The last weekend of 2018 was a special one for the parishioners of St. Isidore’s in Colorado as they welcomed the SSPX Sisters from Veneta, Oregon. Sister Mary Gemma, the Superior of the St. Vincent de Paul House, was accompanied by Sister Jean Noel, Sister Mary Bernadette, Sister Mary Peter, and Sister Mary Tarcisius. It was indeed a privilege for the parish in Watkins, as it marked the first time in the history of the community that all of the sisters made such a visit together.
The weekend's events, which were attended by 80 young ladies from 35 Colorado families, began with Mass on Saturday morning. After breakfast in the parish hall, the sisters led the girls in a variety of activities representing a day in their life, from craft projects and teaching exercises to indoor and outdoor games. They then gave a brief explanation of the Divine Office before chanting the mid-day hour of Sext with the girls in the chapel.
Following the praying of the Office, the older girls prepared and served lunch for the sisters and the younger girls. Sister Mary Gemma gave a presentation about the Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X, where the girls learned more about the role of the Society Sisters in the family of the SSPX as envisioned by Archbishop Lefebvre, who desired that the sisters be the spiritual support of the Society’s priests, offering themselves for their sanctification and the fruitfulness of their apostolate. They heard stories of the Archbishop’s sister and co-founder of the SSPX Sisters, Mother Mary Gabriel.
Benediction concluded the Saturday events, with the sisters singing the familiar hymns in beautiful harmonies.
Looking back on their day with the sisters:
- 5th grade Cecilia was “scared at first,” she said, until she “got to know them better.” She and her classmates Aimee and Ashlynn enjoyed the activities and games the sisters played with them, and echoed the thoughts of many of the younger girls when they said that they “had lots of fun!” Aimee’s time with the sisters made her “want to become one of them because they were so happy and kind.” Ashlynn’s 6th grade sister Brooke agreed, saying it was an “awesome experience.” She and Ashlynn particularly enjoyed singing the Divine Office with the sisters, and the presentation about the order.
- Mary Clare, a sophomore in the Academy, said that the sisters “really interacted with us and seemed to understand us really well.” She also enjoyed her day with the sisters, commenting that “they kept us busy!”
- 14-year-old Julianne remarked that the thing she’ll remember most from the visit is Sister talking about their spiritual motherhood. “It made me feel like they were our mothers when they came here. They cared so much about us!”
Sr. Mary Gemma gave a presentation to the parish about the SSPX Sisters after Mass on Sunday to kick off the second day of the visit. Those in attendance learned, as many of their daughters had learned the day before, of the strong familial bond between the SSPX Sisters and Priests. In imitation of Our Lady of Compassion, the Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X stand at the foot of the altar, the foot of the Cross, offering themselves in a life of compassion and reparation, ensuring that their spirit is, like that of their brother priests, entirely centered on devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Complementing their spiritual support for the SSPX priests, the sisters’ apostolic activity is intended to facilitate the priestly apostolate. They relieve the priests of material cares, leaving them more free to accomplish their priestly ministry. In addition to performing household tasks and caring for vestments and altar linens, the sisters also prepare children for the sacraments, teach in SSPX schools, visit the sick and elderly, and perform other such works appropriate to the parish.
As the presentation concluded, Sr. Mary Gemma said a few words in support of the Carmel of the Holy Trinity in Spokane, founded by another of the Archbishop’s sisters, Mother Marie Christiane. Because these Carmelites are a strict contemplative order, they are unable to speak for themselves to ask for our prayers and monetary support.
Later in the afternoon on Sunday, the sisters set aside time especially for the older girls of the parish. Those who were still in high-school prepared skits while the older girls were given a conference on womanhood. At the conclusion of the conference, they were treated to the presentations of the younger girls. The weekend ended where it had begun, in the chapel, with the chanting of Vespers.
The older girls also reflected on the sisters' visit:
- 16-year-old Cecilia was particularly struck by the chanting of Vespers, which she said was simple but very beautiful, and brought peace to her soul. “They were the happiest people I’ve ever seen. I want to see more of their life.”
- Helen, a junior in the Academy, "enjoyed the talk they gave for the older girls on how to truly love and appreciate the feminine nature.”
- A recent graduate of the high school, Emily was grateful for the explanation that while men are more the specialists, women need to be universalists in all things, as they will have the role of care-giver. Explaining the role of women and the joy that can be found in fulfilling that role “gave a good insight into what a woman is and should become.” She commented on the helpfulness of this kind of interaction between the sisters and the girls, as topics like these definitely resonate more with the girls when they are presented by women “who can more easily relate to us.”
- Megan, age 22, graduated from the Academy and went on to St. Mary’s College. She also attended the Sunday afternoon conference on womanhood, and appreciated the reassurance of the sisters that the girls should not be troubled by the twisted presentation of “woman” that today’s world offers. There is a strength and honor that is particular to womanhood, so “you should be what you are, and be it well.”
While the sisters made a variety of impressions on all who participated throughout the weekend, there was certainly a common thread: their time with the parish was too short. With a deeper understanding of the role of the Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X, there was an increased desire for the completing of the SSPX family in Colorado, reminiscent of Fr. Cyprian’s remarks during the recent investiture of the Benedictine sisters in Silver City: “A church without sisters is like a home without a mother.”