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Benedictine Sisters are a click away through social media

Benedictine Sisters are a click away through social media - (08-07-2022)

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When the monastery of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration closed its doors to the general public at the onset of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, few - if any - thought those same doors would still be closed more than two years later. 

While the Sisters have been able to welcome a few guests and family members for special occasions, they only recently opened Mass for all guests. It was a difficult adjustment for a religious group that is partly centered on hospitality, especially when welcoming neighbors and friends.

“In his Rule, St. Benedict instructed monks to welcome everyone to their home as if the guest were Christ himself,” Director of Communications Kelley Baldwin said. “So in an era of COVID, where the Sisters weren’t safely able to do that, we had to make adjustments.”

Those adjustments included offering more virtual vocation events that allowed women interested in pursuing a religious calling to learn about monastic life. The Sisters launched a renovated website for their Monastery Creations products and began hosting on-site pick up. However, even those activities offered very little interaction among Sisters and the public.

“Because of that, I’m so grateful that we’d already established a well-grounded presence on social media before the pandemic,” Baldwin said. “Those platforms do come with a lot of baggage, so to speak, but they also offer a way for the Sisters to continue to share themselves with others around the corner and around the world.”

The Sisters’ presence on Facebook, for example, has followers from across the country and internationally. The top countries for followers include the United States, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Canada and Brazil. The same can be said of those who follow the Sisters on Twitter and Instagram.

“We also have people from Australia, India, Italy and Nigeria who follow and engage with us often,” Baldwin said. “No matter our backgrounds and our locations, we have similarities too.”

And one of those similarities is believing in the power of prayer.

“There is something uniting in knowing others are joining us in prayer, an understanding that we aren’t alone in our needs or hopes or fears,” Baldwin added.

The power of prayer

Terry Kole lives in Glendale Heights, Illinois, and her aunt was Benedictine Sister Jean Dolan, OSB+. She has followed the Sisters’ Facebook page for years and uses it to stay in touch with the community.

“I have visited Clyde and the various houses many times over the years,” she said. “I enjoy seeing the daily quotes and happenings with the community, and I truly believe in the power of prayer.”

When Paula Wicker Hamby’s grandson was born early at 22 weeks, doctors said there was only a 1 percent chance the baby would live more than one year.

“The dear Benedictine Sisters became our friends and prayer family by email,” Wicker Hamby said. “Now in 2022, James has had 30 surgeries, and the sweet praying Sisters have followed us every step of the way. We contact them often through Facebook Messenger, which is more private and allows an easy way to share photos. All the Hamby family are so thankful for the prayers of encouragement so needed from the faithful Sisters.”


Like a postcard

Following the Sisters’ social media accounts offers a glimpse into their daily life, and people enjoy that little peek.

“Each Facebook post is like a postcard, a love note,” Janet Horton, an oblate living in Tucson, Arizona, said. “While I eagerly await each issue of Spirit&Life magazine, it is wonderful to have those uplifting reminders of our special friendship interspersed throughout my journey.”

Jay Wege of St. Charles, Missouri, whose sister is Benedictine Sister Joy Ann Wege, OSB, follows the Sisters Instagram accounts and especially enjoys the live videos that are shared since he has visited the monastery in the past.

Kathy Conry of Tulsa, Oklahoma agrees.

“One of the delights of social media is keeping up with friends who are far away. They are no longer out of sight, out of mind, and having the Benedictine Sisters a click away makes my life better,” she said. “Instagram lets me peek over the shoulders of the Sisters as they play and work together. The monastery cats and dogs join the parade of pets on Twitter, and I love that! Facebook lets me know what the Sisters are praying for that very hour and allows me to pray with them.”


Staying Balanced 

Maintaining a balance that respects the quiet and privacy of religious life while sharing and being a part of an online community is critically important to the Sisters.

“I walk a fine line when sharing information about the Sisters online,” Baldwin said. “For most businesses and organizations, social media is about getting the most likes, the most followers, increasing engagement and turning that engagement into some type of measurable index (sales, dollars, members, volunteers). At its core, there are usually financial incentives. That’s not the case with the Sisters.”

It’s important that Benedictine Sisters who use social media maintain a balance too.

“I have a love/hate relationship with social media,” Benedictine Sister Lynn Marie D’Souza, OSB laughed. “There have been many occasions when I just want to delete everything and go back to a flip phone. But for now, I am still there. I pray for discipline and discerned usage. I pray that I can be a small light on those sites and bring a sense of God, a bit of joy, holiness and silliness there too.”

Sister Lynn Marie mostly uses Twitter but occasionally utilizes Facebook and Instagram too.

“I have a very varied following and those I follow - family members, friends, classmates, several other Catholic sisters, lots of priests and young Catholic moms and families, many friends of other Christian denominations and those who I've connected with through a shared love of baking and cooking. It’s a very eclectic group,” she said.

At the end of the day, staying engaged with people around the world remains a main focus of the Benedictine Sisters’ use of social media.

“Living in community is the way of life for the Sisters,” Conry said. “Social media extends the community of the Sisters to those of us eager to share in it. It is truly a gift.”

Follow the Benedictine Sisters on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.