By JOANNE FOX
Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, laughed when asked what characteristics she possessed that led to her Twitter handle @onegroovynun.
“I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where all we did was drink coffee and wear flannel,” she quipped.
This One Groovy Nun will be the keynote speaker for the 22nd Annual Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools. The dinner will take place Oct. 21, at the Sioux City Convention Center.
Following her high school graduation, Sharon Heidland earned a full scholarship to the University of Nevada-Reno where she played Division I volleyball and majored in communications.
“My dream was to work for ESPN, so I tell people I became a nun because Erin Andrews stole my job,” she said, referencing the sports commentator.
The young woman continued to excel as an athlete in college, became quite the party-goer and looked forward to future employment.
“My life looked perfect, but there was a lot of brokenness,” she said. “What I found out was you can’t run from yourself.”
God intervened by sending a priest from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity into the life of Sister Miriam. He recommended she make a retreat in New Mexico to “find” herself.
“I had every intention of finding a job and climbing the media ladder,” she admitted. “However, it was there I heard God calling me to the consecrated life.”
Sister Miriam James joined the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and made her first profession in 2002. The order is a missionary community that serves global areas of deepest apostolic need; the order also serves the Diocese of Sioux City at Domus Trinitatis in Willey.
Sister Miriam spent formation time at various SOLT missions including Rome, Seattle and Texas. She professed final vows at St. Alphonsus Parish in Seattle on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2007.
“I didn’t grow up around sisters, so I was surprised to discover how shockingly normal they were,” she said.
In addition to speaking gigs, Sister Miriam’s apostolates have included working with elementary school students, day-care pupils, parish ministry, co-hosting a Catholic radio program and coaching volleyball at an Indian reservation in North Dakota.
“Because I was viewed as an anomaly, I was interviewed by the newspaper,” she said. “When I moved to Seattle to work with our novices (women in their first year of novitiate), I was asked to speak at a conference about my story.”
What Sister Miriam discovered was people “starving” for a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“At that first conference, I talked about my brokenness, my sorrow, my hopes and my dreams, but I shared my encounter with the Living God,” she said. “It wasn’t really about me, but a ‘want’ for an encounter with the Living God.”
The nun’s relationship with Twitter started about five years ago.
“I liked the idea behind it, so I was trying to come up with a catchy handle that would convince others to follow me,” she said. On Twitter, Sister Miriam professes to be a “lover of Jesus, sports, reading, beauty and coffee.”
Another way Sister Miriam is visible is the distinctive gray and white habit the SOLT sisters wear.
“I’ve got a lot of airport stories,” she admitted. “People approach me and ask me to pray for a child who has fallen away from the church or some other need in their lives.”
Sister Miriam called those encounters a “tremendous responsibility.”
“I am a visible sign to them,” she said. “I consider it an honor if they want to talk.”
Although Sister Miriam was quick to qualify, “it isn’t all about me,” she did acknowledge there was joy associated with her apostolate of speaking at seminars, retreats and conferences.
“I bring Christ to people with an openness of heart,” she said. “When I see them transformed during a talk and ready to work on their relationship with Christ and a new perception of what that means. I love when God speaks to them. It illustrates the power of Christ’s love.”
The Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools serves as the single largest fundraiser benefiting 16 Catholic school systems throughout Northwest Iowa.
“I didn’t have the honor of attending Catholic schools, so consequently, I didn’t have a chance to fall in love with Jesus,” she said. “Academic excellence is important, but only in a Catholic school can you have that ‘heart’ encounter with Jesus Christ.”
Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased at scdiocese.org or by calling the Diocese of Sioux City at (712) 255-7933.