Nuns open discernment house
Teresa Nowakowski | Monday, April 19, 2004
Over two years ago, a metamorphosis began on the Saint Mary’s campus as Holy Cross Sisters worked to transform the Mary’s Solitude retreat center into a place of discernment for women.Nestled behind the convent at Mary’s Solitude, there is a long cement porch that overlooks a cluster of trees and a beautiful sunset. “Look at that sunset. I love this porch,” Sister Josepha Cullen said Sunday during the inaugural open house for the new discernment center. Her peaceful thought is the attitude that Mary’s Solitude tries to allude to. Mary’s Solitude was formerly a retreat center in which all types of groups, men, women and students would gather in order to take the sometimes necessary “retreats” from daily life. Now, it aims to provide spiritual direction for women who are having difficulties in discerning their life’s choices.Two Holy Cross sisters, Sister Michaeleen Frieders and Sister Gladys Marie Martin traveled from Maryland in order to give a new face to the retreat center and start offering their discernment ministry. The group they work for, entitled Mary’s Song, is named as an imitation of the Virgin Mother’s “fiat” or yes, and how that yes praised God.”We have always done our ministry under our Lady’s protection,” Frieders said. “We hoped somehow our lives could be songs of praise to God.”The nuns began their work with the renovation of the center itself. It is now a brighter environment with lighter walls than the previous dark wooden paneling. The first floor has rooms for five sisters to reside, and the basement was also newly furnished. Rooms for retreat participants are also available. The building contains a chapel and a meeting place for retreatants as well small luxuries, such as an elevator.The Holy Cross sisters’ ministry usually centers on education and health. While these will continue, the center will also provide spiritual direction of sorts.”We’re like other religious orders. [We] don’t have the numbers we used to have,” Frieders said. “But this program [at Mary’s Solitude] was not set up because of that.”The sisters are inviting all women in the community to explore opportunities that help them to get to know the sisters on a personal basis, learn about living a Christ centered life and share their goals and dreams of how they can live a spiritual life.Women from all walks of life are encouraged to contact the Holy Cross sisters at Mary’s Solitude no matter what they hope to find. “If we can help any woman in following her life in the way of Christ, that would be our desire,” Frieders said.Those women who are strictly discerning a religious life can visit the sisters to decide what paths they potentially can take within the different religious communities. “Those women who are not looking for a religious vocation can come and share their dreams and goals for a more fulfilling life in Christ,” said Sr. Gladys Marie.Visitors to the open house Sunday praised both the idea of a discernment center and the facility itself.”As a non-Catholic, it’s very lovely,” said visitor Helen Rudolph.”You don’t even have to be a religious to come here,” said Betty Strantz, another open house visitor.Giving the center a new face now allows the sisters to “provide a place for someone to see what [the sister’s] life is like,” Frieders said.Mary’s Solitude is simply a place where a woman, through journaling, prayer, reflection and retreat can explore the religious life or whatever career or vocation God may be calling her to.