“Principal Peggy Wertz and I worked alongside a great illustrator and saw Becoming Sister Mary Grace come alive,” said Father Kirby, vicar of vocations for the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. Wertz is principal of St. Mary Help of Christians School in Aiken, S.C., where illustrator Alice Judd is an art teacher.
The book is dedicated to the girls who were part of the St. Cecilia Vocation Club at Mary Help of Christians School when the book was begun. Those girls are now juniors and seniors in high school.
Natalie Gorensek, a junior, was really excited at the launch of the book and stated that, “Everyone knows about marriage and priests, but not everyone knows about nuns. So it’s important we have vocation clubs to get the word out that being a sister is interesting and cool. … Knowing other options (of vocations) is really helpful in spiritual development."
To read more about the book Becoming Sister Mary Grace, check out the artilce published in the National Catholic Register and let us continue to pray and encourage vocations throughout the world.
|50th anniversary; instituted by
Pope Paul VI during the
Second Vatican Council.
This past fourth Sunday of Easter (April 21st), also known as Good Shepherd Sunday, marked the 50th Anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Pope Francis’ celebration included the ordinations of 10 new priests in the Diocese of Rome.
Catholic News Service shares moving highlights of Pope Francis' homily. “The voice of Jesus is unique,” Pope Francis said. “If we learn to distinguish it, he will guide us on the path of life, a path that leads us even beyond the abyss of death.”
The USCCB encourages us to “pray that young men and women hear and respond generously to the Lord's call to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, societies of apostolic life or secular institutes.”
In being a member of a religious order and the first Jesuit elected pope, Pope Francis joins 33 other pontiffs who came from religious communities: Here is the list, thanks to a Wikipedia entry on popes:
Learn more about these communities in VISION's Community Search.
|Mother Mary Joseph in her office at the Sisters’ Motherhouse, Maryknoll, NY, 1941|
The founder of the Maryknoll Sisters, Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, MM, has been named one of nine American women to be inducted in 2013 into the National Women’s Hall of Fame (NWHF).
Mother Mary Joseph, whose “extraordinary achievements were recognized and applauded” by all the judges, according to NWHF deputy director Amanda Bishop, will join the 247 eminent women who have been inducted into the Hall since its founding in 1969. Among others included in this year’s list were Betty Ford and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“We are thrilled and honored by Mother Mary Joseph’s selection,” said Sister Janice McLaughlin, MM, president of Maryknoll Sisters, and happy for the recognition it gives to our founder who achieved so much, not only for women religious, but for all American women, at a time when possibilities for them were far more limited than they are today.
“Mary Josephine Rogers, as she was called prior to joining religious life, broke through the negative stereotypes about the role of American Catholic women in church and society at the beginning of the 20th century,” Sister Janice said. “As founder of the first American mission congregation of Catholic women, she proved that women were equal to the demands of life and ministry abroad, particularly in places where poverty, physical hardship and sometimes, even safety during wartime, were commonplace.”
Mother Mary Joseph drew from a lifetime of spiritual depth when she stressed the need for the sisters to be compassionate women, adaptable and willing to try new ways without fear of failure or censure, according to a release put out by Maryknoll. Above all, she emphasized the primacy of a holy life.
Today, Maryknoll Sisters serve in 26 nations around the world, ministering to all people in need. Their numbers include doctors and nurses; authors, artists and dancers; social workers, ecologists and peace activists; theologians and spokespersons to the United Nations.Learn more about the Maryknoll Sisters here.
This week is National Vocation Awareness week and a lot of parishes are doing their part to encourage parishioners to pray for young men and women to consider becoming a priest, deacon and religious brother and sister.
|SISTERS of the Visitation, Tyringham, Mass.|
Actually, the USCCB are having guest blog posts by young priests and religious on their pursuit to the vocation and how they were prayed for and encouraged by God and others to live the consecrated life.
Additionally, the newest members of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Tyringham, Massachusetts come from very different life experiences and are a variety of ages but have all been drawn to the life of a cloistered nun. Peggy Weber of Catholic News Service shares the thoughts of each of the four new members as well as the director of novices’ Sister Mary Emmanuel’s goal for the community. Sister Mary Emmanuel says, "We're looking for someone with enthusiasm, someone's who's very interested in the religious life, someone who is a deep, faithful Catholic. She said that anyone considering religious life has to be open, willing to take a risk, and be someone who dares to be different.”
Thankfully, in the spirit of vocations, the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States is thriving! Deacon Greg Kandra shares on his blog The Deacon’s Bench, “with more than 50 men in formation,” their congregation, “is among the healthiest for Catholic religious orders in the United States.” The key to their success is shared by Vocations Director Holy Cross Father James T. Gallagher is simple: “We use social media as a way to make ourselves known to those young men discerning a call to religious life. But the personal interaction still comes first. Our social media outlets are just tools we use to help make Holy Cross known, share discernment tips and help deepen a man’s prayer life.”
Let the beautiful words of Archbishop José H. Gomez be our prayer during this National Vocation Awareness week; "Every priest is a sacrament — a sign and instrument that brings men and women to the encounter with the living God. So in this Year of Faith, we need to refocus ourselves, especially in our families, on helping men to hear this beautiful and noble calling from Jesus.” (Shared from his November 2012 Tidings article).
For her services creating the state-of-the-art St. George’s Park Retirement Village in Sussex, U.K., Augustinian Sister Mary Thomas was awarded an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth in her New Year’s Honor’s List, Zenit reports. Sister Thomas, a native of Ireland, accepted the award on behalf of her religious community, the Augustinian Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus, and those who provide care in the Augustinian homes: “I recognize that the award is given not just to myself but in recognition, too, of my own religious community and many other professionals who have worked with us over these years to assist the elderly and most vulnerable in our society.”
The Augustinian Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus order was founded by Canon Peter John Maes in 1842. The sisters were to offer assistance to him in his ministry to the mentally ill. Today the sisters run four care facilities throughout the U.K. Their most ambitious project was the St. George’s Park Retirement Village. The award-winning development includes senior apartments, community building, restaurant, bar, shop, hairdresser, library, gym, game rooms, treatment facility, and lush grounds with a lake and park.
Sr Mary Thomas trained as a general and psychiatric nurse and has spent all of her religious life caring for the sick and elderly. When she was appointed Superior of the Order in the 1990s, she began to realize the sisters’ dream of an innovative new assisted living and care community.
For more on the Augustinian Sisters, read their online listing in the VISION community directory.
Comedian Stephen Colbert and Cardinal Timothy Dolan were the stars of a gathering on Satruday at Fordham University in the Bronx billed as an opportunity to hear two Catholic celebrities discuss how joy and humor infuse their spiritual lives.
According to a New York Times report by Laurie Goodstein, the audience sent in questions via Twitter and e-mail, which Jesuit Father James Martin, SJ pitched to the two men. Among them: “I am considering the priesthood. Would it be prudent to avoid dating?”
*Source: Independent Catholic News*
Billboards are usually seen along expressways trying to grab our attention and get us to stop along the way. Often, we glance at these signs and continue driving to get to our destination. But what if a billboard was calling you towards religious life? Would you simply just read the sign and continue driving or would you answer the call?
Seeking to repopulate its thinning religious ranks, the Roman Catholic diocese of Austria's largest province launched a province-wide billboard campaign to recruit priests, nuns, and other laypeople. The requirements are simple: a sense of religious mission and a commitment to celibacy. Benefits: a possible inside track to Heaven. With over 80 large billboards and 300 small electric placards being placed around the provinces, the message is simple, “The Mission. Those who give all receive more.”
While unemployment is growing in Vienna, these billboards are a way to encourage men and women to consider entering into religious life. The billboard campaign has created some serious stir because mass advertisement for religious life is rare. Austria, which is overwhelmingly Catholic, is finding that is mostly in name rather than practice.
Like elsewhere in many parts of Europe, Masses are poorly populated in Vienna and other bigger cities and the number of declared Catholics is shrinking – in Austria by 13 percent since 1960 – as former believers fed up with church scandals and a perceived sense of the Vatican's disconnect with the world.
At the same time, however, the number of priests has declined rapidly – in Austria by 26 percent. In St. Poelten, Lower Austria's provincial capital, 244 priests are administering to the needs of 423 parishes. Country-wide, the overwhelming majority of priests are over 60, and young replacements are scarce.
The hope is that this billboard campaign will get people interested in religious life and service and to show people the importance of working with the Church. To read more about the billboard campaign check out the piece in the Huffington Post.
FATHER ANDREW CARL Wisdom, O.P., VISION Vocation Guide author and promoter of vocations and vicar for mission advancement for the Dominicans’ St. Albert the Great Province, has followed up on his award-winning Preaching to a Multi-Generational Assembly (Liturgical Press, 2004) with a book on discernment, coauthored with Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Sister Christine Kiley, A.S.C.J.: Tuning into God’s Call, published last July by Liguori Publications.
“Through a series of practical reflections,” the publisher says, “this book introduces you to five stages of the discernment process. Though our life purpose may not be understood all at once as doubts and fears may still persist, this book will assist you in making time to discern God's direction. The process of discernment has many facets. If you are wondering what God has in store for you, then this is just the book to help you pray and actively move through your discernment process. It will help you find peace in your prayer and inspire you.”
