A sister of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity offers powerful witness to Christ’s healing love
On the Feast of the Annunciation, Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, popular Catholic speaker, podcaster, and writer, visited Notre Dame as part of her nationwide tour. Brett Perkins, Campus Ministry’s Assistant Director of Evangelization and Religious Education, had been eager to bring her to campus for over two years. Sr. Miriam met with students during the day and ended her visit with an evening talk entitled “The Healing Power of Christ: Your Heart Fully Alive.” Over 200 people—including tri-campus students, priests, campus ministers, and local South Bend residents—attended. Praise and worship, led by Totus Tuus, bookended the event.
A vowed religious for 24 years, Sr. Miriam currently works with the John Paul II Healing Center, leading retreats for priests and religious sisters. When the Rover asked undergraduates how they knew about Sr. Miriam, many knew her from her SEEK 2021 talks, her podcast Abiding Together, and her involvement with the Catholic media company Ascension Presents. Her ability to move smoothly between humorous anecdotes and profound reflections, her sunny smile, and her peaceful disposition have made her beloved on campuses nationwide. During her evening talk, Sr. Miriam insisted, “People don’t want to meet me, they want to meet Christ.”
Around 40 students selected by raffle attended an afternoon event with her called “Cookies & Milk with Sr. Miriam.” In a brief talk, she spoke about true femininity and true masculinity. Sr. Miriam made a point to honor the few men who attended the event, and the room burst into applause when she said, “Can I just say, gentlemen, your masculinity is not toxic, it’s glorious.”
Freshman Isabella Field, who was selected to attend the event, shared that even though she grew up as a Southern Baptist, she was attracted to Sr. Miriam because of her emphasis on womanhood and motherhood. “Seeing a woman go all in on her faith is inspiring,” Field said.
Sr. Miriam also spoke about priesthood and the religious life. “[They are] the eternal sign of man and woman. There’s a natural complementarity that comes with religious life and priesthood,” she said. Much of her healing ministry with priests and religious sisters encapsulates this truth.
“The priest sees the Church, falls in love with her, and brings out the beauty of the Church, his bride. Because that is what a man does: he falls in love with beauty, and lays down his life so she can thrive,” she said. Her ministry helps priests from all walks of life to heal and transform, “because if the bridegroom is sick, the bride is going to be sick. If the father is sick, the mother is going to be sick and the children are going to be sick.”
In the evening, Sr. Miriam used Genesis and stories from her own life to frame her talk. Drawing a parallel to Adam and Eve, Sr. Miriam identified the tendency to take up modern fig leaves, including addiction and self-medication. Humanity tries to hide out of shame, Sr. Miriam said, going on to vividly describe God’s loving gaze seeking out Adam, Eve, and all people today.
With intentionality, Sr. Miriam drew attention to her tone of voice while speaking the words of God in Genesis. The tenderness of her tone reinforced the message of hope she offered. Sr. Miriam explained that Christ, the new Adam, restored the harm that was done in Eden. She invited each student to say yes to Christ’s desire to bring them new life.
Sr. Miriam’s message came from the experience of suffering and Christ’s healing in her own life. She told the Rover, “The most powerful Gospel we can teach is the witness of our lives.” Living with intense shame, alcoholism, and promiscuity, she was once trapped in her own hiding places. Then she encountered Christ. “My parents forced me to meet this priest. I could see Jesus looking at me through him,” she shared. The powerful witness of this priest changed her life: “There were a lot of things in my life that I could deny, but I could not deny the love of God in that man.” She told him, “I don’t know what you have, but I want it.”
Sophomore Evan Bursch was particularly struck by this part of her talk. “To see someone like her who went through all these horrible things and didn’t make a lot of great choices come out as such an amazing witness to God is just so beautiful. It’s really inspiring me in my faith life,” he reflected.
Sr. Miriam taught students what she learned through her own conversion: “Christ didn’t come to fix you. He came to love you.” She explained that disciples, since the founding of the Church, have always harbored embarrassment. She realized that Christ always responded to her shame with an invitation back into communion, just as Jesus declared Peter the rock upon which he would build his Church even after Peter denied Jesus. Sr. Miriam encouraged her listeners to bravely choose not to hide away their wounds, because Christ always comes with his wounds open.
“We must, my dear friends, we must know Jesus. We must know him. It is not enough for us to know about him … the most beautiful thing about that is Jesus delights to make himself known,” she emphasized. She left students with a proposition. Instead of asking, “Why is this suffering happening?” she invited students to ask, “How will I respond now?”
At both events, Sr. Miriam looked around and noted how beautiful it was that she was present with the community of Our Lady’s university on the Feast of the Annunciation. She expressed her gratitude to travel the country to speak about healing, recovery, beauty, and Christ.
“I believe in love. I believe in it. I just believe in love. I believe in Christ. I believe in this life that is so true, good, and beautiful no matter what we’ve suffered, and this is not the end of the story,” she told the Rover.
Mia Tiwana is a junior majoring in political science and theology. When she is not discussing rude topics like politics and religion at the dinner table, she is longing for a hike somewhere mountainous, baking gluten-free desserts, or taking amateur macro photos. Reach her at email@example.com.
Juliet Hall is a sophomore majoring in Program of Liberal Studies and theology. You can find her somewhere on north quad listening to either Abiding Together or her current audiobook. If she’s not spotted there, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Marie Lunn and Brett Perkins