Sisters of the Living Word turn to video to get message out

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sisters of the Living Word Carrie Miller, Sharon Glumb, Kristine Vorenkamp and Georgene Schumacher work on a video Sept. 27 in Lake Forest. (Photo provided.)

When the Sisters of the Living Word founded their congregation in 1975, they wanted to “read the signs of the times” and meet the needs they saw in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

“That has been the thread of our life and our mission,” said Sister of the Living Word Carrie Miller, a member of the Arlington Heights-based congregation’s leadership team.

It’s a mission that has led the sisters to become active in arenas including housing and immigration, pastoral care, social work and spiritual direction.

That is still the sisters’ message, but they are looking for new ways to get it out.

To that end, several of the sisters spent a day in late September filming a 5-minute video that will be available online and be shown at various presentations and events.

“In today’s world, it’s the best way to get out the message of who we are,” said Sister of the Living Word Kristine Vorenkamp, a member of the congregation’s leadership team. “On Facebook and on the web, what draws people’s attention is video.”

The video, said Sister of the Living Word Carrie Miller, is an attempt to tell people “who we are and what we do.”

“It’s a reflection of our legacy, who we have been and what we hope to continue being and doing as long as we can,” Sister Carrie said.

The video, which was to feature six sisters telling the congregation’s story, was filmed in a vacant home in Lake Forest which the production company, Bitter Jester Studios, got permission to use. The script was written by Bitter Jesters after getting input from the sisters.

The sisters, all dressed in coordinating shades of teal and pink, got a crash course in what goes into making a video.

Sister Georgene Schumacher practiced reading the first lines from the script — “When 90 women simultaneously make the same choice, there must be a powerful dynamic at work”— more than a half-dozen times before any of it was taped. As she did, crew members adjusted the lighting to minimize glare from her glasses, advised her to slow down and use her hands, and checked the tracking of the camera.

“A lot more goes into it than you think,” said Sister of the Living Word Mary Nicholas Eiden. “Even finding the props is a major thing.”

Like many congregations, the Sisters of the Living Word are aging. There are 53 Sisters of the Living Word, with a median age of 80. Twelve to 15 need some level of nursing care; 15 are employed and getting paid for ministry. The rest generally continue ministry to the extent they are able on a volunteer basis.

“Religious life is going through a transformation,” Sister Carrie said. “It’s not going to look the way it has in the past.”

For example, Sister Carrie helped found Faith Community Homes, an organization formed by members of several religious groups, to help families in the northwest suburbs of Chicago avoid homelessness. While it advocated with suburban communities to create more affordable housing, it also recruited volunteers to work directly with families in precarious housing situations, helping them find community resources, develop life skills around budgeting and create plans to achieve independence and stability.

While Sister Carrie served on the board, several other sisters were volunteers, she said.

To adapt, sisters must continue working with laypeople and with members of other religious traditions.

“We have such years of experience,” Sister Kristine said. “We can use our voices to speak for those who don’t have a voice.”


  • women religious

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