Ooberfuse, a European electro-pop band released a single in support of the English and Welsh Church’s new vocations drive, according to the U.K. Catholic Herald.
Worth Abbey Benedictine Fr. Christopher Jamison OSB, director of the National Office for Vocation, commissioned the band to write the soundtrack to help promote vocations. Their song, “Call my name,” can be heard here and comes from their forthcoming album Seventh Wave, to be released in August.
Fr Jamison described the single as a “wonderful gift given to the Church. The words are poetic and inspired, worthy of the psalms.”
Their previous single, Heart’s Cry, was the youth anthem for the Pope’s visit to Britain in September 2010.
Band member Hal St. John described the task as a challenge: “When God speaks to us he does so in a strange and other worldly language that it is sometimes hard if not altogether impossible to render into intelligible words. His gentle yet persistent call cuts through the clamour and roar of contemporary life treading as softly as dove’s footsteps. For some, pop music is part of the noise that drowns out the sound of divinity, desensitising us to the transcendent. On the face of it, it seems incongruous that pop music, especially dub-step, should be used to heighten our awareness of God’s call to each one of us.”
|Franciscan tenor Alessandro Brustenghi on Abbey Road in London.|
Alessandro Brustenghi, a tenor from Assisi, Italy, who also happens to be a Franciscan Friar, just signed a major recording contract with Decca Records--the first ever Franciscan to do so. The album deal will showcase his voice to millions of opera fans.
The 34-year-old friar flew to London earlier this week for the recording at Abbey Road studios (made famous by the Beatles) and to give his first performance outside Italy at the 2012 International Decca Conference today.
Brustenghi intends to donate all proceeds from record sales to the Order of Friars Minor for charitable work..
His first album, made up of a mixture of traditional and modern sacred songs, will be released in October.
"I’m a bit nervous," said Brustenghi in an interview in the Telegraph, "but I understand this is necessary as it is a good opportunity to unleash this beautiful music to everybody. I feel excited, very excited because it’s realized my vocation."
"Music for me is a direct line with God. It’s the way to communicate with him, and it’s the way God uses to communicate with us. It’s the way to spread the gospel, to everybody, to the world.
"The story of St. Francis of Assisi is very similar to mine. Francis was a humble man, and he decided to spread the gospel with music, dance and joy.”
Learn more about the Franciscan Friars (O.F.M.):
Three years ago, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Arizona put their minds to raising funds to build a chapel and monastery in the Southwestern desert. They came up with a fun idea - have young and old alike run in an annual fundraiser named the Nun Run.
This year, their 3rd Annual Nun Run on March 10 attracted 1,135 participants at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Ariz., to compete in a 10K run, 5K run/walk, or opt for a slower-paced 1-mile walk.
"I started off the day full of energy and left with more than I arrived with," said Jill Sciarappo a volunteer and photographer.
The runners wore shirts designed by Sister Fidelis based on the year's motto from Isaiah 40:31 "You shall run and not get weary".
Many people came out for this amazing event from grandparents to young children. The "Nun Run" is trying to raise funds to continue work on building Our Lady of Solitude Monastery. The previous runs all help to fund the chapel and chapel appointments. After the final cosmetic work is completed on the chapel, the main focus will be completion of the Monastery to make rooms for 28 sisters.
Our Lady of Solitude is rising like a vision of medieval beauty on land donated to the sisters in Tonopah, just west of Phoenix. The sisters arrived here in 2005 from Hanceville, Ala., to establish the first Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration monastery in the West and to become the first contemplative community of nuns in the Phoenix Diocese.
The Nun Runs are helping to bring the diocesan community together for this project. "The Lord has inspired a lot of good people to come out and help us," said Sister John-Mark Maria. "A lot of people come together for Our Lord, and I experience that through the Nun Run. I'm very humbled, and I marvel in the Lord's goodness."
So if you see a nun run, go join in and think of the Lord. A young woman was running and wearing a shirt that had a picture of a sister with the words: "Not all habits are bad."
Let's remember to pray for those who are discerning a religious vocation or any vocation and let's continue to pray for the men and women who are priests or sisters, as they continue to inspire and work towards bringing about the Kingdom of God.
Check out more photos of the Nun Run or to get involved.
The final words of Jesus Christ as he died on the cross should prompt Christians to pray for those who have hurt them Pope Benedict XVI said on Feb. 15, the Catholic News Reported.
"Jesus by asking the Father to forgive those who are crucifying him, invites us to the difficult act of praying for those who do us wrong, who have damaged us, knowing always how to forgive," the Pope told over 6,000 pilgrims attending today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.
The Pope urged people to pray that "the light of God may illuminate their hearts, inviting us, that is, to live in our prayers, the same attitude of mercy and love that God has towards us."This attitude, he explained, is summed up in one line from the Our Father - "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Over the past several months, the Pope has used his weekly general audiences to explore the issue of prayer. This week he focused on the three last prayers of Jesus from the cross.
Those three final prayers of Jesus are "tragic" for every man but are also "pervaded by the deep calm that comes from trust in the Father and the will to abandon himself totally to him." They are a "supreme act of love" which went "to the limit and beyond the limit."As well as prompting us to pray for our enemies, the final prayers of Jesus should also teach Christians that "no matter how hard the trial, difficult the problem, heavy the suffering, we never fall from the hands of God," Pope Benedict said.
Since today is Valentine's Day, a day where we express our love for others, I thought it would be neat to post a video about a program that helps former gang members. Father Greg Boyle is the founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, a non-profit that works with former gang members to help transform their lives, create positive communities and "find the person they are really meant to be." The link below takes you to Fr. Boyle talking about the importance of his work and the importance of helping those that are in need.
Homeboy Industries started as a jobs program offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Homeboy assists at-risk, recently released, and formerly gang involved youth to become contributing members of their communities through a variety of services in response to their multiple needs. Free programs -- including counseling, education, tattoo removal, substance abuse and addiction assistance, job training and job placement -- enable young people to redirect their lives. Homeboy provides them with hope for their futures and is the nation’s largest gang-intervention and re-entry program – a model to all.
So today as we show our affection for those we love, let's remember to pray for those who need love and support.
Sources: Homeboy Industries Homepage and Huffington Post
The armed forces don't seem like a place where one would be called to serve the Lord or be a minister to faith. The Huffington Post published a really nice article about hearing your call while serving in the military. According to the Post, there are a number of men who became military chaplains, either by a twist of fate or perhaps divine Providence many they found their calling while on active duty.
Many chaplains enter into the military straight from the seminary but some are called directly while still serving. The article talks about Muslim, Jewish, and Christian's who have all been called while serving to become military chaplains.
Brian Wood, now a Catholic chaplain, wanted to be a priest according to his parents but instead of enrolling into the seminary he went into the Air Force. Several Catholic chaplains told him that he should become a priest, he said, citing his "strength of faith and they thought I had a glow to me, that I looked like a priest."
Today, he is a seminarian at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, supported by both his home diocese in Lubbock, Texas, and the Archdiocese for the Military Services. After his expected graduation in June, Wood is scheduled to do three years of pastoral work in Lubbock, where he hopes to remain in the Air Force reserves, before returning to active duty. "I have a strong passion for the military and for my faith," Wood said. "What better way to put those two together than become a military chaplain."
Let us continue to keep the men and women who serve our country in our daily prayers.
This past Sunday's Times Picayune ran an indepth profile on Alison McCrary, a young lawyer who is on her way to becoming a sister. Here are some highlights from reporter Sheila Stroup's story:
“People have such a misconception of what nuns are,” says McCrary. “We’re supposed to run into the world, not out of it. Our eyes are wide open, and our sleeves are rolled up.”
“My mother is Cherokee,” she says. “She wasn’t welcome at the white school or the black school when she was a girl. She just recently learned to read and write.”
Where McCrary lived, Confederate flags flew on many buildings, and the Ku Klux Klan marched in the square on weekends. “You grow up with something, you think it’s normal,” she says. “But that isn’t normal. . . . There are so many struggles of the poor and oppressed,” she says. “If I’m not engaged in some kind of social change, then something is wrong.”
She entered the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in August 2007. During her work as a paralegal and volunteer activities as a law student, she met several Sisters of St. Joseph and saw the important work they were doing, and she felt called to become a nun.
“I met Sister Helen Prejean and Sister Lory Schaff and all these incredible women who were living the gospel values, and I thought, ‘I want that,’” she says. She started meeting with a spiritual advisor, and after finishing law school and passing the bar in May, 2010, she took the first step to becoming a Sister of St. Joseph on Aug. 15, 2010.
“I knew I had to find the beauty in the middle of all the struggle,” she says. “My decision is something I feel at peace with. . . . I feel like I’m called to that commitment.”
