For ten years, I’ve passed by the same building at the University of San Francisco nearly every week wondering what it was like inside. I started at USF as an undergrad and stayed after graduation to be a full-time staff member. As a Catholic, I was initially drawn to the University’s Jesuit Catholic mission and tagline “Educating hearts and minds to change the world.” The city of San Francisco also appealed to me to learn more about the fullness of humanity. Today, USF’s Jesuit mission and core values strongly inform how I choose to live my life in a world that doesn’t always favor a young woman who is still a practicing Catholic. My faith and relationship with God has always motivated me to question what is just and how is justice best achieved. However, I would be lying if I said I it has been easy for me or I haven’t had any moments of doubt. Over the years, I have “church hopped” a term I’ve used to mean that I jump from parish to parish not committing to one in particular. This has lead me to discover some beautiful churches in San Francisco but it made me realize that by “church hopping” I’m missing out on being a member of a church community. Back to that building I started talking about earlier! It is the mother house of the Sisters of the Presentation. I was invited to have dinner with the sisters on March 5th shortly before our campus had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every sister I talked with told me to come back and visit anytime. Our dinner and conversations together was a gift I will always treasure.
During my visit with the sisters, we discussed a variety of topics. It was a rare space for me to be in considering the fact that we were all Catholic women expressing our stories, hopes, joys, and struggles with our faith. The sisters warmly received my stories of how I’ve struggled with the Church as a young woman and how I have been faced with adversity in San Francisco when I share with others that I’m Catholic. Hearing the sisters’ stories of being on the frontlines of major social justice issues made me realize there is so much more to the Catholic Church than the hierarchy and hypocrisy. Some of the sisters had developed programs for abused and abandoned children in San Francisco. Others shared their stories of caring for prostitutes in the Bay Area while other sisters beamed with pride sharing stories from their days of teaching in parochial schools. I felt fulfilled on a deep spiritual level getting to be a part of these important conversations. These incredible women have lead radical lives dedicated to serving others and they are a part of a strong community. In an American society that values individualistic tendencies, these sisters are constantly thinking of others and how to be there for one another. They have a community and sisterhood that many of us will never have. It became even more clear to me how much I need a church community to keep me going when I have moments of tension in my spiritual life. This realization stings even more as I sit in my room “sheltering in place” for the good of humanity during a pandemic. There are a lot of things I’m excited for when the shelter-in-place is over, but getting to visit the Sisters of the Presentation again is certainly at the top of my list.