As Jesus was sent as a light in the dark, so are women religious sent to communities and ministries as light. Many times, they are even expected to bring the bulbs and the hardware for installation! But because of this effort, communities that never had a chance to see light before suddenly do – and, oftentimes, continue to extend it outward to those who need it.
If you’ve ever been left in the dark without a light bulb, you will understand the value of a sister’s work and her dedication to education. We can all learn a lot from Catholic sisters, their traditions and work ethic to incorporate their lessons into our own lives.
Sisters go where the need is greatest.
This is true even if it means swimming upstream against the cultural current or visiting a rural part of the world that hasn’t seen positive opportunities in quite some time. ASEC sisters in particular work in marginalized communities of sub-Saharan Africa, where they have served more than 2.2 million people in poor, rural communities. If not for Catholic sisters, these communities would remain deprived of essential educational, health, economic and social services.
Because of this tradition, rural parts of Malawi have seen conservation of their environment through simple technologies taught by an ASEC sister, a rural community in Kenya now uses eco-friendly farming methods to increase food security, and in Ghana at least one school is a whole lot safer.
Sisters learn the culture and the needs of the people they serve.
Sr. Nancy Kamau, Director of Development at ASEC, has explained a few times the importance of learning the culture and customs of the population being served. As a sister who has worked in many different geographic locations and currently works out of ASEC headquarters in the United States, Sr. Nancy explains that when she finds herself moving to a new location, she views it as a learning opportunity to discover as much as you can about the people in your new community and for a chance to practice the obedience aspect of her vows.
Sisters take steps to help others grow and become self-sufficient.
ASEC sisters have secured more than $22.1 million to support projects that contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Their projects can include anything from building incoming-generating sustainable farms to providing women with trauma-healing services so they can become self-sufficient. Many sites built by ASEC alumnae teach skills such as hairdressing or sewing, which give community members new ways to help their communities and make money.
Sisters understand the value of hard work, patience, and time.
Many times ASEC sisters are starting their education from the beginning stages, which could mean secondary schooling, higher education and then possibly a Masters degree or their Ph.D. After graduating, they will work with their ministries to find the best places to use their degrees or skills. From there, they may need to obtain funds for their communities through grant-writing which takes time, as well as waiting for the funds to be granted. It is only from there that they are able to start formally putting their efforts forth for their community - something that took a lot of patience, time and dedication!
Sisters are active social entrepreneurs for their communities.
In a workshop this year, ASEC staff in Africa attended a lecture about social entrepreneurship. In the gathering, they learned about how to see the needs of a community and create social solutions that also promote economic growth. In other words, it is very beneficial to solve social issues by also creating sustainable work opportunities related to the matter.
The workshop was a success and sisters learned a lot, but one thing is for sure: Catholic sisters have always been social entrepreneurs. ASEC sisters are no exception, as they have created more than 4,200 jobs in their communities which have led to economic growth as a whole. One notable example is out of Tanzania, where an ASEC sister raised $1,000.00 to support her congregation by recognizing the need to cultivate onions in the community. Similarly, another sister in Tanzania helped fund a project to feed those in need by raising chickens. Both of these things may not seem like groundbreaking ideas to solve community problems, yet, in each example, they have done just that.
While not all of us are destined for a life of a Catholic sister, we can certainly use the example of their light to spread our own. How much better would our own local communities be if we could incorporate these five lessons from Catholic nuns?