When her fellowship is over in April, McCrary will begin the second step in becoming a nun. She will go from her busy ministry in criminal justice reform and cultural rights advocacy to a two-year novitiate. “You can’t work or volunteer,” she says. “It’s a time of contemplation, a time to explore your relationship with God.” She will live in Chicago with the other Sister of St. Joseph novices in a house owned by the congregation. “I think it will be really rewarding,” she says. She looks forward to finishing her novitiate and making her first vows in April 2014.
Posted in the Journal Sentinel, a creative and catchy way to approach religious vocations: Religious Trading Cards. These trading cards are unlike the traditional baseball or basketball cards. Rather they feautre highly respected and admired religious leaders in and around the Milwaukee area. Among them is Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki along with a handful of other local Catholic religious leaders featured on a new deck of trading cards circulating near and around Milwaukee.
The initiative, launched last week by two Catholic parishes — St. Monica’s in Whitefish Bay and St. Eugene’s in Fox Point — is meant to draw interest towards religious vocations.
“The biggest challenge today is indifferent families,” parish pastoral associate Monica Cardenas told the Catholic Herald. “We need families to embrace the idea for their children.” Among the others featured: Bishop Donald Hying; former Cardinal Stritch University President Sister Camille Kleibhan; and Father Paul Fliss, interim pastor at St. Eugene’s.
Cards include mini-bios, nicknames, favorite saints and individuals who influenced their interest in religious life. No word yet on the tradability of the cards but a unique way to get people interested in religious life.
As we close out Vocation Awareness Week, we reflect on the recent message of Pope Benedict XVI who has emphasized the need for good spiritual counsel for those who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. The Catholic News Agency along with ETWN, reported the Pope's very important message on vocations.
"I would like to emphasize the critical role of spiritual guidance in the journey of faith and, in particular, in response to the vocation of special consecration for the service of God and his people," the Pope commented this Sunday at his Angelus address.
Also instrumental in the process, he said, are parents "who by their genuine faith and joyful married love, show children that it is beautiful and possible to build all your life on the love of God."
Speaking from the Papal apartments to several thousand pilgrims, the Pope explained his point with references to the Scripture readings at Mass on Sunday.
The Pope concluded his comments by entrusting all educators, "especially religious including priests, sisters, and parents," to the Virgin Mary as they help young people discern their vocation in life.
After speaking on religious vocations the Pope also mentioned the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will run Jan 18-25. He invited everyone "to join spiritually and, where possible, practically, to ask God for the gift of full unity among the Disciples of Christ."
I am sure many of us had heard of the movie/show "Band of Brothers" which follows a group of paratroopers in WWII featured on HBO, but have you ever heard of Band of Sisters?
Band of Sisters, is a documentary film that tells the "unforgettable story of Catholic nuns in the United States: how they responded wholeheartedly to the call of Vatican II, risked everything in their unwavering commitment to social justice, and made a remarkable transformation from 'daughters of the church' into citizens of the world."
After Vatican II, these congregations searched and re-engaged with their pasts and learned that their true mission was to serve those of the greatest need: the poor. Now on the verge of losing what these sisters fought so hard for, they are fighting to preserve their freedom and to be able to continue to help the world.
Scheduled to be released this March, travel alongside these sisters Nancy Sylvester IHM (Immaculate Heart of Mary), Miriam Therese MacGills OP (Caldwell Dominican), Pat Murphy and JoAnn Persch RSM (Sisters of Mercy) and their congregations as they take you through their journey and struggle to survive to maintain their mission.
For more information check out their website bandofsistersmovie.com.
|STUDENTS from Creighton University
in service with the Visitation Sisters.
The VIP program, which was successfully launched this fall, is a year-long internship program where participants provide service alongside the Visitation Sisters in North Minneapolis. The sisters have welcomed two young women as the inaugural participants to the VIP Program: Kelly Schumacher, a Minnesota native and graduate of Augustana College in Illinois, and Beth Anne Cooper, a native of New York and graduate of Hope College in Michigan. Both young women are teaching English as Second Language classes to immigrants and refugees, doing advocacy work, working with grade-schoolers on both schoolwork and relationship-building, coaching youth sports, learning more about restorative justice, and planning service-learning for small groups which includes urban immersion experiences.
The sisters are also in the process of launching the new Monastic Immersion Program, offered by the sisters to women desiring an in-depth immersion into the monastic life. Through the Monastic Immersion Program, women have an opportunity to " ‘try on’ monastic customs and values,” said Sister Mary Frances Reis, contact for Visitation’s Monastic Immersion Program. They are invited to live the monastic life with the sisters for a period of six months to a year. Each participant is expected to enter fully into the sisters’ life of prayer, presence, and ministry during her stay. Prospective participants may come from any Christian faith tradition.
For more information about the VIP Program: http://www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org/visitation-companions/visitation-internship-program-vip/
For more information about the Monastic Immersion Experience: http://www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org/tag/monastic-immersion-experience/
|GIRL SCOUT Troop 2272 outside the Carmel
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery.
Photo: Celeste Diller; Intermountain Catholic.
|SISTER FRANCES Evans (left)
and her longtime friend
Sister Maggie Hession
with Nolan Ryan when
he pitched for the Rangers.
Talking about her background, she had a few observations about her vocation. “I was a convert. I worked six years in Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio in the lab. There was something different about the sisters. The only thing I can think is, God just shook me by the neck and said, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ In 1950 I entered convent in San Antonio, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.”
Did they wear habits back then? “We sure did! We wore habits for a long time.” Could they go to baseball games? “Not back then, you didn’t go much of anywhere. I worked in the hospital most of the time. I don’t think we even had television when I entered.
“I was stationed here in Fort Worth in 1967,” she said. “It was beginning to lighten up a bit here and there. I remember well when they went to the shorter skirts and I walked out of chapel and felt the breeze on my knees. I never knew how good that would feel.”
See another profile of the sisters in the Wall Street Journal.
|MOTHER THERESE Couderc.|
The mission of the Cenacle Sisters is to awaken and deepen faith primarily through retreats, religious education, and other activities. Mother Therese Couderc started it all in 1805 when she turned a hostel for women pilgrims visiting the tomb of Saint John Francis Regis, the great Jesuit missionary, into a "cenacle"—a place of prayer and retreat, said Cenacle Sister Rosemary Duncan, r.c. in a recent newsletter article. The Cenacle Sisters have centers throughout the United States and the world.
By the way, the Chicago Cenacle is having a women's weekend retreat November 4-6 on "The Three Teresas—of Avila, of Lisieux, of Calcutta." For more information contact Sister Rosemary.
In the author blurb at the end of his fine article for the current issue of VISION, “Blessed are we who comfort the mourners,” in which he tells his vocation story, it says that Matthew Kuczora, C.S.C "is expected to profess his final vows in August 2011." Well, he did it!
The Holy Cross Office of Vocations informs the world: “On Saturday, August 27, 2011, Mr. Matthew C. Kuczora, C.S.C. made his final profession of vows with the Congregation of Holy Cross. Matt professed forever the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the midst of a celebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. In taking these vows Matt committed the rest of his life to living and serving in the Congregation of Holy Cross as an educator in the faith." Congratulations, Matt!
Holy Cross is on VISION.
“We can’t cure our patients, but we can assure the dignity and value of their final days, and keep them comfortable and free of pain.” Those were the words of Rose Hawthorne, later Sister Mary Alfonsa, O.P., a daughter of the great American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who in 1896 went to the slums of New York to care for poverty-stricken cancer sufferers, where she was soon joined by the young Alice Huber.
|DOMINICAN SISTERS of Hawthorne pray
at a new Rose Hill Home facility dedication.
"If you have to be terminal, this is the place to come," one resident told Catholic News Service. "It's the most unusual place I've ever been. You're not conscious of people being ill here. We all have cancer and we're all terminal, but it's serene and there are lots of moments of fun and laughter," she said. "The care is done with love and . . . . the women who care for you gave up their lives for this work and it's their vocation."
|SISTER MARILYN, center, with other members
of the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Waterton, N.Y.
There are monasteries of Trappistines—the women’s branch of the Trappist Cistercian order of monastics—all over the world, but in Ireland there is only one: St. Mary’s Abbey in Glencairn, which is home to 37 sisters.
The community is diverse, with sisters from India, Nigeria, and the Philippines as well as Ireland. And more sisters are on the way: Six women are in formation, and the abbey’s vocation director Sister Sarah Branigan says she is “occupied . . . with inquiries from people of all different ages, people from 20 to late 60s, so there are a steady flow of inquiries about this kind of life.”
|SISTERS at prayer,
St. Mary's Abbey
The monastic life, Mother Fahy adds, is “the opportunity to live close to God and close to one’s self and have time for prayer and have time for leisurely walks and good reading and reflection on God’s word, and I think living at a deeper level.”
Sister Fiachra Nutty, who joined the community five years ago and expects to make her solemn profession of vows next year, describes the fit between herself and the community’s life. “I felt I needed space to be with God,” she says, “and that’s not very easy, I’ve found, for me in the outside world, because I am quite an extrovert, and I get involved in an awful lot of things, so enclosure was important to me, but at the same time I have a horror of restriction, as in claustrophobia. So here we are absolutely truly blessed. We have 200 acres within which to wander, you know, so that was a huge factor for me. Also the enormous welcome and warmth I felt from the community on my very first visit. That was just so wonderful.”
