Blogging Sister Goes Online to Serve God
Sister Susan Francois, CSJP shares ‘one person’s story of trying to follow Jesus’ using new technology
BY TERRY MCGUIRE
Never met St. Joseph of Peace Sister Susan Francois? Well, here’s a glimpse of her life — all courtesy of her blog.
She took a 10-plus-year “vacation” from the Catholic Church, returned at age 27, and after being inspired by her involvement in the Easter triduum became a “super church geek.”
Some other revelations. In her senior year in high school, she and 20 other girls got a special waiver to graduate from an all-boys Catholic high school in her native Maryland after their school was closed.
Her beloved grandfather made the candy canes for the Christmas trees of her youth. She was the city elections officer for the City of Portland, Ore. for eight years. She became a peace activist through Pax Christi and other efforts following the Sept. 11 attacks. The song “If You Find Yourself Caught in Love” by the band Belle & Sebastian helped her “get to that moment” of realization that religious life was her calling.
The 37-year-old Sister Susan shares such major and everyday happenings through her aptly named blog, “
She started the blog five years ago as she was discerning her vocation. Her goal with “Musings,” she said in an interview with The Catholic Northwest Progress, is to “share one person’s story of trying to follow Jesus” from the perspective of a woman who listens to the same kind of music and watches the same kind of movies that other young people do.
“I hope it’s helpful to [others] who are having this absolutely crazy idea that maybe God is calling them to a religious vocation,” she said.
She also hopes her postings will strike a chord with other young people considering a vocation in or outside of religious life.
Charism ‘spoke to my heart’
The Internet has been a valuable tool for Sister Susan in sharing her faith journey with others and in her own discernment process. She remembers when she was working in Portland and going online to search for communities of women religious in the Pacific Northwest.
“When I came across the CSJP [Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace] Web site, the charism of peace through justice really spoke to me … and spoke to my heart. Meeting the sisters really connected me,” she said, “but that initial contact was through their Web site.”
She noted that last summer’s “Study of Recent Vocations to Religious Life,” done by the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate on behalf of the National Religious Vocation Conference, highlighted the fact that many young people today lack contact with men and women religious, so they turn to online vocational resources, including community Web sites. She said that in her own life she has had several women religious and a priest who have served as role models.
But “much in the CARA study resonates with me,” she said in her blog of last Feb. 18.
“I came to religious life for many of the same reasons that other young women and men are taking the plunge. To serve God, to integrate my prayer and work lives, in the context of community. That’s what I came looking for, and that is what I have found, embodied in the amazing people who make up the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.”
Sister Susan professed first vows in October 2008. Her community is based at St. Mary-on-the-Lake in Bellevue, which she refers to on her blogs as the “groovy sister hq in Bellevue.”
Social justice ministry
A staff member at the Seattle-based Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, she does education and outreach on the issue of human trafficking, and edits the center’s quarterly justice journal. She is also involved in Web-based “Justice Cafes” by which Seattle-area young adults discuss social justice issues grounded in Catholic teachings with their peers around the U.S. and the world. She’s working toward a master’s degree in pastoral studies at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University.
She notes that a century ago the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace spread their Gospel message around the world through the magazine they published. They continue doing it today, she said, sharing their stories via modern technology.
This story originally appeared in the NW Catholic Progress.