Five young religious women traveled from New York to Alaska earlier this summer to share their lives with youth campers at St. Therese’s Camp in Wasilla.
Sister Pia Jude, along with four novices from her order spent two weeks in June and early July at the camp, interacting with children, playing games and sharing their faith in Christ.
The Sisters of Life is a religious community founded in 1991 in New York City.
Following her time in Alaska Sister Jude spoke to the Catholic Anchor about her experience.
“We had the privilege to meet many wonderful lay-faithful who are helping to build a culture of life in Alaska, particularly through vibrant family life and through the inspiring ministries for youth and young adults, such as St. Therese Camp,” she said.
The sisters were invited to Alaska by the board members of St. Therese’s Camp. Initially the request was for two sisters to come up to be present to the youth and young adults at the camp, Sister Pia Jude explained. “It was God’s providence to send five of us!”
With five sisters, they were able to show campers and staff a small glimpse into their community life.
“The five of us entered into the camp schedule, joining the campers for prayer times and for catechesis on what it means to abide in the Father’s heart,” Sister Jude recounted. They also played sports, paddle boated on the lake and ate meals with the youth.
In addition to their time at camp, the sisters hosted a young women’s retreat during a weekend break between camps.
“About 40 young women came from the Anchorage area and as far north as North Pole to be part of a grace-filled retreat where the Holy Spirit was very present,” Sister Pia Jude said.
The women’s retreat included a vocations bonfire where the sisters shared their vocation stories and spoke on prayer, trust, and the feminine genius. The women also participated in Mass, adoration and confession.
“Those who came out on retreat revealed to us the strong desire for holiness in the heart of the young women of Alaska,” Sister Jude observed.
As an active and contemplative community the sisters’ primary work is prayer on behalf of all people, born and unborn, to know and experience themselves as infinitely loved by God, Sister Jude said.
The sisters take the traditional three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They are also consecrated under a special fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of all human life.
The sisters’ ministry includes welcoming, supporting and assisting pregnant women in need as well as hosting retreats for lay faithful of all ages and inviting those who have suffered abortion to experience healing. Additionally, the sisters carry out evangelization outreach on college campuses and other places such as camps like St. Therese Camp.
Across the country the sisters have a vibrant presence with more than 100 sisters in convents along the East Coast, as far north as Toronto, and as far south as Washington D.C.
“Our western-most convent is in Denver, Colorado, where the sisters minister to college students on three major college campuses,” said Sister Jude. “Through our prayer and active apostolic work, the Sisters of Life strive to build up the Kingdom of God and a culture of life wherever the Lord leads us — even to the furthest areas of the United States, like Alaska.”
The sisters were grateful for the support they felt in Alaska.
“The Camp Director Rudy Poglitsch, the camp staff, the counselors, and the campers at St. Therese Camp were more awe-inspiring than the gorgeous mountains that sit on the camp site,” Sister Jude said. “They truly folded us in and made us feel loved and welcomed in Alaska and at camp.”
At the end of their stay they experienced a bit of sightseeing.
“We had the opportunity to spend the day with a wonderful Catholic family, who folded us into their beautiful lives and extended such loving hospitality to us to ensure that we experienced the natural beauty of Alaska,” Sister Jude said. “We drove down the breathtaking coast of the Seward Highway, saw some Alaskan wildlife and a personal favorite for me, visited a glacier! We enjoyed sharing the joy of the Gospel with each person we encountered. God truly blessed our time in Alaska!”
Sister Jude said Alaska left an imprint on the sisters.
“Its beauty spoke eloquently of God’s majesty and power, and yet the sweet chapel at camp where we prayed with Jesus present in the Eucharist reminded us of his personal love,” she said. “We knew that Jesus’ heart was consoled in Alaska.”