Religious life is in the midst of a paradigm shift. The large novitiate classes of the 1950s and 1960s are aging and fewer women are entering religious life today. Many of the younger sisters recognize they will be called to leadership in their communities and the church within the next 10 to 15 years.
Sister Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M.—a theologian and leading authority on Catholic women's religious life—shared her insights throughout the conference. “We are in a kairos moment that, if we seize it, could really galvanize into a whole new era of American religious life,” she said on the opening night of the conference.
While the main purpose of the gathering was to create a space for the voices of younger women religious, sisters of all ages were invited to participate. The youngest sister in attendance was 25 while the oldest was 88.
“The most meaningful part was the excitement and energy I felt after seeing other great women who are living this life just like we are, with the struggles and joys,” said 40-year-old Ursuline Sister Jeannie Humphries. “Religious life is a viable option and opportunity in our world today—it’s about being open to being with others and growing and learning.”
Giving Voice is an organization of vowed women religious in the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced religious life only since the Second Vatican Council. The July conference was the sixth national gathering of younger women religious women organized since 1997.
For highlights from the gathering, visit the conference blog.
|RETREAT GROUP with planning team in
back row: Sisters Amalia Camacho,
C.S.J.P., Jo-Anne Miller, C.S.J.P.,
Patricia Novak, O.S.F., Joan Gallagher, S.P., Monika Ellis, O.S.B., Francine
as a young sister
AS PUBLICIZED in the regularly updated Events Calendar of the VISION Vocation Network, the Archdiocese of Seattle Religious Vocation Team, comprised of vocation directors in the Seattle Archdiocese, held their first Intercommunity VIVA! Vocation Retreat weekend retreat earlier this month.
Eight young Catholic women who are exploring a call to religious life attended. Sisters from several local communities presented their vocation stories.
The Western Washington Serra Clubs sponsored the retreat.
LAST APRIL we mentioned a new survey profiling those ordained to the priesthood in the U.S. in 2011. With World Youth Day (WYD) coming up next month in Madrid, it’s interesting to note that according to that study over 20 percent of the men ordained in 2011 have attended a WYD.
Do you know any priests, brothers, or sisters who have participated in a WYD? Do you think going to WYD would have an impact on discerning your life's vocation?
Visit VISION's special page devoted to this year's WYD, LikesGod.
We hope to meet and greet as many World Youth Day attendees as possible throughout the weeklong event (Aug. 16-21). We will have all sorts of fun giveaways (stickers, pens, t-shirts, buttons), and we will be looking for photos, tweets, and videos from attendees to post on our dedicated World Youth Day webpage: LikesGod.com.
If you're planning on going to World Youth Day this summer, please keep us updated on your preparation—both spiritual and practical—and tweet, text, or email us updates while you're there.
Go to LikesGod.com for more information.
Here is some recommended reading on discernment from the Spring 2011 issue of the National Religious Vocation Conference's HORIZON magazine:
• Catholics on Call: Discerning a Life of Service in the Church edited by Father Robin Ryan, C.P. (Liturgical Press, 2010); eBook
• A Sacred Voice Is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience by John Neafsey (Orbis Books, 2006)
• The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola by Father Dean Brackley, S.J. (Crossroad, 2004)
• Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints by Father James Martin, S.J. (Hidden Spring, 2006)
"Then, says Sister Cynthia on the Connect with Mercy blog, "go looking for some Roman Catholic sisters in your neighborhood, at your school, or in your church. Take some time to talk with them. You might be surprised by what you learn about their lives.
"You might know a sister who teaches all day every day, and perhaps after school or on weekends as well. But do you know that she may also be deeply involved in advocacy on any number of social justice issues? Ask her about the death penalty, about immigration, or about what’s happening in Darfur. See how her responses turn inside out what you might have thought about nuns.
|Sister Cynthia, R.S.M.|
"We devote our energies to serving others in whatever way God chooses. We pray to hear God’s voice, and to be obedient. We are so serious about this that we take a vow of obedience to God, a vow to listen really hard and then to act on what we hear. We recognize that the resources of Earth are limited, and that we need to share and take care of each other, especially the least among us. So we take a vow of poverty: we put all our money together to see what we can do to make a difference. Our work lives often balance each others. While some of us work as hospital administrators, others are on out the streets befriending immigrants. While some run colleges, others are doing volunteer literacy training.
"Our commitment to those on the edge is grounded in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, who turned everything upside down, from ideas about who God is, to oppressive religious laws, to debilitating diseases, to tables in the temple., Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, turned her part of the world upside down by putting her house in a neighborhood of wealth, taking her sisters to the streets, demonstrating and teaching that women have a place and a voice in the world. She turned herself inside out to make a difference in her world.
"We try as hard as we can to be Mercy every day, visibly, right out loud, wherever we can, whenever it matters. We wear our faith in God’s loving providence with pride and joy. And we happily join with others who are on the same path, lifting little by little, block by block that part of the world which just might be the crucial corner edge to turn the whole thing over and allow a new world to emerge – a world where everyone has what they need and people work together in mutual respect.
"The Sisters of Mercy have been turning the world upside down for more than 175 years. We invite you to come with us to the streets, to turn yourselves inside out for the sake of God’s reign, for the health of God’s people, for the love of mercy."
Sisters of Mercy on VISION.
The first meeting of the working group of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) Educational Debt and Vocations Project took place at the provincial office of the Franciscan Friars, Holy Name Province, in New York City. (The NRVC is a copublisher of the VISION Vocation Guide and VISION VocationNetwork.org website.)
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to the NRVC for the study. The goals of the project are:
• To assess the extent educational debt is hindering vocations to religious life; and
• To produce resources that will help address the problem of educational debt as it relates to vocations for various constituencies, including religious congregations, support organizations for vocations and religious communities, philanthropic organizations, and those considering life as a religious sister, brother, or priest.
NRVC will contract with CARA to survey religious institutes regarding their policies, practices, and experience of working with candidates with student loan issues. After the survey results NRVC will develop resources for religious institutes, their treasurers and vocation directors, as well as for those who are discerning religious life.
Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., NRVC executive director, is hopeful that the “study will better equip religious congregations to work with candidates who have student loans so that student loan debt isn’t an obstacle to religious vocations and the call to consecrated life.”
The Dominican Order of Preachers Vocations blog reports that the growth of vocations in the Dominicans extends to Poland, where 13 friars took their solemn vows in Krakow. Their priory was founded by the early Dominican Saint Hyacinth and has been in continual use since the beginning of the order in the 13th century.
|THE POLISH DOMINICAN friars who recently made their solemn profession of vows.|
This Saturday, May 7, the 8th annual “Stepping Up the Call: Pilgrimage for Vocations” will step off at 8:30 a.m. from the Maria Stein Center of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, 2291 St. John's Rd., Maria Stein, OH. The event is a fun and healthy spiritually-based day that has drawn hundreds of participants of all ages from a multistate area who walk (or ride) to area churches and shrines, prayer, talks, benediction, snacks and lunch, and closing Mass, finishing at 4 p.m.
|Missionaries and Sisters of the Precious Blood
and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati organize
an annual eight-mile vocation pilgrimage.
A new survey of those ordained to the priesthood in 2011 in the U.S. show they are younger and influenced by parish priests, Catholic education, service as altar boys, and social and church environments.
The Class of 2011: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood is an annual national survey of men being ordained priests for U.S. dioceses and religious communities. The study also includes information on the ages, education, ethnicity and country of origin, and other characteristics of the newly ordained’s backgrounds.
|BROTHER LUKE'S St. Agnes,
an acrylic in the Byzantine style
commissioned by a Philadelphia parish.
In the 1930's, before becoming a monk, Brother Luke earned a living as a bookkeeper and took dance classes in the evening at the wonderfully named Boris Volkoff School, which performed at a festival in Berlin in 1936 in conjunction with the Olympics. He served in the Canadian army medical corps in Europe in World War II and after the war studied art at the Central School of Art in London and then became an interior designer, helping the National Ballet of Canada as a costume designer. In 1952 he entered Mount Saviour and among other activities continued his art studies and painting, taking up subjects like portraits, landscapes, farm scenes, buildings, and flowers.
A PAINTING Brother Luke completed at the age of 90.
Last month the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity accepted no fewer than 47 postulants from 11 different African countries into its international novitiate in Nairobi, Kenya. The event comes on the centenary of the departure of the first Belgian Brothers of Charity missionaries for the then Belgian Congo, beginning the Brothers' presence in Africa.
|AFRICAN BROTHERS of Charity enter novitiate
on February 26, 2011
In 2010 Father Andrew Torma, M.S.C., vocation director for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, formed two parish vocation committees in parishes the M.S.C.’s serve. The purpose of these committees is to reach out to parents and others in the local church to assume the responsibility of supporting young men and women who hear a call to serve God, the church, and others by becoming a religious brother or sister or through ordained ministry.
