Enlivened by international experience

Sister Mary Attallah from the Province of Egypt-Sudan had a recent six-month international experience in the Province of Mid-North America (PMNA) as part of her ongoing formation before making final vows.

She was missioned to the Maria Hall community in Danville, Pennsylvania, during her experience and was able to visit several communities in the province. Currently, during the global pandemic, she is staying in the St. Euphrasia community in Chubra, Cairo.

Sister Mary said living with the Danville Community was the first time she had lived with Sisters from other congregations. It was also the first time she had lived with elderly Sisters.

“I never once felt like an outsider.” Mary Attallah, RGS

The Community at Maria Hall is an inter-congregational assisted living community. Sisters from both lifestyles of the Good Shepherd Congregation (Apostolic and Contemplative) live together with Sisters from the congregations of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the Discalced Carmelites, and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Sister Mary said, “I think I was the youngest Sister in the community. I felt that my presence brought them joy and energy.”

Mary Attallah, RGS, shares lessons learned

“I shared stories with them about our lives in Egypt and the life of my province. The most important thing that I learned from the Sisters at Maria Hall is how age doesn’t restrict anything. It was wonderful to see all of the Sisters so full of life, doing so many things,” she said.

“What surprised me most was that I couldn’t tell which Sister belonged to which congregation! I felt that I belonged among them and that we all belonged together as one, all part of the same family,” she said.

Sister Mary said she had many unique and wonderful experiences with the Sisters in the Province of Mid-North America. Among them were trips to visit Good Shepherd Communities in St. Louis, Silver Spring, Maryland, Minnesota, San Francisco, New Jersey, and New York.

“I never once felt like an outsider. I learned to deeply appreciate how they welcome people and make them feel at home. This is something I will carry with me into the future,” Sr. Mary said.

The Apostolic Sister said she was also previously unaware of how active the Sisters are in their ministries and the extent to which the laity share in their work.

Mission Partners share Good Shepherd spirituality

Mary Attallah

“It was so valuable to see how these Mission Partners share Good Shepherd spirituality. Seeing this offered me a real sign of hope for the future. In Egypt, the laity isn’t involved as much in our ministries; however, I now see just how important it is to develop and nurture Mission Partners the way PMNA does,” she said.

While living with the Danville Community, Sr. Mary had the opportunity to attend a one-week residential course based on Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She said the course gave her a new perspective on how God looks at our bodies and how we look at our own bodies.

“The week was also a great opportunity to live and study together with an international group of religious and lay people,” she said. The group shared their daily lives in community and exchanged stories about their backgrounds and cultures.

“I met many people from around the world and made many friends who I’m still in contact with today,” she said.

Before her experiences in PMNA, Sr. Mary attended two other international events at the Good Shepherd Motherhouse in Angers, France. She said all of these opportunities have allowed her to learn about the richness of the Good Shepherd Congregation.

Global perspective

“I have met Sisters and learned about their work and the work carried out by our Mission Partners. I have become more open-minded and see things from a global perspective. Before these experiences, I saw things from within the confines of my province.

“Now I see that our circumstances aren’t that different and that we all face the same problems and concerns for our Congregation all over the world, “ she said.

Sister Mary reported that the experiences she has had have filled her with more hope for the future of the Good Shepherd Congregation. Her advice for other Sisters who are about to embark on an international experience is this:

Sister Mary Attallah says be open to everything

“I would suggest to any Sister that she be open to everything and everyone. I would advise her not to be afraid to take part in things, and to do so with enthusiasm so she can

reap the rewards and strengthen her sense of belonging to the Congregation.

“I really believe these international experiences are valuable and a true blessing!” concluded Sr. Mary.

Sisters of the Good Shepherd is an international order of Catholic Sisters who are present in 73 countries. Learn more about the congregation at http://rgs.gssweb.org/


Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette is the Communications Coordinator for Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America. She is a career photojournalist who has served in various capacities of print, broadcast, and corporate communications. Jeanette is devoted to creation and is particularly focused on saving pollinators and other wildlife species and their habitat. She is an ethical vegan and created the website veganstoryteller.com