Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

In exchange for losing anonymity, sisters witness God’s tender love

Published: April 4, 2020

By Sister M. Glorea Knaggs, OSB
Holy Angels Convent

Before entering religious life, I took great pleasure in spending the occasional afternoon at Barnes and Noble. I loved sitting in a big armchair with my Starbucks, sampling books and periodically observing fellow patrons. It was like a little getaway, an escape from work or studies, and I embraced the anonymity and comfort of those experiences.

One thing I did not anticipate in becoming a sister was how anonymity would no longer be an option. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Shortly after receiving the habit, my dad pointed out, “You do realize that you are now a public representative of the Catholic Church, right?” I remember these words coming to life for me on my first airplane trip as a sister, while I perceived their truth in the looks and words of those noticing me.

On their good days, showing them love, tenderness and respect comes easily. On harder days, there is grace, because I know that, like them, I have days when I am not at my best, and God is waiting for me with tender love and acceptance.

A few months later, I began to read St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation, “Vita Consecrata,” in which he beautifully expressed that “consecrated women are called in a very special way to be signs of God’s tender love towards the human race” (57). These words caught my attention. Not only should I be mindful that I represent the Church, but I also have a duty to show God’s tender love to others.

Knowing this has greatly influenced my approach as a teaching sister. It has forced me to slow down and prayerfully consider how I respond to and treat my students. God has helped me so much by constantly showing me what he loves about them: little moments of hope and joy that make them easy to love.

In my four years of teaching junior high, I have been amazed at my students time and time again. On many occasions, I have asked students if they have ever considered priesthood or religious life, and have been surprised and edified by their generous responses. Frequently, they reach out to classmates who would be considered on the margins — more times than you might expect — to join them for lunch or group work.

Many of my students take their prayer lives and their relationships with God so seriously that it comes up in their conversation and their writing. All of this is in addition to their natural charm and humor. They are perhaps an under-appreciated group, but I am grateful to know them. On their good days, showing them love, tenderness and respect comes easily. On harder days, there is grace, because I know that, like them, I have days when I am not at my best, and God is waiting for me with tender love and acceptance. 

The call to witness God’s tender love as a religious sister is beautiful and at times daunting, but is an aspect of my vocation that I work at and cherish. And in exchange for the anonymity? Well, I may no longer be able to spend afternoons in a chair at Barnes and Noble, but instead, since I am easy to spot in a crowd, I have the gift of seeing former students and their families almost everywhere I go. And in these sweet reunions, I experience God’s tender love in abundance.

Sister M. Glorea Knaggs, OSB, of Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro, holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She teaches junior high English at Christ the King School in Little Rock. This article was originally published in Arkansas Catholic April 4, 2020. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.