The process includes asking the pastor to identify and encourage 12-15 people who would have an interest in learning about the need for a vocation committee. Father Torma makes a presentation to them explaining the importance of forming a “culture of vocation” in the parish to inspire young men and women to consider consecrated life. The committee brainstorms possible parish activities to promote a vocation culture and chooses two or three activities to be implemented in the parish immediately.
Finally Torma asks three people to be the committee for three years, with a chairperson for two years. This committee can add members as they are able to recruit others from their parish. After the meeting Torma sends the committee ideas and keeps in contact with them to encourage their work.
"I love being a priest," says Fr. Charles B. Gordon, CSC, in an essay in the March issue of U.S. Catholic, "because right now there are more than a billion people in the world for whom I'm not only a priest but also their priest. On the off chance that we ever meet, they will know what to make of me, and I will have a way to be with them.
Gordon, a Holy Cross priest, who teaches theology and literature at the University of Portand in Oregon, lists a number of other reasons he loves being a priest, including "because I hear about miracles. That's because people tend not to tell each other about their miracles. But they'll tell a priest.
"I know a woman whose beloved father died when she was barely out of her teens. When it happened, she turned to scripture for solace. She opened her Bible at random and read, "In place of your fathers will be your sons." She was single then. Now she is married and has four children, all of them boys. That is her miracle.
"...I've spoken to a Chinese physicist who converted from atheism to Christianity because ice floats. He told me that every other liquid sinks when it freezes. If water sank when it froze, he assured me, the earth would be entirely lifeless. We exist because water behaves in this odd way. That, he said, cannot be a coincidence and so he believes in our Creator God."
A new study suggests that women entering religious life today are highly educated and experienced in church work—and also that many receive little or no encouragement from their families in their vocation.
The Profession Class of 2010: Survey of Women Religious Professing Perpetual Vows, released by the U.S. bishops on February 2, the World Day for Consecrated Life, and conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, found that more than half of the women who professed final vows to join a religious order in 2010 said a parent or family member had discouraged their religious calling. Only 26 percent of the surveyed sisters said their mother encouraged them to consider religious life, and only 16 percent said their fathers supported their choice.
In a presentation to the U.S. bishops in 2009, Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, pointed to the discouragement from family and friends as a troublesome trend for the church. "Although people want a full-time pastor in their parish or religious sister teaching their children in the Catholic school, ironically, they are reluctant to have their own son or daughter choose that vocation," Bednarczyk said.
Nevertheless, religious life continues to attract highly educated and skilled candidates. Of those surveyed, six in ten entered their religious community with at least a bachelor’s degree and a quarter already possessed a graduate degree. Eighty-five percent had ministry experience before entering, most commonly in liturgical ministry, faith formation, or social service ministry.
That’s the question second-year Sisters of Mercy candidate Audrey Abbata asked herself. Ten years ago she was married and had a successful career with the Hearst Corporation. Then, in 2001, her husband Anthony was diagnosed with leukemia. He died three years later. “The darkness that enveloped me in the next few months frightened me immensely,” she said. “In my despair I got down on my knees and asked God to save me. God, being ever merciful, heard my plea. I found hope. From that day forward I vowed never to stray . . . from God again. To keep that promise I needed to make God the focus of my life. I had no idea how to live this, so I asked God to show me the way.”
|AUDREY Abbata (left)|
To those considering a vocation to consecrated life, Abbata says: “Religious life is a radical form of discipleship. Radical by definition is fundamental. I believe that in every generation God calls individuals to a fundamental life of vowed service to God. If God is stirring this desire in you, be open and allow God to transform you. Discover the contentment of living in harmony with God. Have enough faith to answer the call. God will show you the way.”
To read the full story of Abbata’s journey to religious life, visit the Connect with Mercy Blog.
The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, also known as the Nashville Dominicans, recently celebrated their 150th anniversary with a postulant class of 27 young women, or 10 percent of the entire community, following up on last year’s group of 23 entrants.. The sisters are active across the United States and in Australia, where they teach more than 13,000 students in 34 schools.
Sister Catherine Marie, a spokeswoman, says the current group of first-year students represents ten percent of the whole community. "There are 270 of us and our growth of late has been rather extensive. This year we had 27 young women enter. Last year, it was 23. Great blessings to us."
In addition, these women are young, with nearly one third of the community now under age 30. That fact is especially relevant considering a recent poll by the Pew Research Center which showed that participation in organized religion is falling among Americans under 30. A different group, the National Opinion Research Center, found that 17 percent of Americans do not identify with any faith, including almost 25 percent of first-year university students.
Sister Kelly Edmunds is a first-year postulant with the St. Cecilia community. She says she came to the order out of a desire to serve others. She had seen Dominican sisters serving at the University of Sydney.
"Just to watch them, walking down the main boulevard of campus wearing their habits—it was just such a powerful witness,” she said. “I had friends in engineering who were, like, they knew I was Catholic so they would say to me, ‘Who are these nuns on campus?’ And so it was a really great witness to me of the power of religious life."
Beloved, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia's vocation video:
While recent decades have seen declines in the numbers of members of religious orders—and the resulting closure of facilities—the recent upward trend in membership has produced the opposite challenge: not enough space.
|DOMINICAN student brothers gather
at Aquinas Institute Spirit Week 2010.
The Dominicans recently purchased the former Loretto Academy building in St. Louis. The renovated space will open in the fall as a Dominican priory, a residential community for men preparing to become priests in the order. The men will live in the house for five years while they study at Aquinas, which also educates laypeople to serve in ministerial roles. Those considering entering the order also go to the order's retirement community in Chicago where they experience the older members' life of prayer and living in community.
The building that will house the priory was designed by an architectural firm begun by George I. Barnett, who also designed the Missouri governor's mansion, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, and several of the earliest buildings at the Missouri Botanical Garden. It includes 32,000 feet of living space and an additional 16,000 feet of chapel, corridor, and storage space. Living quarters will undergo extensive renovation but much of the common space will be untouched. Features include a tile fireplace with carved wooden mantle and a chapel with stained-glass windows by artist Emil Frei. A new addition will include other common spaces and a fully accessible main entrance.
“We have a wonderful appeal both as a community and as an apostolate,” Father Wright said. “Preaching the word of God is what we're all about. And that can be done in hundreds of ways. Men don't join just to be in teaching, mission work, or whatever.” Continuing the work of their founder, Saint Dominic (1170-1221), the mission of the Dominicans includes preaching, teaching, and doing works of justice in a variety of settings--campus ministry, parish work, high schools, colleges, and retreat centers, full-time preaching, service in health care as chaplains and ethicists, the arts, and more. Community life, Father Wright said, involves not only living together under one roof but also the willingness to share one’s life with one another, being “of one mind and one heart in God.” The four pillars of Dominican life are prayer, common life, study, and ministry.
Twice a year the Dominicans have a “come and see” event for young men considering a vocation to experience that life, with the next one scheduled for the weekend of February 26-28, 2011 in Dallas.
“Am I to live the sacrament of marriage? If so, when? Am I to live the single life? Live as a chaste single person? Am I to be a priest? Am I to be a lay minister? Part time? Full time? Am I to be a religious brother? A religious sister? Am I to be a consecrated lay person? Is it time to make a first step toward commitment? To this person? To the church? To this religious order? To this organization?
“When discerning about something, it is important to be a person of faith. Believe that God has a plan for you. Each of us does the hard work of dating, inquiring, studying, volunteer activities, prayer, and searching. We must be engaged in the process. Passivity is not discernment. God will not spoon-feed us into a life commitment. Yet, when we turn our action over to guidance from God, situations, persons, and circumstances will be tools to illuminate the direction. Prayer is necessary. In prayer, mention the person or the actions or the circumstances around the process of one’s search.
“Talk with people. The gospel uses the image of the lamp on the lamp stand which illuminates the entire room. We cast light onto our experience when we talk about it. Parish marriage preparation or Engaged Encounter helps a person to see clearly that this person is choosing me as her or his life partner. Sharing our spiritual journey with a mentor helps to clarify God’s will for our lives. A trusted friend or an experienced person can help clarify confusing experiences. Searching for a call to serve as a priest or a consecrated person is nourished by the lives of the saints, involvement in ministries, making sacrifices, and living with sisters, brothers, or priests for a short time."
Father Stephen Langridge, chairman of the vocations directors of England and Wales, saw the number of men entering English seminaries to become Catholic priests rise to its highest level in a decade. According to Langridge, 56 men began their journey to priesthood this year. "The number of people responding to the call of Christ to be priests and religious has been rising slowly but surely, and may rise further as people respond to the visit of Pope Benedict."
At their annual conference held recently at Oscott seminary in Birmingham, the vocation directors discussed the approaches to vocations work that have contributed to this increase. Many dioceses and religious orders now run discernment groups for young men and women, where all vocations are discussed. Such groups encourage lay, religious, and priestly vocations.
Father Christopher Jamison, director of the National Office of Vocation, said: “When everybody in the church takes seriously [Blessed John Henry] Newman's insight that 'God has created me to do him some definite service,' then a greater number discover their call to the priesthood and religious life."
