Religious sisters encouraged to keep a sense of wonder for God’s creation

A group of religious sisters express their joy for life at the Collaboration for Ministry Initiative Conference held Nov. 1-3 in Myrtle Beach. (Provided)

MYRTLE BEACH—Women religious got together for a prayer and fellowship weekend to contemplate some universal truths and offer each other support to carry on their daily work. 

It was the 15th annual statewide Collaboration for Ministry Initiative Conference, an event for women religious held in Myrtle Beach recently and sponsored by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. 

The conference has become a highlight in the yearly calendars for religious sisters in the diocese. 

It offers three days of fun, worship, networking and prayer at the beach for women who work in many different ministries across the state, often in isolation from other members of their communities and from other women religious. 

This year’s event drew 52 sisters from 17 different communities that serve in South Carolina, plus 13 sisters who traveled from New York, Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Maryland, Massachusetts and Guam to join the activities.

The theme was “Wonder, Courage and Hope.” Sister Melannie Svoboda of the Sisters of Notre Dame was the keynote speaker. Based in Ohio, she has served as a teacher, novice director and provincial leader of her congregation. She is a retreat leader and author of 13 books. 

Religious sisters gather for a group shot with Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone at their annual conference.

Sister Melannie addressed all three facets of the theme in her talks. She spoke about the necessity of maintaining a sense of wonder at God’s creation even during the most difficult parts of life, and used examples from Scripture to show how different biblical figures responded to God’s work with a sense of wonder. 

She said courage is another important virtue for the sisters to incorporate, especially when hardships confront their religious communities or the people they are serving. Sister Melannie spoke of Mary’s courageous acceptance at finding out she would be the mother of the son of God, Joseph’s courage in protecting both Mary and Jesus, and Christ’s courage at accepting his crucifixion. 

Finally, she told the sisters that hope is something they must have in today’s difficult world. 

“Hope is not mere optimism — hope is rooted in the real world,” she said. “The optimist sees only the rose, while a person of hope sees both the roses and the thorns, yet we have hope because of the promises our God has given us.” 

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone met with the sisters on Nov. 2 to offer them an update on events around the diocese and listen to their questions and concerns. 

The sisters also met with some Myrtle Beach grant recipients from the Sisters of Charity Foundation, took part in breakout sessions and discussions about their ministries, and had time for an ice cream social and game night that has become an annual tradition.