More than 10 members of CJ's founding orders, the Society of Mary and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, visited the school on Thursday, April 14 for a luncheon that was more than just fellowship.
"The motivation was to give our students the opportunity to meet and talk with some religious because they rarely get that opportunity," explained Kelli Kinnear, Director of Ministry & Service. "Our school chaplain, Fr. Jim Mueller, SM, is the one who sparked this idea, and we started brainstorming what we wanted the lunch to look like."
"I loved being able to interact with so many different people," shared Graham Curry '16. "They were all friendly, and there was not a doubt going into the lunch that every person there would be an amazing individual. Every person I talked to had an interesting story to tell, and they all loved life so much they have an enthusiasm for everything that they do.
"Seeing this attitude was truly awesome because the spirit in the room was making itself felt," Curry continued. "Among strangers to me, I found comfort, companionship, and a lot of love for life. As they shared their faith journeys, their eyes lit up with a passion for telling their stories to others, especially to the young people that are the future. Their sense of optimism was contagious and the hour that I spent with these people made a very large impact on my day."
Brother Jim Brown, SM added that the luncheon gave the students the chance to ask questions about the religious orders.
"We simply don't ask," Bro. Jim said. "This was an opportunity to ask students if there was anything going on in their life, is there anything stirring? If we don't ask, we won't discover."
Sister Rita Sturwold, SNDdeN '60 agreed, "There were questions at each table but right away one of the girls, who was a freshman, asked, 'What would you say in your life is spiritually satisfying?' Another asked, "How is the vow of poverty for you, what is that like?' I was able to share how we are contributing to something much more than ourselves."
Cecilia Meadors '18 said she was thankful for the opportunity to talk with the religious because she had questions of her own.
"I asked Father Chris Wittman, SM if he ever thought about having a family and he explained how something kept stirring inside of him to get into faith life," Meadors noted. "He made it known that it is normal to feel the need to have a family, but to have a faith life too. He shared the different God moments he had that led him to his decision."
Curry added, "Lots of people don't get the chance to ask about what religious life is like, so it was a special opportunity to have a few questions answered and learn about the different people in that vocation. The interesting thing about the Marianists and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur is that the members are very culturally diverse and come from different backgrounds. This is a very important aspect of religious life, especially in a community. To have diversity welcomed and celebrated sets an example for the rest of society to follow, and a better example of this accepting atmosphere would be difficult to find in a place other than the CJ library at that time."
Brother Jim and Sister Rita noted that while there are some differences with their religious orders, there are many values both orders share and traits they see in the Marianist and SNDdeN schools.
"There is something about our schools that when we go to location to location, the spirit is the same," Bro. Jim reflected. "It's contagious."
"You feel it," Sr. Rita affirmed. "I am seeing how the values of our congregations give a foundation to the ministry that is going on at CJ beyond job, beyond profession. It shapes the ministry and yes, it is the teaching of the Catholic Church but it is with a specific lens and a specific focus."
Meadors added, "I think it's really important that we have religious from both orders who want to be involved at this school. You know there is something special about it because they want to be here and see what we're doing."
"Events like this are only part of what makes the CJ experience so memorable," Curry emphasized. "I left the lunch with a message from a sister, and she said that there is a spark that is within all of us that was shared by all people before us. She said the importance of this spark is to recognize that the spark within us is the same spark that Sister Julie and Father Chaminade had within them. We can all do great things because the ability is inside of us: in the spark that all of the great people in history share. I would have never heard that optimistic and hopeful idea without attending the lunch and taking advantage of the opportunity that so few people have presented to them."