"...Our work of retreats and catechesis would necessarily focus in the Catholic Faith, thus nourishing the Sisters' spiritual lives
as well as those of the people we serve." - Mother Mary Gabriel, Foundress
We, the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word, are a new community of religious women founded by Mother Mary Gabriel in 1987 with the apostolate of retreats and catechesis (the teaching of the Catholic Faith). As a community, we have dedicated ourselves to this apostolate because there is a great need in our time for catechesis and also for places that foster greater union with our Lord through prayer. As Catholics, it is critical for us to have both the personal relationship with God that develops through prayer, and also to have a good understanding of the teachings of the Catholic Faith, so that we can have a firm foundation upon which to build our moral and spiritual lives. In order to foster the joint growth of the spiritual life and understanding of Truth, it is important to occasionally attend a retreat and withdraw from the distractions of daily life. By attending a retreat we immerse ourselves more deeply in the presence of God, so as to be spiritually strengthened and to return to the world encouraged to live our Faith more zealously. Our community presents retreats in which the truths of the Faith are authentically taught, and which offer ample opportunities for reception of the sacraments and prayer, including daily Mass and the Rosary, as well as time for private prayer. We also operate a bookstore, providing educational and inspirational Catholic materials and religious items.
"Do not be afraid! You have nothing to fear, because God is the Lord of history and of the universe. Let grow in you the desire for great and noble projects...The more ready you are to give yourselves to God and to others, the more you will discover the authentic meaning of life.
God expects much of you! - Pope St. John Paul II
Before founding our community, Mother Mary Gabriel was a Dominican Sister of the congregation of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. She taught and administered schools at both the elementary and high school levels and served as vicar of her community, all of which prepared her for the joys and the crosses that are inevitable when beginning a new foundation. When Mother was asked about her studies and her earned degrees, she simply replied, "The letters after your name are worthless without the ST. [Saint] before it."
She always believed that for consecrated religious, God communicates His will through the superior, and it was in that way, through the request of her religious superiors, that He first began calling her to found a new community. Mother Mary Gabriel also knew the necessity of receiving the approval of the Church in order to affirm that one is acting in accord with God's will. After prayerful discernment she presented to the bishop of Birmingham, Alabama the inspiration for a new community dedicated to "teaching spiritual things spiritually" (1 Cor 2:13) through retreats and catechesis, and received permission to begin the new foundation. Over the next years, Mother Mary Gabriel began formulating the way of life of our community and was joined by her first companions in 1987. We received canonical status as consecrated women striving to live the evangelical counsels from Bishop Raymond J. Boland on January 1, 1993. By God's grace and with the help of many family and friends, we began to build our convent and retreat house that same year, and held our first retreat in the spring of 1996. Bishop David Foley approved our Constitutions on the feast of the Holy Trinity on June 7, 1998.
Mother Mary Gabriel passed away on July 23, 2017. Her authentic witness of poverty, chastity, and obedience for love of God alone is the example set for the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word as we faithfully carry on Mother's charism, spirit, and intentions given to her by God for the fruitfulness of this religious community.
"The external behavior of the Sister should reflect her esteem for the religious habit, always and everywhere, remembering the true simplicity and poverty of St. Francis of Assisi, who detached himself from the riches and glamour of this world." - Constitutions, written by Mother Mary Gabriel
As a religious community, we wear the habit as a visible sign of our consecration and as a witness to the life of poverty. Our habit reflects our Franciscan and Dominican heritage, consisting of a long white tunic with a brown cape, scapular and veil. We wear a rope cincture with three knots on our right side symbolizing our three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as worn by St. Francis, and a fifteen-decade rosary at our left side in honor of the Dominican tradition of praying the Holy Rosary. We also wear a crucifix on a cord around our necks, so that, as Mother Mary Gabriel has said, "no one can look at us without thinking of Christ." As part of the ceremony at which a Sister receives the habit, the superior instructs her, saying, "The Lord gives you this habit and invites you to wear it faithfully, ever remembering that it represents consecrated life in the Church. With Mary as your model and guide, pray that those who look at you will see humility, peace, joy, and charity. Allow your Sisters in Christ to see you and remember you as a woman of faith, courtesy and consistency. Always remember your final goal which is to become holy by doing your daily duty well."
"Look to the Lord and you will be radiant with joy." Psalm 34: 5
We are a small community, zealous in living out our religious life. We love our vows, community life, apostolate, and wearing the religious habit; we love our obedience to the Pope and to the Magisterium. Our religious life has one goal: the perfection of charity within the framework of a life consecrated to God.
Some people ask how we can give up the pleasures and possessions of the world and still be happy. It is an interesting question, considering that the same people recognize the joy and peace they witness in the Sisters. It is true that religious life involves sacrifice. However, just as married life involves a sacrificial gift of self, joyfully undertaken for the sake of union with one's spouse, in the same way, the sacrifices of religious life are undertaken for the sake of greater union with our Spouse, Jesus Christ — the Source of all our joy. This is the paradox of religious life: that by giving up the pleasures this world offers, the Lord allows us to experience, even now, a foretaste of the unending joys of Heaven.
Our daily life is never dull. We give ourselves wholly to God and His service, in whatever form that may take at a particular time. Our community's daily schedule is as follows:
Please Note: Daily Mass and all other prayers are private to the community and our retreat attendees.
Sunday Mass is at 11:00 AM and is open to the public.
|7:00||Office of Readings and Morning Prayer|
Available Continuing Theological Studies
Divine Mercy Chaplet
|5:15||Vespers and Rosary|
|8:15||Rosary and Night Prayers|