SPRINGFIELD — At a time when women are finding their voices and creating waves of energy offering hope for positive change in U.S. culture and in the Catholic Church , the Dominican Sisters of Springfield have launched a new ministry of mutual support for young women who seek to be a part of the change they want to see.
The mission of Cor Unum-Latin for "One Heart"-is to be a place of mutual support for young women who want to discover their spiritual depth, create change for a better world, and realize the joy of service .
Three Springfield Dominican Sisters are missioned to the project, which includes opening a house in Springfield to welcome women for prayer, community, socializing, and-for some women-residency.
The home, now under renovation in Springfield’s Enos Park neighborhood, is designed as a gathering space that can also accommodate six residents. Once completed, the house will allow the sisters to welcome up to three women who want to immerse themselves in the values of community life and prayer, study, and preaching-ministerial service.
The rehabilitation is a collaborative effort of the Dominican Sisters and Fletcher Farrar, president of Old Neighborhood Rehab, Inc., a not-for-profit that believes creating neighborly spaces is a necessary foundation for a healthy civic community. The house was acquired from the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association.
An anchor community of three sisters expects to move into the home in late 2018. They currently reside at Sacred Heart Convent, the Dominican Sisters' motherhouse on West Monroe Street. They are Sister Mary Clare Fichtner, Sister Lori Kirchman, and Sister Beth Murphy.
Plans for this new ministry began in 2015, but were stalled last spring when the use of a vacant convent at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish fell through. While searching for a new location for their residence, the sisters began welcoming young adult women for prayer and social activities.
In that process they discovered a great desire among women who are busy with school and work to find space for prayer, mutual support, and investment in activities that can help improve civic society. A new model for the project was born out of that realization, says Sister M. Clare.
"We thought we were beginning a ministry to impact the lives of a handful of women," she said. "What we've learned while waiting for the Holy Spirit to find us a house is that the need is much broader than that. The house will anchor outreach to many more people."
Sister Lori Kirchman's conversations with some of the women who've joined the sisters for occasions of prayer, movie nights, and game nights has convinced her of the need. "The women have told us they often feel isolated, even though technology seems to keep them endlessly plugged-in," she said. "They are very busy and socially engaged." she says. "Our goal is to provide support and a space for them to slow down, unplug, and discover what is missing in their lives."
This broader ministry will enable the sisters to reach younger women, too. For practical reasons women seeking residency with the sisters need to work full time and/or attend college, and be 21 to 35 years of age," explained Sister Beth. "But we've discovered that women who are younger—the 18 and 19 and 20-year-olds—have the same desire for support. There is no reason they can't join us in creating a project that will take shape beyond the boundaries of our home."
Want to join?
Any woman ages 18-35 who wants to participate in the development of Cor Unum is welcome to be in touch with the sisters. To learn more, contact them via their website, www.springfield op.org/cor-unum. by searching for ©corunumoneheart, or by calling 217-787-0481.
Want to help?
"We want to make the house as ecologically and fiscally sustainable as possible," says Sister Kathleen Gallagher. "We invite your help to covet expenses for the installation of solar panels, the preparation of the gardens and grounds, other energy and earth-saving expenses related to the house, and some of the rehabilitation costs." Contributions can be made at the Dominican Sisters secure donation portal or by contacting Sister Kathleen Anne Talt, director of mission advancement for the sisters, 217-787-0481.