Welcome to our Sisterhood Series! It’s our birthday month, and we are celebrating by introducing you to some of the beautiful women in our community. We can’t wait for you to meet them.
Hi Jenn! Tell us a bit about who you are and where you’re from! //
My name is Jenn Bartley. I live in the suburbs of Chicago in a town called Westmont. I am 52 years old and have been married to my husband Brian for 28 Years this September. I have four children: Jake, who is married my beloved daughter-in-law, Kate; Joe; Bethany; and Nate. I have been the Director of Youth Ministry at my parish for nine years. I was blessed to have all my children and their friends go through our program over the years.
What is your favorite way to pray? //
My favorite way to pray is what I call soaking prayer.
This style of prayer has evolved for me over the last few years. I would define soaking prayer as a time that is set apart, mostly in the mornings, to sit with the Lord in Scripture, surrendering and revealing my heart to Him until I feel His presence.
It takes time and space. My life is full and very blessed but I find that when I don’t set this time aside I burn out from relying on my own strength. This doesn’t happen every day, but I try to set the time aside at least once a week. I find that that soaking gives me the grace to know that the Lord is with me in all that He calls me to do in my family and ministry.
And when I start to feel the absence of His presence, I know it is time to soak again.
Why is community important to you? How has it felt when you have had good community? //
My husband and I belong to a monastic-based community called The Brothers and Sisters of Charity founded by John Michael Talbot. When we were young adults, we were involved in a retreat ministry that really showed us how important community was. We desired to walk with others in our faith journey beyond the retreat ministry. We found other young adults who desired the same things we did, mostly to raise our families together in an intentional faith community.
We spent two years discerning what that might look like. At the end of that discernment time seven families moved to Westmont within one year all within a one mile radius of the parish we desired to join.
The Brothers and Sisters of Charity seemed to be the right community for our families. The Monastery is located in Berryville, Arkansas and has celibate brothers and sisters living there as well as families. This community was able to minister to our whole family. We live a monastic way of life as domestic members out in the world. It’s been a blessing beyond measure. You can read more about our community here.
What about something about what a friend has done in your life that has radically changed your life? //
I believe joining community opened my heart up to the idea of sisterhood in a way I never experienced before. I did not have a sister growing up. But when I joined community, the Lord hand-picked women that I would journey with. These women may not have been the ones I would have picked, but the Lord knew they were the sisters I needed.
In our community, we make promises to try to live poverty (needs before wants), chastity, and obedience according to our way of life. These vows for the monastic members are more intense than the domestics promises. It calls us to live a simple life keeping our hearts and minds always fixed on Jesus, and not on the world. “Monastic” comes from the word mono which reminds us that we are to be alone with God. My sisters have been a great source of encouragement, example and accountability to living this way of life. They help me to keep my eyes on Jesus and we learn together how to love Him better every day.
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What is the biggest quality you look for in a close friend? //
My close friends help me to keep Jesus my top priority. They also help me see myself as He sees me. And when I stray from that they are faithful to remind me who I am to Him.
That support and encouragement is priceless.
What kind of friend do you hope to be? //
I try to be that kind of friend to all I meet. I want people to know Jesus better from knowing me and my love for Him. I want others to know that if they come to me they can count on me to turn them to Jesus. I long for everyone know that they are beloved to the Father.
Tell us about a time a friend led you closer to Jesus. //
When I was 19, my mom invited me to the retreat ministry I mentioned before. I was in a bad place. My parents divorced when I was a sophomore and my world fell apart. I felt like everything they had taught me was a lie. I pushed away from them and the Church. I was hurting so badly but wouldn’t let anyone into that pain.
On this retreat, I heard the Gospel preached by my peers in a way that I had never heard before after attending Catholic school for 10 years. One of the girls that was leading my small group really went out of her way to make me feel seen and known. I had never had anyone in my life pursue and invest in me the way she did—not only on the retreat, but after for many years. Her love was a direct reflection of the Father’s love for me. We remained friends since then and we both, with our families, joined the community I mentioned earlier.
The Lord gave me a life long friend and sister to walk through the rest of my life with. He is such a faithful Father to provide what He knows we need to stay close to Him.
Now we want to hear about YOU! Answer one or any of the questions in the comments below.