The most powerful woman in the world

July 5, 2010 | 26 comments

This is my new friend, Sister Joeine Darrington, whom I met during the couple of days we stayed with the Benedictine Sisters:

She came over and sat with us during our meals with the sisters, and it was so much fun to chat with her. She’s 96 years old and has been a Benedictine Sister for around 75 years! We talked about how religious life has changed over the decades, what it was like after the sisters stopped wearing habits in the 1960’s, and all about the work they do with the elderly and the homeless. I was touched when she told me that she’d just finished writing thank-you notes to her doctor and dentist. “I was worried that they get complaints more than encouragement, and wanted to tell them how much I appreciate what they do, ” she explained.

We spent a long time talking, but one thing she said stood out to me more than anything else:

She mentioned that each morning before she goes into the chapel, she carefully reads every single new prayer request, and then she prays for them at Mass and throughout the day. The sisters have a large book lying open in one of their main halls; it looks like a guest registry, but it’s actually a log for prayer requests. All the sisters pray for these intentions, but Sister Joeine emphasized how seriously she takes them. She spoke of her dedication to those prayers the way an investment banker might speak of his work on a multi-million-dollar corporate merger.

Her tone had been light and jovial, but she turned serious when she talked about prayer. “You know, prayer is very important, ” she said.

Though Sister Joeine is in excellent health, as a nonagenarian she has had to slow down a bit. She mentioned that she doesn’t do as much work as she used to do, she can’t move quite as quickly as she used to, and I noticed that she uses a walker to get around. But when I considered how much time she is now able to devote to prayer, it suddenly occurred to me: This is a very powerful woman!

Especially after I set aside the first part of an afternoon solely to pray for your intentions in the chapel at Mt. Angel Abbey, I believe more than ever that there’s something special about focused prayer time. I know that the “prayers of the trenches” offered up in the chaos of daily life are great too for those of us who don’t have lots of time for silence, but it is a unique gift to be able to pour all of your love and attention into one prayer for one specific person.

I thought of all the times that other people’s prayers have impacted my own life (some examples here, here and here), and I was awed by what Sister Joeine does every day. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet could have pulled up chairs next to me, and I would have thought, “Wow! I can’t believe I’m hanging out with someone as powerful and influential as Sister Joeine!”

It’s funny how my perspective has changed since my conversion. In my old view I would have still seen my new friend as charming, witty, intelligent and an overall lovely person — but “powerful” is probably not a word that would have come to mind. Yet now that I am aware of the economy of love, where one person close to God really can change the world, I realize that my 96-year-old friend is a one-woman army; in fact, she’s one of the most powerful people I’ve ever met.


  1. Ruth Ann

    Jennifer, how wonderful you perceived what you did about Sister Joeine!

    I am a Lay Carmelite. The charism of our Order is prayer. Yet, there are times when it's tempting to forgo prayer time because, well, I'm not in the mood or for other reasons. But I've promised God that I will pray, and I want to be faithful to my public promise. This story about Sister Joeine inspires me. I like the idea of the book for writing intentions and beginning each prayer time with studying who or what needs my prayers.

  2. elizabeth

    What a beautiful entry, Jennifer!
    Thank you too for praying for me – us, during your retreat. She (and you) are powerful reminders that we are not here for ourselves.
    God Bless!

  3. GrandmaK

    Wonderful post. I have been privileged to know many "most powerful women in the world." God be praised for their fidelity!!! Cathy

  4. Abigail

    I love this post!

  5. Julie C

    Jennifer, I highly recommend the book Secrets of a Prayer Warrior by Derek Prince. He explains exactly why pray-ers are the people who hold the power in the world, how to pray "through" situations, how to pray in God's will, how our duty is to pray first for our governments. I keep this book beside my Bible now, as a reference used almost daily, it is that good. And I am a Catholic!

  6. Jennifer

    Oh I love it! Great story. I love her dedication and her strength. What a blessing to have met such a powerful and wonderful woman!!


  7. Jamie

    What a beautiful portrait of a powerful woman. I am moved to take my intentions in prayer a bit more seriously. Perhaps I should start my own log?

    I wonder, Jen, if you made it through the 50+ pages of prayer requests. I couldn't bring my self to add my own intentions to your list. Instead, I decided to pray for you during your brave undertaking.

  8. Liesl

    Great post! I have spent so much more time in the past year in prayer and what an impact it has had on my life! I can see the change in myself in every day life, and it just amazes me – sometimes, all we have to do is ask for something and we receive it!

    And thank you so much for praying for our intentions. I know it was a long list but I think my intention to pray for my roommate situation to work out has really helped – I found someone that I think I will get along with and will be a great roommate, so I am very thankful for everyone who prayed for me.

  9. Jennifer @ Conversion Diary

    Julie C –

    This is weird: I've approved your comment about Secrets of a Prayer Warrior both times you posted it, but for some reason it's not going through. So weird! I guess Blogger is having commenting issues today.

    Jamie –

    Thanks so much for your prayers, and yes, I did get through all 50 pages!

  10. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    That we would all pray like this.

    That I would fully see how, indeed, in God's upside-down kingdom, the meek are the truly powerful.

