The voice of youth is more powerful than ever — members of the under-25 set are quickly rising to the top in multiple industries, making sure they leave their mark on the world as soon as they can, but what about the younger voice in the Catholic Church?
World Youth Day may be just around the corner, but there is another group of young people ready to ensure that they are doing what they can to impact society.
Women religious under the age of 50 gathered at Loyola University Chicago July 21-24 as part of the Giving Voice Conference. Giving Voice is an organization dedicated to providing a place for young women religious to speak about issues that are important to them and to converse with one another.
Many attendees at the sixth national Giving Voice Conference were the youngest members of their religious communities, and have only experienced religious life since the Second Vatican Council.
The keynote speaker was Sister Sandra Schneiders, a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a “rock star” in the world of religious life, as one conference participant explained. Sister Schneiders is a respected theologian who has written several books on religious life.
“We are in a kairos moment that, if we seize it, could really galvanize into a whole new era of American religious life,” Sister Schneiders said during the conference.
A press release from the Giving Voice said that these young sisters “recognize they will be called to leadership in their communities and in the church in the coming years.”
Sister Susan Francois, a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace and one of the conference planning team members, told Catholic News Service that the sisters who gathered in Chicago do not fit many people’s stereotypes of Catholic nuns. “Most of us do not wear religious habits, although some of us do,” said the 38-year-old. “That’s not what matters to us. What we share is our desire to follow Jesus and serve God’s people in need.”
“We are a strong, talented, creative, passionate group with energy for making a difference in the world,” said 30-year-old Presentation Sister Jessi Beck.