MADISON -- Five consecrated women from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest have arrived in the Diocese of Madison.
They are the first group of a total of 14 consecrated women coming from the society to serve in the diocese.
In welcoming them to the diocese, Bishop Robert C. Morlino said that the “women will reside in the Sauk City area and will serve the surrounding parishes and the diocese in various capacities. Financial support for the women will continue to be provided by the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, which currently maintains their support.”
In a press release, the diocese said that the consecrated women’s service will be an asset to the parishes and people they serve, adding no increased expenses. Additionally, during this time of economic difficulties, parish staffs should be assured that no one will lose their job, as a result of this great blessing to the diocese and its people, said the press release.
The five women are now living in the rectory at St. Norbert Parish in Roxbury, but they will soon be moving to a rented house near Merrimac.
Delighted to serve
In an interview during a visit to the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison, the women — smiling often — expressed in excellent English their delight at arriving in the Diocese of Madison.
“I’m delighted to be here to fulfill the call of God and to do anything he asks us to do,” said Yolanda Piedra, the oldest of the five women, who is originally from Ecuador and was trained as a commercial engineer before pursing graduate studies in theology.
“I’m excited about the future, to work with the children and help the ladies (consecrated women). We are very happy to be here.”
All the women — hailing from Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Spain — have college degrees, some bachelor’s and others master’s degrees. They have all been on the faculty at the Shoreless Lake School in Totana, Spain, a school run by the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest.
All five are hoping to teach at a new middle school for grades six, seven, and eight being established at St. Aloysius School in Sauk City.
While the women are awaiting the development of the new middle school, two of them — Andrea Urra and Silvana Navarro — are helping with secretarial work at St. Barnabas Parish in Mazomanie. The current secretary, Linda Schmidt, is leaving. Schmidt has been very helpful in training them, they said.
Status as consecrated women
Piedra explained their status as consecrated women in comparison with Sisters or nuns. As consecrated women, the members of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest make “promises” of poverty, chastity, and obedience rather than take vows. The consecrated women are considered single women, while Sisters are religious.
The consecrated women never wear habits. “We are in the world,” said Piedra. They are responsible to their spiritual director in the society, but they could leave the society without asking for permission to do so.
The consecrated women make temporal promises for no more than one year, which can be renewed until age 22. After that age, they may make perpetual promises to remain in the society for life. All five who came here have made perpetual promises and each wears a ring with the date of her promise engraved on it.
“We have a prayer life, meditate, and attend daily Mass, but we do not pray the Liturgy of the Hours like nuns,” said Piedra.
New middle school
Bishop Morlino noted that as “one of the primary missions of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest is to educate youth, most all of the consecrated women are experienced school teachers.
“As St. Aloysius School in Sauk City currently encompasses grades pre-kindergarten to five, I have encouraged St. Aloysius, in concert with the other parishes in the cluster, to undertake a process to explore the feasibility of establishing a middle school for grades six, seven, and eight.”
The bishop further explained that this process will “be guided by the Office of Catholic Schools” and will proceed with the firm understanding that:
1) The consecrated women would focus primarily on serving as teachers in the middle school only.
2) All teachers currently teaching in the elementary school would remain in their positions.
3) Any proposed curriculum must meet current diocesan academic standards.
Once the exploration process is complete, the results will go to the bishop for his consideration.
Bishop Morlino said that the “presence of these consecrated women is a great blessing for our diocese. Let us welcome them and work with them to provide, each day, the opportunity for ever more people to meet Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, and be transformed by Him.”
For more on the women, see the staff resumes at www.saint-aloysius.org