Sister Maureen Kunz has an outreach ministry with two main parts:
- service to the faith community through adult faith formation;
- service to people in the community without adequate resources.
Sister Maureen volunteers with her parish RCIA team to assist adults in their faith formation in Richmond, British Columbia, and in Blaine, Washington.
As a team member for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), she helps men and women explore Catholicism. Some are new to Christianity and some were baptized in different Christian denominations. Others want to prepare to receive sacraments they missed when they were younger, like confirmation or First Communion.
Part of a 10-member RCIA team, Sr. Maureen said, “I take my turn either facilitating adult formation training or supporting those who lead small formation groups. I also lead retreats and prayer experiences at Christmas, the beginning of Lent, and the day before Easter, when participants of RCIA receive the sacraments.”
She also does follow-up work with participants when needed. For example, she meets regularly with a newly baptized woman who asked to do Bible study.
“Sometimes people are just beginning their faith journey and don’t have a theological or faith formation background. We all try to give them the support they need to feel confident in doing whatever it is they have committed to,” Sr. Maureen said.
Beyond RCIA: praying with scripture
Helping adults understand how to pray is one of the aspects of formation that Sr. Maureen enjoys most. She says learning skills of meditation or contemplation can open people to prayer experiences that they never knew before.
She believes the point of praying with scripture is to experience deeper integration into God’s love, not to cover any particular number of scripture verses.
“Praying with scripture is not a Bible study or intellectual exercise. It is a gentle prayer with scripture soaking into our minds and hearts. It is a simple step-by-step prayer exercise with opportunities for specific kinds of sharing,” she said.
Then there’s the Good Shepherd dimension. A number of people Sr. Maureen encounters in her faith formation ministries have difficulties in their lives and need extra attention. For example, the woman in adult formation she does Bible study with has serious psychiatric diagnoses and is a recovering gambling addict. Others she works with are recovering from domestic violence. Many people out there are in real need.
“We tend not to think of parishes as places of suffering. We forget that there are people everywhere who need the healing touch of the Good Shepherd,” Sr. Maureen said.
“Now I’m starting to work with our RCIA team here on the US side of the border. This team is not strong at all, which is why I offered to help. The one long-term team member operates out of an old lecture model. RCIA is a process of discovery, not just a program with materials to be studied,” she said.
It seems that people everywhere love faith formation, according to Sr. Maureen, who does zoom groups in the parish down the street from where she lives in Blaine.
“People love learning and sharing. If anyone reading this would like to join me in leading faith formation zoom calls, let me know,” she said.
Community Assistance Program (CAP)
In addition to adult formation outreach through RCIA, Sr. Maureen volunteers at a clothing bank that is open three days a week and provides clothing, bedding, towels, and other fabric goods at no cost to people in need. Her job is to be one of two or three volunteers on a shift who help people get what they need, listen to their stories, act as a fashion consultant, and receive and sort donations.
The clothing bank reopened in July after COVID shutdowns. Sister Maureen’s hope is that the newer and larger facility will allow for the clothing bank to expand its services to offer educational opportunities and provide more personal and supportive conversations with clients.
Sister Maureen sees a dichotomy in her work as a volunteer. She said, “Some of the volunteers I work with in the clothing bank have a mental illness, histories of addiction, domestic violence, and other problems. There are days when I think I do more ministry with other volunteers, who often are very needy themselves than I do with clients. Sometimes it’s a challenge to say to a work partner: ‘You know you really do have terrific ideas. And if you lower your voice a little and listen, people may be able to hear you.’”
And then there are other volunteers who are true mission partners who give their time out of a desire to contribute to the community. “These are often people with a faith foundation who do this as a ministry,” she said.
It’s not always easy for Sr. Maureen to work with leadership that doesn’t have a background in social services. For example, she found it difficult to confront a board member recently when she overstepped her boundaries and had fences to mend.
“The board member listened to me and had an honest conversation with the other person who was about to quit because of the rift. Nobody quit, and the whole team is better because of the two women’s courage to reconcile,” she said.
Sister Maureen Kunz finds mission partners everywhere
Sister Maureen feels blessed to be working with women at St. Anne’s Church in Blaine who want to make a difference in their community and the world. All of the women are more than a decade older than Sister Maureen and have big plans to create change and lift people up.
“Age is not stopping them, especially the 93 year old! Talk about women of vision and zeal! There are mission partners in conversation groups. There are mission partners in services to the people in need. And there are mission partners in services to faith formation. There are wonderful mission partners everywhere,” said Sr. Maureen.
Sister Maureen Kunz is a Good Shepherd Apostolic Sister. The Apostolic Sisters listen to the weary, often muted voices of the poor and the disadvantaged — especially women and children — and then do something about it. The Contemplative lifestyle of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd is one of prayer; prayers are for the Catholic Church and for those individuals who are served by the Apostolic Sisters.