These are the questions that Regnum Christi member Donna McCall, who has two teenage daughters, recently faced. Unlike most girls their age, Donna’s daughters, ages 14 and 16, were fortunate to have daily contact with nuns, having attended a school run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, and spend time with the Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. These early experiences created in her girls a desire to learn more about religious orders, so Donna decided to organize a “Nun-Run,” where girls could visit several different religious orders in just a few days.
Donna and her daughters enlisted the help of Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, Natalia Santos, who serves as the ECYD Girls Director in Atlanta. Together, the two contacted religious orders in the area, and eventually arranged to visit five different congregations in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Free lodging was provided by generous Regnum Christi families in the Nashville and Birmingham areas, who offered up their home or paid for hotel accommodations for the group. In the end, Donna and Natalia, with the help of a mom who generously offered to drive the group in her 15-passenger van, took five girls to five different religious orders in three different states over three and a half days.
The Nun-Run began on Friday morning at the home of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in Cumming, Georgia, with Mass and breakfast. From there, the group headed to Nashville, Tennessee, to visit the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. Upon arrival, they went on a tour of the Motherhouse and learned about the order’s over 150-year history. Following the tour, the girls visited, asked questions, and heard the vocation story of one of the sisters, all over cookies. The group spent evening prayers with the sisters before heading to their first host family’s home for dinner.
On Saturday morning, after delicious blueberry muffins provided by their Regnum Christi host family, the group travelled south to the Casa Maria Convent and Retreat House of the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in Irondale, Alabama. This being a retreat weekend at the convent, the girls got to see the sisters’ Franciscan and Dominican faith in action, and participated in confession, Mass, communal prayer, adoration, and a retreat talk, which, providentially, focused on following God’s plan for one’s life. They also received a tour of the property and learned about the community’s history, and during lunch and dinner with the sisters, the girls heard vocation stories and had an opportunity to ask questions.
Sunday morning took the group to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama to meet with Sister Mary Jacinta, Vocations Director of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. Here, the group was blessed to speak with a cloistered nun, who surprised them all when she pulled out her laptop to share a picture presentation she had created for them about daily life in the cloister. Before leaving the monastery, they visited the grave of Mother Angelica, who herself was a nun of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, walked the grounds of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and prayed at the replica of the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes there.
The group headed back to Georgia in time for Sunday evening Mass, after which they returned to the consecrated women’s home where the girls baked cookies with the consecrated and had dinner. They also had the opportunity to hear vocation stories and ask questions, have a tour of the home, and experience adoration and night prayers with the community, as well as stay the night in one of the rooms where the Regnum Christi missionaries live during the year.
On Monday morning, the group headed to the Gift of Grace House in downtown Atlanta, a home for women suffering from AIDS run by the Missionaries of Charity. Here, the girls visited the AIDS home and visited with patients. They also prayed in the chapel, held a relic of St. Teresa of Calcutta, toured the grounds, and were able to spend time with one of the sisters, who shared her vocation testimony and many entertaining stories about life as a Missionary of Charity and her encounters with Mother Teresa. After their visit at the Gift of Grace House, the group returned to the consecrated women’s home for Mass before heading home.
For Donna, the highlight of this activity-filled trip was watching the girls have potentially and fundamentally life-changing encounters with Christ. “Regardless of why these five girls came, they left spiritually changed in a very beautiful way, and whether or not any of these girls end up joining a religious order, this was a trip of a lifetime, and it will stay with them all of their lives,” says Donna. “For these five girls, nuns, consecrated, and religious sisters are no longer just some super holy women – they’re really cool regular people who have a deep personal relationship with Christ and who fully and completely give themselves to God.”
Since the first weekend-long Nun-Run, plans for more are already in the works, and at the end of June, Donna accompanied a group of eight young women on the first Nun-Run day trip, facilitated by Sister Mariam of the Hawthorne Dominicans of St. Rose of Lima. The group visited Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in downtown Atlanta, where the sisters care for terminally ill cancer patients who cannot afford care elsewhere. The group toured the hospital and grounds, talked with patients, and had a Holy Hour, and then had lunch with the sisters where they were able to learn more about the order, ask questions, and hear vocation stories, including the testimony from one sister was once a blackjack dealer in Vegas!
And Donna is not stopping there – she feels a great call to continue the Nun-Run ministry, and plans to host at least three day trips and one weekend trip every year. “There is a great need for young ladies to experience religious orders,” says Donna. “It is so hard in today’s society to not feel weird or out of place when seeking God’s will, and seeing others doing the same thing helps the girls feel less alone. They can talk with each other about their shared experiences, and help each other along the way.”
Although the nun-runs are an excellent opportunity for girls to experience religious life and can be a step in their process of discerning what vocation God is calling them to, Donna believes that the journey of discernment begins at home. “I think one of the most important things, besides taking our kids to adoration and praying as a family, is simply making vocations a normal option for our children,” says Donna. “We prepare them for the sacrament of marriage daily because they see that lived out in the home. We talk with them about their careers, and we take them on college tours or help them find a trade school or a military recruitment office. But very few families think to introduce their kids to religious orders, or take them to monasteries or convents, and chances are, the kids never thought about it because no one ever asked them. It’s important that we introduce them to this possibility.”
Donna and her husband, Chris, have been married for 21 years, and have five children ages 15 months to 16 years. Both having grown up as Air Force brats, Donna and Chris had lived numerous places throughout their lives, before meeting in Virginia and settling down in Georgia, where they now live in Canton, just north of Atlanta. A few years after their marriage, Donna converted to the Catholic faith, and she joined Regnum Christi in 2018.
Donna would love to see the Nun-Run ministry spread across North America! If you are interested in hosting a Nun-Run in your own area and would like some advice on how to get started, feel free to contact Donna at email@example.com.