Diocese’s religious communities form common bond PEARL

Photo Caption: From left: Sister Rose Therese Mann, OSF; Father Paul Schneider, OFM Conv.; Sister Anne Germaine Picard, SMP; Sister Theresa Samson, FMA; Sister Marie, CSJ; and Sister Sarah Elizabeth Roy, OSF.

By: By Jennifer Willems

Religious life is a joyful life but not enough people know that, let alone how many communities of consecrated women and men are ministering in the Diocese of Peoria. The newly formed Peoria Association for Religious Life — PEARL — is hoping to change that.

“We thought that we’d be a resource for the parishes and for the diocese so that the parishes, youth groups and CCD programs learn the various religious groups that are here,” said Sister Sarah Elizabeth Roy, OSF, vocation coordinator for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception in West Peoria and PEARL’s chairperson.

“We’re hoping to let people know we’re out there and they can contact us, and to look forward to things that are coming up,” added Sister Rose Therese Mann, OSF, vocation director for The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in East Peoria and director of communications for PEARL. “We have things that are being planned for this upcoming Year of Consecrated Life — and getting out to visit the schools more because we haven’t had an opportunity to do that. It’s been hit and miss.”

PEARL grew out of a discussion between Sister Rose Therese and Sister Sarah Elizabeth at a regional meeting of the National Religious Vocation Conference last spring. The previous group for vocation directors and other representatives of religious communities in the Diocese of Peoria disbanded several years ago and Sister Rose Therese and Sister Sarah Elizabeth were looking for ways to bring them together again and collaborate.

“We don’t have the resources in our communities to work individually,” Sister Rose Therese explained.

“To plan something takes a lot of manpower and a lot of money,” Sister Sarah added. “We need extra hands.”

With the approval of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, they founded PEARL and held the first meeting last September. While 10 communities expressed interest initially, the number has grown to 13.

In addition to the two Franciscan communities, the group includes the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, Conventual Franciscans, Sisters of Mary of the Presentation, Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, Order of Friars Minor, Benedictines of St. Bede Abbey, Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi, Ursulines of the Roman Union, Apostolic Sisters of St. John and Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Msgr. Brian Brownsey, director of the Office of Priestly Vocations, represents the Diocese of Peoria.

What makes the group unique is the combination of religious communities of women and religious communities of men, according to Father Paul Schneider, OFM Conv., parochial vicar at Holy Family Parish in Peoria and PEARL’s secretary/treasurer.

“We share that common bond of consecration of our life to the church and to living in community, living the vows,” he told The Catholic Post.

One of two videos being produced by PEARL will explain that in more detail for people who may not know what religious life entails or how to how to become a Sister, Brother or priest. The other will serve as an introduction to the communities present in central Illinois.

Those who are curious now can see descriptions of many of the communities on the PEARL website, vocations-pearl.blogspot.com.

“One of the things we’re going to be doing is following Pope Francis, who said we can’t be Christians who go around like we just came back from a funeral,” Father Paul said.

“We’ve got to let people know that becoming a Religious is joyful. They need to see joy-filled men and women who have dedicated their lives to God and that we’re excited about it and we want to spread it,” he said. “Once people see we’re alive and we’re like real people, that’s what’s going to attract people to the way of life.”

News and information about upcoming events can be found on the group’s Facebook page, facebook.com/vocations.PEARL. To schedule a school or parish visit, contact Sister Rose Therese at (309) 655-2645.

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