Vocations directors also discussed new ways to promote a culture of vocation. Some 300 young people attended the "Invocation" festival held in Birmingham in July 2010 for Catholics aged 16-35 who are discerning their vocation. This event was so popular that it is being held again on the weekend of June 17-19, 2011.
Schools are now being provided with high-quality online materials, and youth ministers are developing new approaches to bringing the gospel to life for the young. Attending events such as World Youth Day is an important experience that opens the eyes of many people to the richness of life in church service, and plans for English and Welsh participation in such convocations have been developed.
These British vocation leaders recommend the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops video Fishers of Men (also available with lots of other resources on the a vocation to be priest? website):
Part 1 . . .
. . . and Part 2:
|Capuchin Friary in Rapperswil,Switzerland. Rapperswill is known
as the Riviera of Upper Lake Zurich.
Wanted: Bankers, traders, or lawyers for full-time, lifelong position. No pay.
Associated Press reports that the Capuchin Friars in Switzerland have started an unconventional vocation drive by advertising in a classifieds section normally reserved for high-flying executive roles. Instead of a salary the successful application will enjoy "freedom from personal material wealth" along with time for prayer and contemplation. The accommodations aren't too shabby either!
Religious communities are recognizing the need to expand their online communications, especially in the area of social media, if they want to get the word out about themselves and attract potential new members. Helping to lead the way are the Sisters of Providence, who were recognized for their social media marketing "best practices" by the National Communicators Network for Women Religious at their annual conference last September in Denver.
The Sisters of Providence use various forms of social media to help share their community's mission and ministry. In the last year the Sisters of Providence have seen a growth of interest in vocations, as well as other activities, that they believe to be directly related to their social media and website work.
Highlights from VISION Vocation Guide's first time attendance to the National Catholic Youth Conference--held last week in Kansas City, MO--included:
A few photos--sorry we couldn't provide more--we were glued to the booth!
Sisters at the National Youth
|Franciscan Friars at their booth
|National Religious Vocation
Conference (NRVC) Board
Member Augustinian Father
Kevin DiPrinzio, NRVC
Executive Director Holy Cross
Brother Paul Bednarczyk, and
NRVC Associate Director
Sister of St. Joseph of
Philadelphia Charlene Diorka
What does a movie centering on cooking have to do with vocation? Could be plenty. To my mind, Julie and Julia is not only a fun movie to watch, but it's something of a secular meditation on what we Catholics call a "vocation story." There is no prayer in this movie (at least none is portrayed). There is no discussion of "calling" or "discernment," yet at heart the movie is about two women who are in the process of discovering who they are, where they belong in the world and what it is that they love and are good at.
For people of faith, these foundational concerns are the building blocks of vocation. Who am I? What are my gifts? What am I passionate about? What stirs me? These all play into the pivotal question of "What is God calling me to?" After all, God calls us according to our gifts and our deepest desires.
Julia Child had a gift for cooking and for communicating her love of cooking to others. The blogger, Julie Powell, also had a passion for cooking and writing. In the movie, over the course of months and years, both women learn by trial and error about their individual gifts and passions. They both have failures and experience uncertainty. Yet, as they come to know and appreciate themselves better, their talents finally begin to bloom in a way that becomes noticed by others. Throughout the movie they share their talents with others, especially their husbands who enthusiastically devour the scrumptious goodies that flow from the kitchen. Many of this movie's luscious food scenes hint at the heavenly banquet.
Julie and Julia is a secular story. But Christians, too, can gain some insights about the importance of self-discovery in vocation and the wisdom of sharing our gifts with others.
Post submitted by Carol Schuck Scheiber, VISION's content editor
I was at the Paluch Seminar on Vocations this past week and met some young adults who had never met a religious sister until they were well in their teens or 20s—even though they had attended Catholic schools. It made me realize that many people may not know or see the value of nuns, sisters, brothers, and religious priests.
I'd love to hear from others on what they see as the value for themselves and for the church of having people choose religious life. For myself I would say that I have been inspired by the fact that priests, brothers, sisters have been at the forefront of every major social movement in the U.S.: child labor laws, civil rights, peace, social justice. They helped establish our extensive Catholic school and healtchcare systems. They are now leaders in the immigration and healthcare reform movements.
I do believe their witness and dedication to the church is essential to the life of the church. Please let me know what you think.
A Study on Recent Vocations was just published by the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate on behalf of the National Religious Vocation Conference (the group which holds the copyright for VISION Vocation Guide). The study shows an increase in ethnic diversity among new entrants and a desire for prayer, communal living, and Catholic identity, which correlates with the VISION VocationMatch.com annual trend surveys and reader statistics.
For full details of the study, click here.
Best practices gleaned from the study for attracting and retaining new members:
Parishes, religious educators, and families also play a role in promoting vocations. Let's hope the study spurs more vocation awareness among all Catholics.
Running and vocations seem to be a hot topic on this blog (see previous item below). The latest installment: About 200 men and women from the Archdiocese of Washington will participate in the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K run to raise money for seminarians.
The archdiocese’s “Run for Vocations” team will seek to heighten awareness of the need for priestly vocations as well as bring in funds for seminarians. The marathon is slated for October 31 in Arlington, Virginia. The Marine Corps Marathon, now in its 35th year, claims to be the fourth largest marathon in the United States.
Among the archdiocesan runners, 49 are running the full 26.2-mile marathon while 138 are participating in the 10K. Funds raised through the team will help cover unexpected expenses for seminarians, including medical costs, travel expenses for family emergencies, and spiritual enrichment.
Born into slavery in Ralls County, Missouri to Catholic parents in 1854, Augustus Tolton was destined to become the United States' first recognized African American priest. But his road would not be an easy one.
With his mother and siblings he escaped to Illinois and freedom during the Civil War and eventually settled in Quincy, Illinois, where the family found work. Some priests and nuns encouraged and taught him, while others were hostile to his desire to become a priest. His attendance at the parish school led to racist threats. After years of rejection from U.S. seminaries, Tolton finally traveled to Rome for his studies, where he was ordained in 1886 at the age of 31. He had hoped to become a missionary to Africa, said an Associated Press story, but was assigned to parish work in Quincy, Illinois, New York, Baltimore, Texas and later Chicago, at St. Monica's parish. At St. Monica's the beloved Tolton was known to parishioners at "Good Father Gus" and admired for his homilies and singing voice. Tolton died of heat stroke on his way back to Chicago from a retreat in Kankakee, Illinios in 1897 at age 43.
Tolton was and continues to be a source of encouragement for African American Catholics. "Young people can look to Father Augustine's legacy—and be inspired and be able to say, 'If he could do it, so could I," said African American Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers of Portland, Oregon. Burke-Sivers wrote the introduction to a reissue of Sister Caroline Hemesath's 1973 biography of Tolton, From Slave to Priest..
Tolton's struggle continues, said Adrienne Curry, managing editor of the Black Catholic Chicago website: "We're faced with the same issues in the church—needing churches we can go to that feed our needs, and education we can afford, and still facing racism in the church," she said. "I think Father Tolton would be saddened but hopeful at the same time—just like we are."
Here's a video on the life of Father Tolton:
The U.S. Catholic bishops have posted their annual survey of the newly ordained. The 2009 survey, commissioned by the U.S. bishops and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), had a response rate of approximately 70 percent of the 465 potential ordinands.They included 239 men being ordained for dioceses and 71 for religious orders. Among the survey's findings:
The National Religious Vocation Conference hopes to work with the USCCB Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations on a similar project highlighting the newly professed men and women in religious institutes.
The Vatican's official yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, formally presented to Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 28, shows a gradual increase in the number of Catholic priests worldwide. There are now more than 408,000 priests in the world (up from 405,178 in 2000), and more than 115,000 seminarians training for priestly ministry.
The number of priests has grown by over 20 percent in Africa and Asia and is holding steady in the Americas. Europe and Oceania experience a slight decline, the Vatican said.
An uptick in those interested in and entering religious life is noted in VocationMatch.com's annual surveys on vocation trends. Click here for more information on VISION's statistics and recent vocation surveys.
Cardinal Edward Egan, who is retiring as Archbishop of New York, said at a recent news conference that his “greatest sadness” was that the archdiocese did not produce more vocations to the priesthood, according to the New York Times. The diocesan seminary in Yonkers will graduate only three students this year to be ordained to the priesthood.
Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who will be installed as the new Cardinal and archbishop of New York on April 15, visited St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers recently and said that increasing vocations was his "first mandate." Asked his strategy, Dolan replied, “Happiness attracts.”
In June Father John McLaughlin left his parish north of Boston to become the first vocations director for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, which serves Catholics in the branches of the U.S. military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and people in U.S. government service overseas. McLaughlin will travel to bases around the country to build relationships with the chaplains in closest touch with those considering a call to Catholic religious life. Retreats and correspondence with interested troops will follow. He will also speak to military personnel about the possibility of pursuing a religious vocation, said a June 12 Associated Press story by Jay Lindsay.
He and church leaders believe the armed forces offer a promising source of vocations. Members of the military service, he thinks, could be open to service in the church as well. “You start realizing how fragile life is,” he said. “And when people start thinking in those terms, they eventually start thinking about helping people in life.”
