Two Lifestyles of Good Shepherd

Apostolic

Apostolic Sisters of the Good Shepherd listen to the weary, often muted voices of the poor and the disadvantaged -- especially women and children -- and then do something about it. We confront the structures of our world that devalue the dignity of the human person, and we let our hearts be softened and shaped by the people we serve. We see the suffering face of God in the undocumented immigrant or the reviled prostitute, and hear the laughter of angels in families we have reconciled. 

Rather than grieve for an opportunity gone, we start afresh with whatever is at hand, no matter how small. We are focused women with a will to learn mercy and compassion from the heart of the Shepherd, to whose heart we again and again return for comfort, strength and direction.

Our ministries and services are many and varied, for our desire to serve is limited only by the walls of our expanding world. We feel blessed to have our Contemplative Sisters support our ministries through their prayers. If you feel that God is leading you to Good Shepherd work, we invite you to contact us so we may begin having a conversation with you.

Contemplative

Contemplative communitiesThe Contemplative lifestyle of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd is one of prayer. Our prayers are for the Catholic Church and for those who are served by our Apostolic Sisters. We consider ourselves the complementary piece to the apostolic Good Shepherd Sisters, who are involved in ministries primarily with women and children around the world. Together, the two branches are members of the Congregation of the Good Shepherd. Our contemplative lifestyle also includes, among other things, a ministry of distributing altar bread for the Church.

"Our ministry gives us a chance to reflect on how “beautiful it is to be touching the hosts that will become the consecrated Jesus at the Mass,” said Sr. Sharon Rose Authorson, local leader of the contemplative community in St. Louis.

Through our contemplative lifestyle we lead a life of contemplative presence to God and to all people. We spend time together in prayer five times a day, with additional opportunities for individual prayer and reflection. We generally receive prayer requests via fax, phone calls and emails from the public throughout the week. We live in community. Together we create a holy space where the needs of all are brought to the Shepherd’s heart. We listen to God’s Word and to humanity’s cries of suffering. As we listen, we aim to pierce the world with the silence that is able to see God’s care and concern for everyone and everything. Our dream is to help build a world that nurtures compassion and reconciliation.

Contemplative lifestyle in Community

All Christians are called by the gospel to awaken the world to the presence of God, alive and active within their very selves and in every circumstance, every event, every situation, no matter how bleak, no matter how pain-ridden. This awakening brings about peace and joy, a security and a comfort that this world cannot give.

A contemplative community nurtures this presence by a life of prayer and study, characterized by simplicity and by helping others to realize the depth of their human communion in the family of God and in all of creation.

Contemplative communities believe that one of the most time-tested ways to bring God’s reconciling love and peace into the world is through a contemplative vocation nourished daily by a rhythm of prayer, work and leisure. This structure is balanced with hospitality and welcome of guests and by a readiness to pray with and for others. No one and no human concern is ever outside the embrace of their prayer and interest, particularly those served by our apostolic sisters. The unevenness of the global economy and the oppressive structures that feminize poverty, warring nations and nuclear weapons, make up the stuff of Good Shepherd ministries.

A good way of talking about it is to say, “It is a long, loving look at life, at the universe and all of creation in the presence of God whom we know is unconditional Love." How does it manifest itself in everyday life?

Contemplating the mystery of God

Hands in prayerWhen we allow the ocean expanse to calm our hearts and free our spirits and when we recognize that we are connected to every star and every human face, we contemplate the mystery of God. When we soak ourselves in Scripture and let our hearts and minds be fashioned by Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we are in an intimate relationship with our loving God.

While all these may sound great, we actually balk when we come face to face with a reality that we wish would be otherwise, that we’d like to change, control or manipulate according to our own ideas, our own way of seeing things.

To be a contemplative -- and everyone has a built-in capacity to be one -- we must come to a profound self-knowledge that is both frightening and liberating. We learn to surrender and yield to a God whom we cannot understand most of the time but dare to trust. 

We let go. We believe God’s Word and we care for God’s world with no strings attached. We accept. We also let ourselves be like furrowed ground that lies in wait for the seeds of transformation, confident that God will bring these to fruition in us.

History of contemplative branch

In 1825, when Mary Euphrasia Pelletier was thinking of new ways of rebirthing God’s tender mercy, it came upon her that there were women who allowed themselves to be found by God and for whom God wanted the greatest gift that could ever be given, a life of intimacy and friendship such as Jesus had with his Father. 

Thus was Mary Euphrasia’s founding insight for the contemplative branch of the Good Shepherd congregation born. St. Mary Euphrasia made St. Mary Magdalen the model for her new contemplative community. She hoped that the sisters would pour out their lives to God and to others. She urged them to seek the one thing necessary - listening to the words of Jesus in true discipleship. 

Saint Mary Euphrasia dreamed that just as Mary Magdalen was the first apostle of the resurrection, her contemplatives would ever announce to all God’s reconciling love for everyone. Today the contemplatives hold Mary Euphrasia’s dream like a light in the night sky. 

Like her in 1825, we seek new ways of giving birth and giving flesh to God’s infinite care for all, but particularly to women and children cast off to the peripheries of our aching world. We choose to stand with women and children who suffer and we humbly join our own to their cries for deliverance to a God who saves. 

While we keep sacred space to nourish our relationship with God, we seek to understand how we can be a visible presence in our local church and be a sign of God’s immediacy and care. Watch a music video commemorating the 196th anniversary of the founding of the Contemplative Sisters.