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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

120817 daughtersGASTONIA — Clergy of the Diocese of Charlotte have a powerhouse of prayer in the growing community of the Daughters of the Virgin Mother.

The community, formed by Sister Mary Raphael and approved by Bishop Peter Jugis in 2015, attends to the practical and spiritual needs of men preparing for the priesthood, as well as those already ordained.

The community now includes two novices: Sister Mary Elizabeth and Sister Mary Veronica. A postulant, Taylor Marie Halbig, joined the community eight months ago.

That growth prompted the Daughters to search for a permanent home, and through the generosity of donors, they bought a small home on Belvedere Avenue in Gastonia last August.

Pictured: The Daughters of the Virgin Mother attended the land blessing for St. Joseph College Seminary Oct. 22 in Belmont. Pictured are (from left) Father Matthew Kauth, seminary rector; Bishop Peter Jugis; Sister Mary Raphael; Sister Mary Elizabeth; Sister Mary Veronica; and Taylor Marie Halbig, a postulant. (SueAnn Howell | Catholic News Herald)

The group’s charism and mission are in response to a 2007 appeal issued by the Congregation for the Clergy to spur a movement of prayer in the Church intended to encourage priestly vocations as well as unite priestly vocations to the support of spiritual maternity, particularly on the part of consecrated women religious.

Through much prayer, spiritual direction and discernment, Sister Mary Raphael – who spent many years discerning religious life cloistered as a Poor Clare of Perpetual Adoration – heard the call to form the community to provide care for bishops, priests and seminarians under the patronage of Our Lady, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, and of St. John Paul II.

“Feeling a call to respond to that initiation, over the course of years I sought spiritual direction,” Sister Mary Raphael says. “What evolved was this rule of life that says how consecrated women religious of the Diocese of Charlotte can respond to this call.

“I think that’s an important aspect. Just as a young man feels called to a diocese, a local Church, I also felt called to a local Church. This rule is written for sisters in the Diocese of Charlotte.”

The community’s rule of life centers on living in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary through their consecrated life, spiritual motherhood and prayerful penance, Sister Mary Raphael says. They strive to be visible reminders and witnesses of the relationship between Christ the High Priest and His bride, the Church.

Their rule revolves around Calvary and the priest as both priest and victim, she explains. “If the priest is the alter Christus, called to stay on the Cross, then you have Our Lady at the foot of the Cross. The consecrated religious woman is meant to imitate her.

“You have Christ the High Priest offering the sacrifice. Like Our Lady, we want to say to the priest, ‘Stay on the Cross where you belong.’ Why do I have the audacity to say that? Because I promise to stay on Calvary, too.”

The community strives to encourage seminarians of the diocese through prayer and practical help where possible.

The Daughters wear a habit carefully selected to reflect their Marian charism. The main part of the habit is white, signifying Our Lady’s purity and their call to chastity. The tichel, or head piece, is also white and resembles what Our Lady would have worn. The veil is a deep, midnight Marian blue, as is the fascia (a long sash worn around the waist).

“The Daughters also wear a medal of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. It is in and through Cor ad Cor – the pierced and Sacred Heart of Jesus and the pierced and Immaculate Heart of Mary – that the members of the Daughters are formed in the charism to which they are called,” Sister Mary Raphael explains. “Meditating upon and growing in devotion to the Two Hearts impels each Sister towards greater love and unreserved self-giving.”

As part of their initial training in the postulancy and the novitiate, the Daughters assist mothers and children at the MiraVia residential home at Belmont Abbey College by preparing meals, assisting with child care and providing love and emotional support.

Sister Mary Raphael also prepares meals four days a week for the 16 men studying at St. Joseph College Seminary. After the sisters make their first profession, they too will assist in the practical needs of the college seminary, currently located adjacent to St. Ann Church in Charlotte.

Sister Mary Raphael notes that while living as visible witnesses, the Daughters do so in recognition that a woman most profoundly gives of herself through the veiled mystery of silence, hiddenness and gentle availability.

“She watches for the needs around her, but does not forcefully impose herself on them. Always ready to respond in joyful evangelical availability and humble readiness to assist in the needs of the priests and seminarians, she also is docile to the powerful surrender that gave Our Lady the grace and courage to say, ‘Do whatever He tells you’ (John 2:5).”

— SueAnn Howell, senior reporter. Daughters of the Virgin Mother contributed.

Help the Daughters of the Virgin Mother

At www.daughtersofthevirginmother.com: Get more information on the Daughters of the Virgin Mother or offer financial assistance to help them pay off their mortgage and provide practical support to the priests and seminarians of the Diocese of Charlotte. Donations may also be mailed to: Daughters of the Virgin Mother, Our Lady of Loreto Convent, 1112 S. Belvedere Ave., Gastonia, NC, 28054. Questions? Email Sister Mary Raphael at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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