Meet the #MediaNuns who are spreading the word of God through one piece of media at a time.
The sisters at Pauline Books and Media Centre are happy to assist customers in selecting a gift for a sacramental occasion or simply offering a word of good faith, either way, you will leave the book centre feeling enlightened and at peace.
The sisters, who live in the upstairs part of the building, have operated out of their Dufferin Street location for over 50 years. There are 13 book centre throughout the U.S. and Canada including the Toronto location. Their mission is to utilize all forms of media as a way of evangelization and spreading the word of God.
Blessed James Alberione, founded the Daughters of St. Paul and the entire Pauline Family at the turn of the 20th century. He observed the power of the press and newspapers to reach and move the masses.
“In our constitution, it basically says ‘and whatever means that technology will develop,’ so now we are all over the internet,” said Sr. Catherine Bernadette Bennett, FSP, local superior. “We got into DVDs and video and all of that but in the 1900s, those weren’t even in existence.”
Pauline Books and Media Centre offers a wide selection of religious books, bibles, DVDs, CD’s as well as gift items for sacraments like baptisms, first communions and confirmations. Anything for religious functions and church use can be found at the store.
Their recently launched web store consists mostly of the published works by the sisters themselves but also carries a number of other Catholic and Christian publishers as well.
Sr. Amanda Marie Detry said before the COVID-19 pandemic, the sisters would travel to other provinces to attend different conferences and bring books with them to share. The web store is a great way to reach people who are far away and make those resources more readily available to them.
“One of our desires with the web store is to try to make it as personal of an experience as we can … we do have a live chat feature on the site so that people can ask us questions and we can respond in real time,” said Sr. Amanda.
Sr. Catherine said she enjoys meeting and engaging with people through her work at Pauline Books and Media Centre.
“It helps me in a way to stay a little bit more grounded and keep the roots of why I’m here,” said Sr. Catherine. “Engaging with [customers], listening to them, trying to find out what are their needs, what are their interests and in what way can I respond to those, whether it’s through offering something that we might have in the book centre, by just a good word, by an example [or] by praying with them.”
Sr. Amanda said it helps her faith when people come into the bookstore and share the ways God that has been at work in their lives.
“I find that our book centre is a place where people feel very free to be able to share what is going on in their lives [and] how the Lord is at work,” said Sr. Amanda. “Maybe a particular gift or a grace or an insight that they received that they want to share with us and in that mutual sharing, we both leave the better for it and the stronger for it.”
COVID-19 has halted the normal operations for the sisters at the bookstore. They are usually very active in the local church and community by visiting parishes and schools but they are discovering new and creative ways to keep in touch with the community virtually.
Sr. Catherine said some of the sacramental seasons such as first communions, confirmations and baptisms that would usually happen in the spring are happening now and as a result, customers are coming in to buy for gifts for those sacramental occasions. The store is approaching a more traditionally busy season between now and the end of the year.
People have been experiencing more feelings of anxiety and depression during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sr. Amanda said having one-on-one conversations with each other is really important to stay connected by finding a way to bridge the barrier through conversation, especially if people cannot be physically close to one another.
“I know I’ve caught myself during the pandemic feeling very overwhelmed by everything that’s happening around us, most of which I have no control over but as you are sharing that with someone else too, I think there is a real invitation to not get overwhelmed by everything we can’t control,” said Sr. Amanda.
She said people can focus on cultivating the space for prayer and listening to not get lost in what feels ‘very nebulous and uncontrollable.’
Sr. Amanda and another sister based in the U.S. have been doing online chats on Monday, Wednesday and Friday through Facebook, Twitter and their YouTube channel where people can listen in on a spiritual conversation and type in any questions they may have.
Although the pandemic has created feelings of stress and uncertainty, Sr. Catherine said a lot of people are coming back to their faith.
“The fact is that the churches were closed but a lot was happening online, so they were able to still attend mass. I think the internet has exploded almost exponentially, in the sense of spiritual material,” explained Sr. Catherine.
Sr. Catherine said people would call the store looking to purchase a book that the cardinal suggested during one of his talks. She said there is a ‘wealth of spiritual materials’ provided for people who are interested in tapping into it.
Sr. Amanda said the pandemic has rocked everyone and while everyone is in the same boat, it is a personal boat that is rocking us on an individual level on top of everything that we are already facing.
“We are on this journey together with the Lord who’s present with us and calling us closer to him all the time. I think the more that we can uplift each other and remind each other of that, we find ways to keep going,” said Sr. Amanda.