In lieu of in-person gatherings, we began hosting virtual events and were blown away by the number of women attending. In late September, we held a four-day virtual “Come and See” retreat. For an hour each evening, women gathered in an online room to hear talks from Sisters, learn about our spirituality and build a community of discerners. These women spanned time zones, states, countries and cultures.
Throughout the week, it became clear that even if we were not in the middle of a pandemic, these women would not have been able to gather in-person together for a retreat like this. Some had jobs they couldn’t leave; some could not have afforded to travel. Others were not ready to share with their families or friends that they were discerning religious life. An online atmosphere allowed them to work around these barriers, and they were grateful for the opportunity to be together, pray and learn.
In some ways, an online gathering of this type has become a new step in our discernment process, a new way for women to connect with us and with one another. It’s not as intimate as a personal phone call, but more intimate than a newsletter, watching a video or visiting our website. Discerners are able to engage with Sisters in a group or individually, ask questions, share their concerns, or confide in like-minded women on a similar path.
After participating in an online retreat, some women have been interested in taking the next step and meeting with a Sister one-on-one via Zoom or other online portal. Other women continue to participate in similar online discussions and discernment exercises.
The process has reminded me to meet women where they are. Discerning any major life decision often begins in a very private way — especially for women who aren’t sure what their family or friends might think. The Sisters of the Precious Blood have always been women who meet the needs of the time. I’m thankful Maria Anna Brunner’s legacy and lessons can live on, even through Zoom!
Story by Jenna Legg
– Virtual Come and See participant