Advertise with us


Nun speaks on conversion to Spiritual Motherhood of Priests conference

E-mail Print
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sister Ann Shields has a story about an airport experience
By Deborah GyapongSpiritual Motherhood of Priests co-founders Maria Nicastro and Maria Pirrone with Sister Ann Shields at a Sept. 27 conference for women who intercede in prayer for the sanctification of priests. Deborah Gyapong (CCN).Spiritual Motherhood of Priests co-founders Maria Nicastro and Maria Pirrone with Sister Ann Shields at a Sept. 27 conference for women who intercede in prayer for the sanctification of priests. Deborah Gyapong (CCN).

Sister Ann Shields, host of the popular radio program Food for the Journey, spoke on conversion of mind and heart at the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests' annual conference Sept. 27.

She opened with an anecdote of being storm-delayed in an airport and experiencing annoyance and frustration because she felt she had "important things to do." An inner prompting from God made her recognize the need to repent. She prayed, "I'm sorry for my irritation. I'm sorry for thinking I'm more important than all the people in the universe."

Her peace restored, Sister Shields headed for the bookstore, hoping to find a murder mystery to enjoy during the wait. She was the only person in the store except for a young man behind the cash register. He nodded at her, but did not smile. Then, while she was examining the mystery section, the man came over and asked, "Pardon me, may I ask you a question?"

"Who is God?" he asked. Sister Shields knew she only had a few seconds to answer because she could already hear more people arriving at the store. "God is your Father who is in heaven who loves you so much He gave you His only begotten Son, who died for you to save you from your sins," she said. "If you are baptized you have the Holy Spirit to guide you so you can be with Him forever."

"By God's mercy, I had the grace and the words to answer that question," she said. "How would you have answered that question?"

An understanding of the true Fatherhood of God is something "so badly lacking in North America and many other parts of the world," and so is the presence of good fathers, including good fatherly priests, she said.

Society needs the stability, protection, encouragement, and guidance that come from good fathers, she said. Those who have experienced absent or mean fathers are affected the rest of their lives.

Sister Shields said she was blessed with a good father. She recounted how her mother, who organized the church Christmas party and played the organ and piano, had lined her up to recite a poem at the event. As they drove there, her mother asked her 7-year-old daughter to practise reciting the poem, and she was so nervous she could not remember the lines.

Her father took her aside after they arrived and told her to look at the clock, and she would find him standing below it. He told her to recite the poem to him and she would "do just fine."

So, when the time came, she looked for the clock and standing in a pool of light below it, she saw her father and "recited the poem flawlessly."

At the age of 7 she had learned a powerful lesson that has stuck with her ever since, and gave her a picture of God's fatherly love as well: "My father would not take me out of a difficult situation, but he would be with me in them."

"That incident broke my fear," she told the 250 conference participants. "I wouldn't be before you now if that hadn't happened."

"If you don't have a good earthly father, it's hard to trust a heavenly Father," she said. She has had so many people come to her weeping, saying, "I never knew my father or my father was mean."

"We need good fathers, priests who know how to guide, to discipline and to love," she said.

Conversion of heart, of bringing one's faith from one's head to the heart so one truly grasps how "infinitely precious to God" each one of us is may require some "severe mercy" on the part of God, she said. At the same time, we must each come to know "how desperately" we need a Savior. "We cannot save ourselves. We are imperfect at best."

Sister Shields entered religious life in 1957, just before the ferment after the Second Vatican Council. She remembered meeting with a priest for spiritual direction after she had been in religious life for more than a decade. He knew her well. After she had recounted what she perceived as her shortcomings, she noticed he had his hand covering his eyes and his lips were moving silently. She realized he was praying. Then he asked her, "Are you sorry for anything you have said?" He then asked her to take some time to "think about how much in need of God's mercy you are."

It took her four months of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and asking for God's mercy for her to fully experience her need for mercy. "I thought I was doing everything right and therefore I deserved heaven," she said. "I don't. I am weak and sinful and make lots of mistakes. I need a Savior."

She realized she had been approaching her faith and even the sacraments like an ATM machine, where "you put your money in and get something back."

"Without Christ, I have no hope," she said. Little by little the encounter with that courageous priest began to bear fruit in her life. For those months she continually prayed, "Lord have mercy on me to help me know how much I need your mercy."

We can experience God's judgment when "He allows us to experience the fruit of our own decisions," she said.

"Conversion is necessary every day; sometimes many times a day," she said. "We get a shock, a surprise, someone gets angry at us and we think it's unfair or nobody talks to me---little things or much better things."

"To love God is to come to love to do His will," she said. She said she prays for help to say 'Yes' to the Father's will the way Jesus did. "It's amazing what God does for us when we acquiesce," she said.

The head may know the truth, but the big difference comes when the heart assents, "whatever it costs," she said. For Sister Shields, it took the "severe mercy" of a car accident to help her break her stubbornness and rebellion against God's will. She wept for a week when she realized He had allowed the accident to happen for her good, and that "God was merciful enough to be severe."

"There was no other way He could have gotten my attention," she said.

"You are living the greatest love story there is and most people don't realize this," she said.

Sister Shields praised the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests, an Ottawa-based apostolate founded in 2011 to intercede for the sanctification of priests and the formation of women in their true feminine spirituality.

"You are doing one of the most important works for the Church," she said, noting how their work of the intercessors is "unknown and unseen."

"That's exactly how the Blessed Mother works," she said. "So many priests come to me broken and wounded."

She recalled talking with a priest in Boston about the sexual abuse crisis. He told her that the Church was not experiencing a "crisis of sin but a crisis of saints."

"Pray for priests to become saints," she said. "Pray that you become saints. We are in great need of saints."

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 08:54  

Dear reader,

Due to an unmanageable amount of spam and abusive messages, we are no longer able to offer the comment function on our website. We respect the principle of public debate and remain committed to it. Please send us a note at and visit us in the near future when we have finished building our new website — at which point the comment function will be restored.

Kind regards,

The B.C. Catholic






Salt and Light Webcast
  Courtesy of Salt & Light Television

Click image to watch Video
Medieval Gem - UBC acquires papal bull

Click image to watch Video
Paul Goo's Diaconate Ordination

Click image to watch Video
Thank You John Paul II



4885 Saint John Paul II Way Vancouver BC V5Z 0G3   Phone: 604 683 0281 Fax: 604 683 8117
© The B.C. Catholic

Informing Catholics in Canada since 1931