Tag Archives: Sisters

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, speaks at a reparations vigil in Cleveland in June 2022.

The Welcoming Call

The Welcoming Call 

Solidarity with Migrant People is Intrinsic to the Vocation of Catholic Sisters

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM
August 1, 2023
Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, pictured with Eilis, amember of the Congolese community in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, pictured with Eilis, a member of the Congolese community in Cleveland, Ohio.

For generations, Catholic Sisters in the U.S. have served alongside immigrant communities. Time and again, we have responded to the call to open our homes and hearts to meet the needs of families seeking asylum or newly arrived refugees. Our sisters and our communities have sponsored refugees, opened service agencies, taught English as a second language (ESL), served along the border, accompanied individuals and families, represented them in court, and advocated for just immigration policies. In so many ways, we have lived the call in Scripture to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor as ourselves.  

My own story of ministry is a part of this multi-generational call. In 2010, I began my own journey working with the Somali refugee community in St. Cloud, Minn. In subsequent years, I ministered alongside people from Bhutan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, and so many other countries. I learned about the asylum system in Immokalee, Fla. and witnessed the conditions that force a person to flee their homeland in Haiti or Guatemala. My own community, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, remains connected through the sponsorship of Mary’s House in Cleveland. This work connects me with generations of sisters who have felt this call.  

Ministering alongside asylum seekers, refugees, DACA recipients, and other immigrants has shifted the way many of us Sisters understand immigration policy. We can no longer distance ourselves from the dangerous anti-immigrant rhetoric that has energized lawmakers to pass legislation to shut down and militarize the border, expand Title 42, deport asylum seekers from Haiti, or create an app that only recognizes white faces. 

These horrible policies impact the people who are a part of my extended community. They affect our neighbors. They affect members of our own family. We no longer have the luxury of waiting for Congress to fix the broken immigration system; we must do our part to ensure that a just and equitable immigration system remains at the forefront of our representatives’ minds.  

It was this sense of urgency that drove over 100 sisters and associates and their sponsored ministries to Washington DC in December 2021 to march for, pray for, and call for the end of Title 42. At that event, Sisters shared stories of ministering at the border, in Florida with the Haitian community, and in cities across the country. We shared a common understanding that our lives are forever changed by time spent ministering in El Salvador, Honduras, and many other countries. 

We shared with each other our own experiences of accompanying a family seeking asylum, only to watch helplessly as they were turned away by Border Patrol, or telling an individual that, according to current policy, they do not have a valid asylum claim even though a return to their home country would most certainly result in death. We also shared about moments of community — of shared meals of pupusas or beans and rice that made the Body of Christ a tangible offering that widened our understanding of community. All of these moments further strengthened our deeply held belief that the country’s immigration system needs an overhaul. 

As women religious, our individual community’s charism informs how we respond to the call to minister alongside our country’s diverse immigrant communities and advocate for justice. While our ministerial actions might vary, we all believe that all people, no matter their country of origin, economic status, family composition, gender or sexual orientation, or reason for migrating, deserve the opportunity to apply for asylum.  

This is the foundation of our belief as Christians: that all people reflect the Imago Dei — the image of the loving God who created them. Therefore, we will continue to call on our elected officials to stop playing politics with the lives of our immigrant siblings and create an immigration system that works for all people. 

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM is NETWORK’s Education and Organizing Specialist and a co-host of the podcast Just Politics, produced in collaboration between NETWORK and U.S. Catholic magazine.  

This column was published in the Quarter 3 2023 issue of Connection. 
Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Erin Zubal, Diane Therese Pinchot, and Susan Zion, pictured at a Cleveland stop on NETWORK's Pope Francis Voter Tour in the fall of 2022.

Rethinking the Future

Rethinking the Future

Sisters Will Continue to Work In and For Community

Sr. Erin Zubal, OSU
April 21, 2023
Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Erin Zubal, Diane Therese Pinchot, and Susan Zion, pictured at a Cleveland stop on NETWORK's Pope Francis Voter Tour in the fall of 2022.

Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Erin Zubal, Diane Therese Pinchot, and Susan Zion, pictured at a Cleveland stop on NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour in the fall of 2022.


I am often asked “what it is like to be a young sister?” I hear this question a lot, by well-intended, inquisitive people, people who seem sincerely interested in my response. I have a good friend who likes to respond to the well-intended questioner with, “She is not as young as she used to be.”

And we all laugh. Indeed, none of us are as young as we used to be,

While it is a question that is often asked of me, my age — or rather the chronological age among my community — is something I rarely think about. When I entered the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland 17 years ago, I knew with all my being that I was called to religious life at this moment in history, and the probability was high that I would always be the youngest. You see, no one has entered the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland since me. My lifelong yes to living a life of chastity, poverty, and obedience also came with saying yes to living out the call as the youngest.

Being the youngest is an incredible gift. I have had and continue to have the best teachers — women who have paved the way in mission, ministry, justice, and advocacy, women who have modeled for me strength and a lifelong commitment to learning and formation. My sisters have taken risks, spoken out, and have advocated for the most vulnerable among us, especially women and children. And I continue to by humbled by the ways my sisters show up for me. When I start a new ministry, when I need help in learning the ways of faithful service, and when I simply need to be reminded that we do the work together and with all of our collaborators, I am not alone.

Religious life is transitioning, changing, evolving. The truth is that all Catholic Sisters aren’t as young as we used to be. The numbers of women religious actively serving in hospitals, schools, and social service agencies are declining. Many congregations are having conversations about the legacy they will leave when their communities reach completion. Our legacy, charisms, and missions are being lived out by our associates, co-members, and co-workers. And this is where the mission of NETWORK enters the picture as well.

When I arrived at NETWORK, I was no longer the youngest. Instead, I joined a multi-generational, diverse group of talented, committed, and dynamic people. I arrived at a time when NETWORK was celebrating its 50-year history and taking the long look back. And while we took the time to look back to our foundation, we have also been taking the time to look forward to the next 50 years and all the ways the organization can continue to engage in meaningful political ministry.

And this is part of the legacy that Catholic Sisters leave as well. At NETWORK I see how Catholic Sisters, even with our declining numbers, will continue to work in community in the years ahead. Our calls and our charisms are broken open, beyond the boundaries of religious life, and shared with people from different walks of life in communities far and wide. And this new and different form of community works together for changes in laws that will foster ever-deeper and more inclusive communities. This is a rethinking of the future of religious life, but one that brings the Gospel ever more fully out into the world.

The same God who called the thousands of women religious before me is the same God who called me. And it’s the same God who calls Catholics to live their baptismal call out in the world and who inspires people of goodwill to work for justice and build up the common good. Today and each day, I renew my “yes” filled with hopes and aspirations, limitations, and weaknesses to live this life with my sisters, colleagues, and everyone who shows up wanting to make the world a more just and inclusive place.

Sr. Erin Zubal, OSU, is NETWORK’s Chief of Staff.

This column was published in the Quarter 2 2023 issue of Connection.