When I was a kid, growing up in Panama, quite often, our parents would take us to the Convent of the Visitation
to visit with (no pun intended) the sisters. The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary was founded by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal in France in 1610 to help care for the sick and poor of the community. The order was named after Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, from the first chapter in the Gospel of Luke. They have a special devotion and love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the order has been in Panama since 1925. Of course, as a child, I didn't know any of this. All I knew was the joy that these women radiated. That and the goodies that we always received from their bakery!
We also knew the story: Once when my grandparents were travelling out of the country and my mother, already a young professional, was home alone, she began going to the nearby convent and befriended the sisters. On many occasions she would spend the night there so as to not be home alone. Thus began a lifelong friendship that continued after my parents' marriage. In fact, although the sisters are cloistered, on many occasions my dad was allowed behind the cloister, so as to help the sisters with an electrical or plumbing issue. (I was very much reminded of this, when I was allowed behind a Carmelite cloister for 12 hours when making A Day in a Life: The Carmel of St. Joseph
When I think of nuns I always think of these sisters and in particular Sr. Maria Celina, who was about 4ft tall and always came to open the gate for us and Sr. Margarita Ines, who was Mother Superior. Since then, I have met many religious sisters - interviewed many of them and have been invited to dinner by many more - have come across many different congregations and have worked with many sisters (too many to name here, but you know who you are: I love you!) and so I am very excited about a new initiative called #ThankANun, to take place on May 5th.
I learned about #ThankANun from John Schlimm
, author of Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life's Greatest Questions
(Image, May 5, 2015). I recently interviewed John for our radio program, the SLHour
. He told me that "Thank a Nun Day" is an organized social media effort that invites participants of all ages from around the world to unite under the hashtag #ThankANun to share messages of gratitude to the Catholic nuns—past and present—who have made a difference in their lives. The effort to celebrate the service and contribution of Catholic nuns is being jointly sponsored by Image, the Catholic division of Penguin Random House, and John Schlimm.
In Five Years in Heaven, John Schlimm recounts the heartwarming story of his five-year friendship with Sister Augustine, who was in her nineties and who helped him discover the true meaning and purpose of his life.“For as long as I live, Sister Augustine will be one of the most extraordinary people I’ll ever know,” John said. “For me, she was a light in the darkness. A mentor. A friend. I know many others feel the same way about the special nuns who have passed through their lives as well.”All day, on May 5, we are encouraged to use the hashtag #ThankANun in sharing written messages and photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as a way to say “Thank You” to the Catholic Sisters who have dedicated their lives to serving, encouraging and inspiring others.There are several ways to participate in Thank A Nun Day:
- Join Thunderclap: Link
- Check out the fun COLOR A NUN activity for kids to share. Go to http://www.imagecatholicbooks.com/ThankANun/ to download a "Color A Nun" picture. Once you've coloured it remember to share your finished COLOR A NUN page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest using #ThankANun.
- Start sharing now! Follow @saltandlighttv, @ImageCatholic and @JohnSchlimm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or Pinterest, and start sharing your pictures and stories about Catholic nuns who have inspired you!
- Be sure to use the hashtag #ThankANun
- If the religious congregation has a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest account be sure to tag them.
And don't forget to send a direct message or make a phone call to those Sisters who've made a difference in your life. Tell them how much you are grateful for the tireless and thankless work that they do and for saying yes to the vocation of religious life. This is something we should be doing all the time, not just once a year, but perhaps we can all contribute to make sure that nuns are trending on May 5 and that #ThankANun becomes a yearly event.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes apart a particular topic, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don't worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org