers that even though we are only young women we can begin to expand our own global perspective by getting to know and encountering people, whose experiences are different from our own.
Many people in the twenty-first century have a very stereotypical image of nuns that is not realistic to what many orders are actually like. Sr. Louise shares, “We are just normal people that live a counterculture lifestyle.” Expressing that they are just like you and me, just living abnormally. She also shares that if a young woman is interested in religious life the best place to start would be prayer, and reaching out to a community in order to talk about what is the best path for you.
Ultimately as time goes on less and less people seek out religious life, causing many orders, like the Ursuline order, to consolidate or close. This worries many people within the Catholic community, but Sr. Louise offers words of hope: “God can work through 2 people and 2,000 people because God knows what he is doing.” Sharing the idea that this is all a part of God’s greater plan should give us faith that everything will work out.
The strong women like Sr. Louise Lears have made countless impacts on our Cincinnati community as well as people from all walks of life, representing God through their actions and words. We must take inspiration from their dedication to faith, and take into consideration that as young women of SUA we have the responsibility of continuing their values and traditions through what God calls us to do in the world.