Case Western Reserve University’s Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development released its 2016-2017 research on Catholic sisters in Northeast Ohio earlier this year. Developed with support from the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the survey and report explores sisters’ current ministries (work and service), their plans to continue and their perspectives on the future of ministry.
While the report offers striking numbers about the populations of Catholic sisters in Northeast Ohio, it includes a great deal of optimism for the future, especially through collaboration with young adults. We invited Sister Marian Durkin, CSA, a board member of the Sisters of Charity Foundation, to offer her thoughts.
When I was working in HIV/AIDS ministry decades ago, I’d visit the Saint Ann Foundation to request funding, and the foundation would provide financial support along with the recommendation that I find others to collaborate with to help my ministry thrive. At the time, I had no idea how to do that, and I felt lost, like there wasn’t an easy path forward.
But over the last several years, I’ve begun to understand the enormous potential and benefit of collaboration – and so, much of this research actually gives me a profound sense of hope.
As I’ve begun to recognize that my congregation, and Catholic sisters in general, are not as numerous as we once were, I’ve had a vision that one of our most important roles as sisters in our local churches and communities is to mentor and grow the leaders for the next generation.
I’ve had the privilege of spending time with many young adults, in my own family as well as through Busy Student Retreats at Kent State University and work with the Coalition for Young Adults (CYA), and I am so impressed by these young women and men. So many in this generation are giving, they want to do God’s work, and they are widely accepting of all people in ways that I have not seen in previous generations.
The work that the Sisters of Charity Foundation is doing with its Generative Spirit initiative is really important to strengthening the relationships between Catholic sisters and young adults. While it’s going to take time to bear fruit, we have a tremendous opportunity to reach those young adults who work alongside sisters, and educate them through our shared dedication to the missions of our ministries.
I think to successfully transition our work, we also need support from one another, as sisters. Cross-congregational collaborations have had great success, with initiatives like the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking and the work of the Conference of Religious Leadership (CORL). When sisters get together, there’s vast wisdom and experience to share with one another. My hope is that we can begin taking a deeper look at what ministries need the most support from the next generation, and then work with those mission-focused young people to align our charism and transition our ministries.
The spirit is alive in the whole church in the young people – now it’s time for us to bring our wisdom to the table, and I believe that together, we can bear great fruit for the future of our ministries.
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Sister Marian Durkin returned to leadership in 2013 and in May of 2017 was elected as first assistant; she previously served as first assistant from 2001-2009. Sister became a certified Spiritual Director in 2005. She has directed retreats at the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma, Ohio and also works with a number of individuals in Spiritual Direction. She has helped direct Busy Student Retreats each year for Kent State University and at Case Western Reserve University, and has participated in parish retreats as the facilitator. She has also kept busy volunteering. Among the programs she is involved with are Samaritan Women and Ohioans to Stop Executions. Sister can be seen frequently at Playhouse Square where she is an usher.
Sr. Marian entered CSA in 1955 from St. Mary Parish in Akron, Ohio. She has both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in education from St. John College. Sr. Marian taught elementary school for ten years, was on the faculty of St. Augustine Academy, a high school for girls, and was principal at St. Philip Neri elementary for six years. She was a co-founder of The Open House, a ministry for those afflicted with AIDS and their families. She continues her ministry to Gay and Lesbian Catholics with a yearly retreat.