National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  December 12, 2003

Pegi Olson
-- P. Lefevere
Callers turn cares over to sisters

Pegi Olsen works at the reception desk at St. Rose’s Convent in La Crosse, Wis. Each day she types the dozens of prayer requests that are sent to the Franciscan Sisters of Adoration, who have undertaken 24/7 non-stop devotion to the Blessed Sacrament for 125 years.

Requests have averaged 200 per week in the weeks leading up to and after the 125th anniversary celebrations in August. New petitions are added to the list daily and are prayed for hourly over seven consecutive days.

In most of the three years that Olsen has worked for the sisters, illnesses such as cancer and heart problems have headed the list of concerns. But lately many requests have surfaced over unemployment and the need to find ways to support a family without a job. People are getting desperate about the work situation, Olsen said.

Since the 9/11 attacks, Olsen has also noted more requests related to security and the political climate. Callers have sought prayers for their safety when traveling, especially abroad.

“It’s really amazing to hear the relief in their voices when they turn it over and they know the sisters will be praying for them,” said Olsen, an Episcopalian, who calls her job “very humbling.” Despite having had troubles in her life, “nothing is as bad as the trials and tribulations and the stories of suffering and endurance” she’s heard from callers.

Olsen assures caretakers who call for their loved ones that the sisters will pray for the caregiver as well and she takes their names.

Her most unusual call came from a mother who had recently lost her daughter and was beside herself with grief, the more so since she disagreed with her children’s decision to donate their sister’s organs. Olsen, who received a heart transplant nine years ago, could not hold back.

“I told her ‘I’m alive because in someone’s darkest hour they did something so generous. Your daughter’s life will touch many people because of this gift,’ ” said Olsen. “I think I was meant to take that call.”

She describes some of the sisters at adoration as “so serene in repose before the exposed presence” that they almost look like they’re asleep. “Call it ‘essence,’ ‘chi,’ ‘energy’ or ‘the Holy Spirit.’ These women are open to all of that. It runs through them,” Olsen said, adding that many of the adorers are involved in Reike treatments, massage therapy and healing touch work.

“The sisters have it all and live it. … They are the quiet power in town,” she said.

-- Patricia Lefevere

National Catholic Reporter, December 12, 2003

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