Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
Kirstin Holum was an American speed skater in the Olympic Games of Nagano in 1998. Sister Catherine is a nun of the order of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, who lives and prays in the Convent of Santa Clara, in Leeds, England. Kirstin and Sister Catherine are the same person — but with very different habits.
In an NBC article profiling Sister Catherine and other young Catholic sisters in the UK, Sister Catherine describes her choice as “radical” and “countercultural.” She lives in a convent without an internet connection or television. “We don’t have all those distractions,” Sister Catherine told NBC News, referring to the world of media, social networks, and the internet.
“You are face-to-face with your own weaknesses. I’m grateful that we don’t have those escape hatches. We can really become more free, to love and be who we are meant to be,” she added.
Sister Catherine’s faith comes from her mother, who was also a skater and skating coach. When Kirstin was 16, her mother sent her and a cousin on a pilgrimage to Fatima. There, everything changed for her. She continued competing, but with an eye on “the King of kings.”
From world records to the chapel
Holum went to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. There, in the women’s 5,000 meter speed skating event, she set a new junior world record.
At that time, she was 17 years old and had an enviable future in sports. In her short career, she had set eight speed skating records in the United States and six junior world records.
But God has unfathomable ways, and Kirstin, surprising her family and friends, decided to “hang up” her skates. Instead of continuing on in another Olympic sport after finishing her university studies, she became a postulant in the community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in the Bronx (New York).
When she was competing, she would train for four hours a day. Now, in the religious life, she spends hours a day in prayer. Does she have any regrets for having left the world of competitive speed skating behind? No, she says.
A greater emotion
“The excitement and the joy of competing and doing well, even just doing your personal best, there’s a great thrill in that,” Sister Catherine told NBC. “But it was always a fleeting joy … ”
“I think deep down, everyone is desiring to be great and to do something great. It’s only when you get really in touch with God’s plan for you that you really find a peace in doing the great thing, whatever it might be.”