Sisters: What We Look Like from the Inside

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By Sister Renee Yann 

During Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14, women religious become aware of the world looking at us. 

Some have little experience of sisters and may envision only “movie nuns” who look like Audrey Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Whoopi Goldberg or Maggie Smith. 

Some have only childhood memories of teachers with no other life beyond their classroom presence. Over the years, those sisters become vague icons evoked in beloved and often exaggerated stories. 

But we are not just movie nuns. And we are certainly not icons. We thought you might like to know what we see when we look at ourselves. 

Each one of us is exactly like you with a name, a family, a life, a future, choices, dreams, and gifts. Each one of us is an ordinary person who has chosen an extraordinary life. 

That life is inspired by the Gospel, the world’s need, and by the lights who burn around and before us. It is a life strengthened within a community of believers of which you are an essential part. 

A sister’s life is larger than itself because it is fed by a legacy of faith, a spirit-inspired charism, and the prophetic imagination of those she calls “sister.” 

A sister’s life joins the energy of legions reaching from past centuries into the future. Her life is part of love’s long line tied to the heart of Jesus Christ for the world. 

We deeply appreciate that, during Catholic Sisters Week, we are remembered and acknowledged for the service we have given you and the whole Church. 

But even more so, we hope that the witness of our lives speaks to you of God’s love, mercy and presence in our times. We hope that it deepens in you a willingness to respond to your own call to holiness in whatever form that comes to you. 

If you really want to see sisters’ lives and to let them inspire you, look at the core of what it means to be a woman religious: 

Prayer that clarifies and strengthens the spirit 

Service that reveals Christ in our sisters and brothers 

Community that inspires, refines, and carries us on life’s journey 

Witness that proclaims God’s justice and mercy in our geopolitical world 

You will find Catholic sisters in schools, hospitals, social service agencies and social justice efforts. We are teachers, nurses, doctors, counselors, spiritual directors, chefs, farmers, parish leaders, administrators, artists, writers, activists and many other professions. Above all these, we are prayers. In each role, we hope to carry the love and mercy of God to our world. 

Learn about us. What you learn can change, strengthen and inspire you as it has each one of us. The activities of Catholic Sisters Week 2023 offer a great chance to get to know us. Check it out at 

Note: The reflection was originally shared last year on