When Sr. Constance of the Little Sisters of the Poor agreed to an interview with Catholic Sistas for the Year of Consecrated Life, I had no idea that she had a special closeness to Mary. The fact that this interview got slated for May, Mary’s month, was a total coincidence. But in God, there are no coincidences. I love that we get to feature Sr. Constance this month and I loved reading her answers to these questions. All the women I have met through these interviews have been amazing. They do so much!! Sr. Constance is no exception. I love her story of how she ended up joining the Little Sisters of the Poor and I loved reading about her day-to-day life and what she enjoys doing in her free-time. Read on to learn more about Sr. Constance and her order. And, if you haven’t read them already, check out the previous interviews (there are three others) from this year through the link HERE.
What is your name?
My full religious name is Sister Constance Carolyn of Mary. Constance was my baptismal name. Carolyn is the name shared by the first Little Sister and the first elderly Resident I spent time with; it is also a feminine form of Karol, Saint John Paul II’s baptismal name. I added Mary as a reminder to myself of my closeness to Mary, our Mother.
What is the name of your order and what is your order’s particular charism?
I am a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation at the service of the elderly poor. Our charism, inherited from our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, can be summed up in the words chosen as the title for her biography: “humble so as to love more.” We wish to live the spirit of the Beatitudes in imitation of Jesus who was meek and humble of heart, in order to love the poor with his merciful love. Through this spirit and our fourth vow of hospitality we consecrate our lives uniquely and entirely to elderly persons in need as their little sisters and their humble servants.
How did you know God was calling you to this life?
I began volunteering with the elderly in one of the Little Sisters’ homes when I was 15 years old — not because I wanted to be a sister, and not even because I felt drawn to the elderly! Very simply, my intention in volunteering was to have something to put on my college applications to “make me look good!” But from the very first day I fell in love with the elderly; I believe that God was waiting for me in the person of the poor. Through them I discovered the great joy of self-gift, of making one’s life a gift for others. Slowly I realized that making the elderly happy was the purpose for which God had created me, and that he wanted me for himself, to love others in his name.
Tell us a bit about what your day-to-day life is like.
Because we live under the same roof with the elderly we serve, moments of prayer, service and community are seamlessly woven together to make up the fabric of each day. We typically rise at 5:30 each morning and meet in the chapel at 6:00 a.m. for an hour or so of community prayer. From there we begin our day’s work and then have breakfast together at 7:45 a.m. Then we serve the Residents their breakfast, giving them whatever assistance they need, before going about our other duties, which could include resident care and activities, administrative duties, cooking, laundry work, or meeting with benefactors, among other tasks. We gather in the chapel with the Residents for Mass at 11:00 a.m., then serve them their noon meal. At 1:00 p.m. we have lunch together in community, and then spend some time together for some form of recreation. Then in the afternoon we continue with our various duties, take some time for personal prayer (visit to the Blessed Sacrament, rosary, spiritual reading), then gather again for evening prayer at 5:30 p.m. At 6:00 p.m. we again serve the Residents their meal, before gathering in community for our supper and another period of recreation, then night prayer at 8:30 p.m. We generally go to bed by 10:00 p.m. or so. That is a typical day for a Little Sister!
What advice would you give to someone considering a consecrated religious life?
It’s a bit difficult to offer “general” vocational advice because each person’s life, as well as God’s plan for each one, is unique. From my own personal experience I can say that the realization, as Saint John Paul II often said, that as human persons we can only find ourselves through a sincere gift of self, is true and life-changing. And to paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI, do not be afraid to give yourself to Jesus Christ, because he takes nothing of value from us and only wants our happiness. Do not be afraid of God’s plans because they are always plans of joy and happiness.
What does it mean to you that Pope Francis has dedicated this year (Nov. 30, 2014-February 2, 2016) as a Year of Consecrated Life?
Our Holy Father laid out three aims of this special Year: to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion, and to embrace the future with hope. I think I could say that Pope Francis’ desire to recognize and put consecrated life in the spotlight has given me renewed hope for the future, especially by witnessing the esteem and interest of so many people, from many walks of life, in the vocation to consecrated life.
But even more than the future, I have tried to embrace this Year as a call to live the present with more passion and greater love for Christ, by being more conscious of the profound meaning of my spousal relationship with him. Sometimes in the busyness of everyday, we are working hard for God and the good of others, but we can almost forget why we are doing it. So for me, first and foremost, I am trying to just be with and for Christ, as opposed to doing for him. I’m finding new joy in knowing that God wants me for himself before I do anything for him, and to thank him for all the many little blessings he sends my way each day that I otherwise tend not to pay attention to because I’m so busy. The most beautiful thing about consecrated life is just belonging to Christ as his bride, and living in the heart of that profound relationship with him. We say to Jesus, “Set me as a seal on your heart; take me wherever you go, to bring your love to others!”
What is your favorite thing to do during your down time/recreation time?
I have to admit I have many interests and hobbies! I enjoy baking and many crafts, especially paper crafts like origami and card making. I am always trying to find new craft and activity ideas that I can share with our Residents to help them feel engaged and make them happy. I also enjoy reading, taking long walks and making music. Currently I am learning how to play the dulcimer.
Kerri Baunach is a Catholic wife and mother of three boys (plus three in heaven). She and her family live in beautiful central Kentucky where she is active in her church, a member of Cursillo, and a Benedictine Oblate. Kerri often writes on her Catholic faith, pregnancy loss, her kids, and pro-life issues. Kerri is a former music librarian (16 years) now stay-at-home mom, was a musician for over 20 years, loves taking her kids to the library (and loves that they love it), is passionately pro-life, can’t cook, and has lived in six states. In additional to writing at Catholic Sistas you can also find Kerri on her own blog at Journal of a Nobody.