Besides facing questions of life and death, service men and women tend to have traits necessary for religious life, including self-discipline and a willingness to sacrifice, said Monsignor James Dixon of the Military Archdiocese.
Church officials estimate 11 percent of seminary students during the last three years have served in the military or had a parent who served. The archdiocese has for a long time reached out to service members but never had the money to hire someone dedicated to that job, Dixon said. “We finally got to the point where we think it’s become an absolute necessity,” he said.
McLaughlin believes he’ll be helping both the church and the troops in his new job. If he succeeds in recruiting more priests to dioceses, he said, those dioceses may be more likely to allow their priests to serve in the military, where the priest shortage is particularly acute.
In the Army, for instance, only 100 priests serve more than 105,000 Catholic soldiers, said Chaplain Ran Dolinger, a spokesman at the Army’s office of Chief of Chaplains.
Army chaplain Paul Hurley, who attended seminary with McLaughlin in the early 1990s, campaigned for his friend to get the job without McLaughlin’s knowledge. Hurley said McLaughlin has an authenticity and a knack for getting young people to talk about what’s important to them. Those characteristics are crucial when someone is deciding if life as a priest, sister, or brother is right, he said. “He’s got that special touch,” Hurley said. “He finds a way of connecting with people where they’re at.”
A former Boston College wrestler and later a high school coach, McLaughlin, 50, said his first major encounter with God came when he was stabbed in the liver at age 20 while walking near Boston’s Faneuil Hall marketplace. He and his brother were jumped without provocation, he said. As he lay on the street, McLaughlin prayed for forgiveness and for his family. “Even when I faced the worst hardship I turned to God,” McLaughlin said.
His commitment to the priesthood came more than a decade later, after experiencing an overwhelming peace during visits to a Marian shrine. “I thought, this is what God wants me to do, is to tell people about that and bring that peace of God to them,” he said.
“The hope is that they’ll think about it, talk to me about it, and then at the end of their [military] commitment, that’s when they’ll make the decisions,” he said. “All I know is that if I show them I enjoy the priesthood and believe in it, if God wants it to happen, it will happen.”
How do you think the church would best serve those in the military? What do you think are good ways for the church to recruit vocations to religious life among military personnel?
A new book sheds light on a little-known branch of Catholic religious life: cloistered Dominican sisters. In fact, the book’s introduction says, they make up the oldest part of the Dominicans, predating the order’s official founding by 10 years.
A collaboration of Dominican monasteries in the United States under the sponsorship of the Association of Dominican Nuns of the U.S.A., Vocation in Black and White: Dominican Contemplative Nuns Tell How God Called Them has 23 stories of calls to this kind of religious life.
The book hopes, it says, “to aid those discerning a call to the monastic life, to recall the ‘first love’ of those who have chosen it, and to raise awareness of Dominican contemplative life. The following accounts are told by the nuns themselves. They are all true, although a few sisters prefer to remain anonymous. Given the many contributing factors and the mysterious element in every vocation, selection in what to tell is necessary. This choice was left to each nun.”
The book is available from iUniverse; a community of Dominican sisters; and the major online booksellers.
A vocation to religious life can be large enough to leave room for other vocations—being a poet, for example.
Just ask Father Larry Janowski. A member of the Franciscans since 1968, Janowski recently published his first book of poetry, BrotherKeeper (Puddin’head Press), named for the book’s poem about the death of a 5-year-old thrown from the 14th floor of a Chicago housing project for refusing to steal candy.
Janowski’s work has earned him prizes, grants, fellowships, and residencies, and his poems have appeared in a number of literary magazines. He gives poetry readings and workshops on a regular basis and is also a contributor to a new literary journal, Fifth Wednesday. With master’s degrees in both fiction writing and theology, Janowski is also an adjunct professor of English at Dominican University and Wilbur Wright College in the Chicago area.
On his way to becoming a poet, he says in an interview with the suburban Chicago Arlington Heights Post, “I had written poetry in high school and college and I remembered all the things I loved about poetry: the economy of language, the compression and the images. The fact that every word, every punctuation mark, every choice about a line break, all of those things are incredibly important. And yet your whole piece could be on a single page.” After a while, he says, “I began to realize my religious background and training also contributed to the kind of poet I am.”
Janowski does not so much consider himself a religious poet as a religious person who is a poet. “As with all people,” he says, “I’m in a constant quest for spiritual meaning, for some heartbeat everyone shares. A poem, a good one, can allow you to see you are not alone—and that goes for the poet as well as the reader of the poem.”
Speaking of his vocations as priest and poet, Janowski recently told Chicago Public Radio, “I think that a great deal of being a member of a religious order is to pay attention to people, to listen to them, to try to hear what they’re saying, and also what they’re not saying. And it seems to me that that is what poetry is all about. It’s all about blessing people with a little bit of your own experience. In poetry we say, ‘This is something that I have learned, or maybe something I haven’t learned yet. Or this is something that has touched me, or something that I have lost.’ ”
Vision Vocation Guide just sent out a press release on Trends in Catholic Vocations based on the very encouraging statistics we've gathered from Vision Vocation Match and two recent vocation surveys we conducted among discerners and vocation directors. All of the statistics are fascinating; be sure to check them out.
Here's one stat I'm betting will change in the coming year: In answer to the question: What resources have you found most helpful in gathering vocation information?, 42 percent of respondents rated Discerners' blogs "Not Important at All." My prediction: That percentage will completely flip within a year, with at least 40 percent rating discerners' blogs as an essential resource. Please pass on links to discerners' blogs you already know to be helpful to those exploring a religious vocation.
Here's a story you don't come across every day: An evangelical minister converts to Catholicism and enters the seminary. But that is Gregg Bronsema's story, according to a story by ChicagoCatholicNews.com
Born in Chicago, Bronsema and his family belonged to the Christian Reformed Church before becoming Baptist and moving to Oregon. Years later, Bronsema became an evangelical minister.
|Photo by Gerry Lewin for Catholic Sentinel (Portland)|
It was the "last thing in the world" he imagined himself doing. "I didn't exactly come running to the Catholic Church," wrote Bronsema in an open letter to the Oregon parish he has been affiliated with since converting. "I had a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about the church that had to be broken down. But I have found the strength of the sacraments of the church and what a difference it makes in life."
How did it happen? While working at a Portland Christian bookstore, Bronsema began reading about the Catholic Church. Bolstered by his reading, Bronsema got up the courage to walk into St. Joseph the Worker church in Portland, where he got to know the pastoral staff and members of the parish. Gradually he came to realize this was his spiritual home and he entered the RCIA program.
Bronsema's journey of converting from evangelical Christianity to Catholicism has also been detailed in the Catholic Sentinel (Portland).
How about you? Did you, or someone you know, convert to Catholicism? How would you describe the faith of converts you have met? Are you familiar with the RCIA program?
New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff, who often writes about humanitarian crises around the world, has this engaging paragraph in his February 27, 2010 column on the growing role of faith-based groups in humanitarian relief efforts:
"One of the most inspiring figures I've met while covering Congo's brutal civil war is a determined Polish nun in the terrifying hinterland, feeding orphans, standing up to drunken soldiers and comforting survivors--all in a war zone. I came back and decided: I want to grow up and become a Polish nun."
Keep missionaries and relief workers of all faith traditions in your prayers today. And tell us how YOU are helping alleviate suffering somewhere in the world--through a donation, a volunteer effort, alternative spring break, or the like.
There are Nun Runs. These are come-and-see events where women discerning their vocation visit several women’s communities in succession (in fact there’s a Nun Run coming up November 12-13 in the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky area—click on the link and scroll down).
Then there is the Run for Nuns, where people run to raise money to help prospective members of religious orders pay off their college debt. And don't forget nuns who run, like triathlete Sister Madonna Bruder and ultramarathoner Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd.
Now we hear about the upcoming fourth annual Run with the Nuns Motorcycle Rally and Show this Saturday, October 23, 2010 at the Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Casino & Racetrack in Bossier City, LA. The event benefits children's health through parent education, services to abused children, teen obesity prevention, and other child-welfare programs.
In the 2004 issue of VISION magazine we ran an item about the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis, who for 20 years have opened the doors of their Old Highland area homes to neighbors in need of food, shelter, other physical necessities, or just someone to talk with. They reach out especially to children and families, offering toys, crafts, games, snacks, and activities such as baking and trips to karate lessons. If friends and neighbors arrive during prayer time, they are invited to join the sisters in their chapel, which is consciously located next to the front door.
|Baking party at the sisters' house|
Their effort began last January with the launch of a new website. With a group of supporters they call Vocation Partners the sisters are also developing a strategic plan to attract women between 20 and 45 years old. Outreach will include “live in” experiences and “nonthreatening” ways to attract people, like hosting dinners and information sessions, says Sister Joanna O'Meara, V.H.M.
"The effort is really to shout out with a loud voice, 'We're here, we're here!' " O'Meara said. "We want to be able to continue here. Certainly there are many things we could be about, but we need more members to do it, for kind of practical reasons."
Their community, says Sister Suzanne Homeyer, V.H.M., offers young women an opportunity "to combine their spirituality, religion, and life in the real world."
