Now in religious formation with Pro Ecclesia Sancta (PES), Sister Leann Luecke and her sibling, Lynn Luecke (soon to be Sister Lynn), first heard the call to religious life while in high school. At the time, neither was ready to respond. After graduation, they went on to college – Sister Leann to the University of St. Thomas in 2010, and Lynn, the younger of the two, to St. Catherine’s University a year later. Both became immersed in Catholic Studies at St. Thomas and chose the field of study as their minors. They found in Catholic Studies a deeply formational experience as well as a community that supports vocations to both religious life and holy marriages and offers opportunities to cultivate and live the faith.
“I grew in my relationship with the Lord through prayer, daily Mass, holy hours and being surrounded by role models who encouraged me to grow in holiness,” Sister Leann said. “This solid foundation and deeper relationship with the Lord is what helped me be able to say yes to the plan God has for me.”
For Lynn, her fall 2012 semester in Rome with her sister was instrumental in preparing for her vocation. The opportunity to witness an inspiring and supportive community of faithful men and women who also were seeking to hear and answer the Lord’s call was especially important.
This “really helped me to grow closer to the Lord,” she said, “and coming back from that trip I wanted to start having spiritual direction and receiving a more structured formation.” It was also during that semester that she and her sister first heard of PES from a friend and fellow Rome participant.
A Peruvian religious order, PES has been expanding rapidly since its founding in 1992, including establishing a community in 2009 at the Church of St. Mark in St. Paul, which is just up the road from Sitzmann Hall. Upon their return from Rome, Sister Leann and Lynn were able to meet and begin formation with the PES sisters who serve there. They were attracted to the sisters’ love of the Lord and the joy that they radiated, as well as the order’s charism: to live and promote holiness in the Church so that “Christ may reign, so that his Heart may reign to the greatest glory of the Trinity.”
“PES gives people the opportunities, the guidance and the community that they need to grow in their faith. I was really impressed by their love for the Lord, their ability to share that love with others and to help others grow in their love for the Lord,” Sister Leann said.
In June 2014, Sister Leann entered PES and, after spending a year living with the sisters in their convent in St. Paul, began her first of four years of formation in Lima, Peru, this past summer. Lynn began formation with the order this past August. After finishing her first year here in St. Paul, she will join her sister in Peru next summer. Not only are Sister Leann and Lynn the first biological sisters to enter the order, they are also two of the first U.S. vocations – Sister Leann is, in fact, the first.
Fueled by the mission to remind people in all states of life of their call to holiness, the majority of PES’ apostolate is faith formation for the laity. As such, their pastoral work consists primarily of offering retreats; leading small groups and Bible studies; providing spiritual direction and sacramental preparation; teaching in schools; and serving in rural and urban missions, a cancer home and campus ministries at universities.
The main way they carry out this ministry is through their secular movement, Catholic Advance. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart, lay members join the consecrated men and women of PES in living out the interior life program, the Seven Basic Points, which was established by the order’s founder, Father Pablo Menor, SJ.
The establishment of a PES community in St. Paul has been immensely dynamic not only for the parishioners of St. Mark’s but also for the Catholic Studies community. In addition to being a popular place for students to attend Sunday Mass and Eucharistic adoration, St. Mark’s calls upon CSMA students to give regular lectures on Catholic thought and culture for its “Catholic Studies at St. Mark’s” program. Father Humberto Palamino, PES, the pastor of St. Mark’s, says Mass once a week in Sitzmann Hall’s Albertus Magnus Chapel and also offers confessions and spiritual direction. He and the brothers serve as spiritual advisers for the Catholic Men’s Leadership program while the PES sisters assist with Catholic Women’s Leadership program.
“There is such a desire for PES’ work,” Lynn said. “The Lord has a big plan for this order, and they are always striving to faithfully follow the will of God and share his love with everyone they encounter.” Both Sister Leann and Lynn are overjoyed to have been invited by the Lord to join PES in the mission to remind people of the love that Christ has for them and the promises he makes when we are faithful to him.