Sioux Falls, SD
We live in a culture that often promotes the power of doctors, hospitals and medicine. All of these are important pieces of our physical health, but what about the power of prayer? A group of women in Sioux Falls believe prayer is an essential element to our spiritual and overall well-being. These women are a group of nuns and you might not even know they exist, but if you look hard enough, you can find them doing things like making hosts or communion wafers.
"It's like a big press," Sister Mary Elizabeth said. "You just need to push the button."
With the press of a button, a mixture of water and flour appeared on a large, oval-shaped hot press; the machine looks much like a waffle iron. You can see Sister Mary Elizabeth has the routine down to a science.
"We just need to wait for it to fall down," Sister Mary Elizabeth said, while she looked at a paper-thin sheet of hosts. She devotes up to eight hours per day making and cutting these hosts for people to receive at communion at several churches.
Sister Mary Elizabeth is just one of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; she's one of eleven women who live in St. Joseph's Cathedral in Sioux Falls.
"When I was very small, seven-years-old, I began to feel in my interior, God is calling me for something special," Sister Rosalba said.
Though she did not know what to call it, Sister Rosalba said this whisper grew louder and louder as she got older. She always knew God had a plan for her.
Many people do not know these nuns are here in Sioux Falls because the semi-cloistered nuns live in a separate part of the cathedral. They cook, sew and help prepare for mass, among other things. Much of their day, and perhaps the most important part, is spent in prayer. Each day the Sisters take turns and each spends a full hour praying. A full hour of peace; a full hour of stillness; a full hour of constant adoration to God.
"Well, I am a human being and sometimes it's a little difficult, but I know God is giving me the effort to stay close to him always," Sister Rosalba said.
It is not just the one sister who prays. All of them constantly pray at any given moment. Madre Caridad, the Mother Superior, said their semi-cloistered lifestyle has allowed them to eliminate all other distractions.
"Many people are thinking about small things, but they lost a great part that is God in their lives," Madre Caridad said.
Cloister comes from the latin word claustrum meaning enclosed, so the Sisters essentially exist inside a house of sorts in St. Joseph's. They rarely go out in public except for exercise, doctor's appointments or to pick up items they need. Even though they are basically closed off from the rest of the world, these women say they have never been more open to receiving the light.
"Even when we are far from the world, we are close to them through our prayers. We know all who are suffering. They are our brothers and sisters," Sister Audocia said.
Now comes the one million dollar question: who do the Sisters pray for?
"For all the people in the world," Sister Rosalba said. "For the priest, for the families [that] they live in union. For the young people, the parishioners. For everybody. I can't say for this one, yes; and for this one, no. For everybody."
It is a different kind of public service and Madre Caridad said praying for everyone is how they help their communities and take care of the people. She said the blessings come back to them. She recalled a story of a woman who saw them while they were buying sewing supplies.
"A lady came to the car, we were in the car and she knocked on the door. She said, 'Sister, you are a Catholic Sister?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'Thank you Sister.' She started to cry. She said, 'thank you Sister, you touched my heart, you touched my heart. Now, I am happy,'" Madre Caridad said. "'Thank you for wearing your habit.' I said, 'Thank you for giving me the opportunity.'"
This opportunity brought the Sisters from Veracruz Mexico to Sioux Falls ten years ago. It took a while to get used to a new culture, but now South Dakota feels like home. They are all bi-lingual. In fact, just a year ago, Madre Caridad became a United State citizen. She was nervous to tell her mother.
"She said, well, it's good. My daughter, you are not for me. You are for Jesus. And you are well there. You can be there," Madre Caridad said.
To dedicate every hour to their calling to God is something many people can marvel at. Making hosts, sewing, praying; perhaps getting these day-to-day routines down to a science is easy, because the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament have devoted your entire lives to faith.
"In a way, I feel unworthy to do this. But, he has called me to do it and I feel very happy to help others receive Jesus," Sister Mary Elizabeth said.
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