The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

A career that’s second-to-nun

My wife was taught by Holy Cross Sisters down in Maryland, and we get a lot of e-mails from them. The e-mail we received yesterday struck me as both important — and savvy.

Here’s part of it:

The Holy Cross Sisters USA Province headquartered in Merrill, WI, recently took action at their Provincial Chapter to allow those over the age of 50 to be considered for entrance to the congregation. Sister Kathy Wiesneski, Director of Vocations, said, “During our time together, as Holy Cross Sisters and Associates, we addressed the needs of the time in looking around us an seeing women of many ages who are seeking the “will of God” in vowed religious life. Women tend to be able to productively work and minister longer.” Sister Kathy said that the baby boomers who retire at 65 still have energy, time, enthusiasm and the ability to be actively involved.


One of the pre-requisites for entering religious life in the Holy Cross Community has been an age restriction of about 50 years old. This regulation was set aside by the congregation as the community discussed new direction and possibilities for the future. The Vocation/Formation personnel have been asked to rewrite and rethink the criteria for entrance.

Sister Celine Goessl is the provincial for the Holy Cross Sisters USA Province. “When we look at the energy and vitality of our elderly sisters now residing at Bell Tower Residence in Merrill, an assisted living center which is a corporate sponsored facility of the sisters, we know that for us retirement has a very different meaning because there is always something that draws us to bring the Good News to others, even at the age of 90 years.”


Sister Celine pointed out that some people in leadership positions have looked at the practices of the early church of the Consecration of Widows, allowing women whose husbands had died to consecrate themselves to service in the church as a way of life. “What choice does a widow or a single woman who retires from her professional duties at age 65 have today? Our motto, The need of the times is the will of God, surely played a role in the fact that we have eliminated the impediment of age,” Sister said.

Anyone discerning a religious vocation at a later age can now apply to enter the community. Each individual case is unique and will be considered separately as they seek to help older women discern the possibility of a call from God to service in the Church at this stage in their lives.

Curious? The good sisters invite you to visit their website for more information.

Image: from Holy Cross Sisters Archives

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