    Grace and peace to you …

  11. Anonymous

    Unrelated, but I found this site and thought of your previous posts about prayer. Have you seen ? Very nice way to help make sure some time is set aside each day, even the crazy one.

  12. Claire

    I love this story. Thank you for introducing us to Sister Joeine. When I pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at night I try to remember to add the name of everyone I know who is either very sick or could use extra Grace.

    I will join Jaime in praying for you as you pray for your intentions, and I will add Sister Joeine's intentions also. I need to update the log I was using to keep all the names straight.

    My mother was a prayer warrior also. It seemed that whatever/whomever she prayed for improved, etc. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year (mid-June) and her prayers became all the more powerful. She definitely had a child-like devotion to Mary and our Lord.

    I love stories such as these. Thank you again for sharing.

  13. Lana

    I like the idea of Joerine as "powerful," but I don't like the idea of "army." I know that militaristic concepts have not been uncommon throughout Christianity, but I am uncomfortable with them. (sorry to pick on you.)
    It might be a metaphor that we can understand, since war has been a part of the human experience for, like, ever. I still cring, though.

  14. Tina Fisher

    Awesome post! So glad you've shared your visit with us.

    I am going to start keeping a small notebook with me to keep prayer requests. 😉 Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. Anonymous

    Thanks for the beautiful post. I "know" prayer is so important but I often let it slide. I'm inspired by this lady to take it more seriously.

    I loved the picture in Friday's post explaining how to deal with difficult guests!!!

    Congratulations on finishing your book.


  16. breadgirl

    Hello Jennifer
    This is a lovely post. I agree with you completely. This dear Sister is a very powerful lady, may God bless her. I have know several wonderful women like her. At present, I have a beautiful friend, a former teacher. She is a Presentation Sister and she celebrated her 91st Birthday on 30th June. She has fought many battles, including cancer, but she is always pleasant, happy and serene. She told me she is just so content and at peace and although she isn't as active as she used to be, she is grateful to God because she can now spend her time praying for her family, friends and the needs of the world. She is one heck of a woman! Your lovely Sister Joeine reminds me of my friend. We are so very blessed to know such people! Thanks for sharing this very lovely post. God bless you.

  17. Ute

    Dear Jen,

    thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us.

    Dear Lana,

    I can totally understand where you are coming from. I was raised in a VERY pacifistic German family, but happened to fall in love with an American soldier (and married him. And I have two children with him.) I hate war. No one knows how detestable war is until you or your loved one has been there. But we ARE the church militant. Which means – according to Church teaching – (see {whose author Kevin Knight is one of the most respectable men I know, besides my husband of course}) that we are the visible members of the family of Christ. No, we don't always agree with the rest of our brothers and sisters. And yes, sometimes it gets ugly. But we are fighting!! Fighting against evil. Fighting to make a stand against indifference. Fighting to expand the kingdom of the Lord. And prayer happens to be one of the most powerful weapons in this war. Thank God for Sister Joeine and all her fellow warriors in prayer. May all our warriors and "civilans" in prayer end up winning the ultimate price: Fellowship in the kingdom of the Lord. And may God bless you in every way! Love and Peace,

  18. Jess

    This is such a pertinent post for me, I have been emailing lately with an atheist friend about the purpose of prayer.

  19. Anonymous

    Thanks for this.

  20. Dorian Speed

    I've enjoyed your posts about the abbey and was tooling around its website a bit. It looks so lovely.

    In related news, I have challenged you to a Nun-Off.

  21. Erin @ Sky Blue Pink Roses

    Thank you for praying for my intention. My husband and I were approved to adopt through the foster care system in March and we've been waiting to be matched with a child. We got "the call" yesterday! Because of this little boy's situation and certain characteristics of our family, we are considered to be the best family of all those currently waiting to adopt through our local agency. If you're inspired by your prayer success, please pray that the adoption process will go smoothly.

  22. coffeemom

    fantastic post.

  23. Sara

    beautiful post. thank you for sharing!

  24. Shannon

    I've been lucky enough to have two communities of religious women praying for people in prison. At communion services, we invite offenders to write down their needs and intentions on small slips of paper. Those pieces of paper are sent to the Carmelites and the Franciscans. I've been in the chapel at the Franciscans home where I see a basket holding hundreds of prayer requests. And quite often, there's a sister sitting nearby going through them one by one.

    I also have a special book that holds the names of people who have died. Often offenders were not able to attend the funeral, but part of the ritual in the chapel was to have the friend or relative write the name of the one who'd died. The book was part of the altar in November, but always available in my office. It wasn't uncommon for a man to come to my office and say, "I need your book" and then write down a name before he was ready to tell the story.

    Those little slips of paper were also a way of entrusting the prayers to God, putting them in the "God Box" meant not obsessing about them, or trying to work out how God would answer them

  25. Dorian Speed

    Those little slips of paper were also a way of entrusting the prayers to God, putting them in the "God Box" meant not obsessing about them, or trying to work out how God would answer them

    I've never thought about it that way – I really like that. So often, when I am praying for a specific person, I find myself praying "for so-and-so, that…" and then telling God what He needs to make happen. I don't mean this in regard to intentions involving illness or other situations where I think it's fine to pray for healing. But when I'm praying for my children or other people in my life, I have that tendency to write prescriptions for them.

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