When I took this job a few years ago, I did not expect to learn about African cultures or how to obtain a U.S. visa. I never thought I would follow the news on travel bans so fervently, or use Google Translate so much. I assumed I would be working with women in the United States and, honestly, I pictured white women. But, as with most things in life, the Holy Spirit has pleasantly surprised me.
In my first few months as vocation ministry coordinator, I began walking alongside a young woman from Cameroon who is discerning religious life. This young woman is now one of several women I talk with regularly. Four of these women were not born in the U.S. They are part of different countries and cultures, and they found the Sisters of the Precious Blood online or heard of the Congregation by word of mouth. But their interest in the Community shows that the Precious Blood of Jesus has no boundaries.
Our foundress, Maria Anna Brunner, was quite the traveler for her time, often setting out for long walks through the mountains to attend Mass or visit shrines. In 1833, this widowed mother of six even journeyed on pilgrimage to Rome from her home in Switzerland. And in 1844, the first three pioneer Sisters of the Precious Blood in America found themselves immersed in a new culture in the Midwest.
Today, we continue to cross boundaries. Sisters of the Precious Blood have been in ministry in Chile and Guatemala for decades. Sisters also serve in ministry for shorter periods of time whenever and wherever they are needed — such as Sister Marita Beumer and Sister Ann Clark, who last year aided migrants in El Paso, Texas. And Sisters cross cultural boundaries right here at home, serving new residents arriving in the Dayton area from around the world.
In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and even with stringent immigration regulations in place, technology has allowed us to reach out farther than ever before, even when we are all stuck at home. As we hear from women from a number of different countries and cultures I find myself asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of listening, so that I may meet them where they are — personally, culturally and spiritually. I’m grateful for their patience with me as I continue to navigate cultural differences as well as the complexities of differing time zones, technological capabilities, embassy regulations and international travel.
The Holy Spirit continues to call women from across the globe, from Cameroon and Madagascar, from Chicago and Haiti, toward the reconciling presence of the Precious Blood of Jesus. May we be granted the pioneering spirit of Mother Brunner and the early Sisters to travel with these women — not on ships, but on planes; and not on horseback, but through a labyrinth of immigration laws and paperwork!
Story by Jenna Legg; artwork by Sister Eileen Tomlinson