“Today is a marvelous time to be a priest!” These words of John Paul II were the inspiration for a group of Catholic seminarians from the Legionaries of Christ to develop WhynotPriest.com, an innovative website with catchy videos on a range of topics of interest to young men considering priesthood.
One engaging video shows a series of quick clips of priests from around the world responding to the question of “Why Not Priest?” with one-line answers in their native languages (subtitled for viewer comprehension). Take a look and then answer for yourself—Why Not Priest? Why Not Sister? Why Not Brother? … And most importantly, Why not you?!
Dozens of vowed religious and Catholic lay leaders gathered in Chicago recently to discuss the next steps needed to attract young people to religious life.
"Together we are seeking to discover a truth of how we may effectively promote religious life to a new generation in a new century," said Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C. executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, as he opened the invitation-only symposium called "Moving Forward in Hope."
|SISTER Joan Scanlon, O.P.,
facilitator of the symposium.
The gathering, which was funded by a foundation that wished to remain anonymous, included vocations directors, Catholic educators, major superiors, diocesan personnel, parents, young adult and campus ministers, younger men and women religious, media and communications experts, and church researchers and statisticians.
The gathering was designed to develop an action plan for promoting vocations in the United States. Bednarczyk said a final report on the symposium and the proposed plans would be presented to the foundation by the end of the year and made public after a board meeting of the vocation conference in February.
Among the potential responses to this issue, said Brother Sean D. Sammon, former superior general of the Marist Brothers and former president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, a key ingredient in establishing "the necessary lines of communication between this population and our congregations" is the creation of a "culture of vocation promotion," including the appointment of at least one full-time vocation promoter in each of the congregation's provinces or districts.
"If General Motors or IBM faced the personnel crisis that we have had on our hands for the last few decades, they would have long ago had their best people in the work of recruiting men and women for a career with their corporations," he said. "At the same time, each of us must learn to take some responsibility for this work."
He also suggested taking advantage of "opportunities available to educate as wide a population as possible," such as with a parish adult education course on religious life yesterday and today.
"In so doing, we might consider targeting parents especially," Sammon said. "They were once one of the strongest allies of those encouraging vocations; they need to be brought into that same position again."
Another crucial factor is visibility, he said, noting that "a number of us from older generations of religious have, to a large extent, become invisible in the places in which we serve and the communities in which we live."
"If we are truly interested in improving the witness value of our way of life," he said, "a number of us will need to find some new and more effective ways to be more visible."
Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference (sponsors of VISION) was featured in a recent National Catholic Reporter (NCR) profile of the state of brotherhood in America, "Despite steep decline, brothers see hope for their vocation's future."
Interviewed by NRC reporter Robert McClory, Holy Cross Brother Bednarczyk spoke openly of how his sense of vocation developed early in life. He briefly considered studying for priesthood but became convinced brotherhood was the right choice for him.
Bednarczyk, 53, studied at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, run by the Holy Cross congregation, and formally entered the order as a novice in 1979. He says he felt comfortable as a brother from the beginning and he likes the fact that brothers are not part of the hierarchal structure in the church.
"We are not above anybody. A brother by definition is on an even level, on the same plane with everyone he encounters," says Bednarczyk, and this fact allows brothers to play a unique role in relating to today's egalitarian minded young people.
Bednarczyk also discussed with journalist McClory the challenge of reaching Catholics who grew up with Vatican II as ancient history. This generation knows Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he said, and they're not as vehement about fighting church battles as are older generations.
"But they are the signs of these times," he said, and must be taken seriously. He believes religious life as practiced by the brothers can provide a "prophetic dimension" to them and to the larger church, both through its emphasis on community life and in reaching out to the poor and suffering.
Photo of Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk (Photo Credit: NCR Publishing Company)
|Catholic sisters in India attend
a continuing education program
There was also an upward trend in Africa, where the numbers of sisters in Tanzania and the Congo grew by about 1,500. Nigeria, Madagascar, Kenya, and Angola added 500 to 800 sisters.
In Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, however, there was a downward trend. Overall, 99 nations have seen increases in women’s vocations since 2000. Unfortunately, these gains have not been able to offset the 4.6 percent decline among Western religious sisters. Italy, for example, lost 11,156 sisters from 2002-2007. The United States experienced a loss of 10,454 during the same period.
Currently there are about 750,000 religious sisters serving around the world.
A few months ago discerner Jon Perrotti wrote VISION to say that at the time he was "taking part in an 'observership,' a noncommittal residential experience of monastic life, at Mount Saviour Monastery in Pine City, New York." And so," he said, "if sharing my experience can ever be of any help to other men or women considering a monastic vocation, this is the time to capture it with words. . . ." Here’s some of what he said.
"My life has afforded me a great deal of travel and adventure, and I have had much contact and rich encounters with people of other faiths, and indeed even religious experience outside of Christian tradition. I first meditated in a Zen Buddhist temple when I was a 17-year-old exchange student in Japan and practiced meditation off and on into my adulthood. I have done Hindu kirtan chanting and took part in a sweat lodge ceremony on an American Indian reservation. I have had conversations with and been impressed by the intellectual honesty and integrity of atheists, taken part in interfaith dialogue and prayer with Muslims, and danced and drummed with pagans. Yet, for me, [my] vocation would not be remotely possible if I could not bring my heart and mind into exclusive loyalty to one faith.
"I happen to have been born and raised Catholic, and something consistently drew me back to a Catholic expression of Christian faith, but the major turning point of my life that brought me to where I am today happened at the ecumenical monastic community of Taizé. There, the fragmented church, the broken Body of Christ, comes together to declare that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. I learned there that the monastic life is not lived just for the sake of the life itself and its consequences to the monk. It is a radical life of following Christ courageously focused on powerful prayer and powerful witness.
"What a gamble it is to act on the hope that I can make . . . a difference in the world with prayer . . . . Do I really believe in God enough to take such a risk with my life? I don't want to be wasted! Can I trust God to hear my prayers? Where do you start? The problems of the world are so great. Am I running away from the challenge by going off to pray? Not if I believe the words of our Lord. He promised us that we would move mountains with our prayer. By the grace of God, that is what monks are doing and are called to do—move mountains."
He has some important questions. "How about proclaiming the gospel? The Lord told us: ‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house’ (Matthew 5:15). . . . The risk of failing to proclaim the gospel is the same for monks as it is for any other Christian. But the monastery has a unique and powerful opportunity for witness in the modem world, perhaps more than it has in any time in the history of Christendom, because as the world becomes more outrageous in its injustice, depravity, greed, and insane pace, the anomaly of the monastery stands out in stark relief for simply not following suit. More importantly, something happens when believers come together and dedicate their full lives to prayer and praising God. The Holy Spirit makes its presence known. An encounter with real holiness has got to be the most powerful witness to the existence of God that anyone, believer or nonbeliever, will find.
"Is all this vow-taking biblical? I was always particularly impressed with Jesus' admonishment about making oaths: ‘Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black’ (Matthew 5:36). This always rang true for me—live in the now, man! I didn't even like to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag because I thought, why should I pledge allegiance to my country? Who knows what our government will do tomorrow! Someone pointed out to me that vows are really statements of hope. A couple who make vows of marriage join in a common statement of hope that, with God's grace, their love will survive. I can conceive of taking vows because I have hope in Christ . . . and if I believe he is calling me to a particular life, I can make a vow as a statement of hope that I may be able to answer that call to the end.
"The more daunting fears are the fears of one who has made his bet with Christ. . . . If my choice to follow the Lord puts a wedge, or even a world of distance, between me and others, be they strangers whom I would have befriended or members of my own dear family, will that sacrifice have been for nothing? Would God let me make such a mistake? What if there's not a God, and my choice to live a life of prayer is a choice to waste my life? The greater fears about a monastic vocation are human ones. Surely there will be days when God seems to be absent. I think that is true for any pope or street-corner preacher, as it is for all who seek him through their lives. . . . So I will do my best on those days to sing with the psalmist, ‘O Lord . . . . why do you hide your face from me?’ (Psalm 88:14). I pray such days will be few. I believe they will be few, because so far God keeps showing up, amazingly."
|FATHER DAVE Korth, executive director
of St. Augustine Indian Mission
in Winnebago, Nebraska, and senior associate pastor
of four parishes in the Winnebago area,
with his Priesthood Trading Card.
Photo by Lisa Maxson and Shannon R.A. Tarvin/staff
of the Omaha Catholic Voice.
The cards will feature photos and statistics of priests serving in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Anderson, along with Lori Mellender, Cathy Hula, and Melia Vankat, said they thought the cards were a fun way for children, especially boys, to participate in a popular hobby and at the same time learn about local priests and possibly gain interest in the priesthood.
Both active and retired priests have been asked to provide information for the cards. The information includes ordination date, hobbies, favorite prayers and patron saints, and desired charism (blessing or talent the priest has to offer). Cards are published only with the permission of the priest.
Custom-TradingCards.com is printing and packaging the cards, which are being sold in packs of eight at local Catholic bookstores and through card-project coordinators. Packs sell for $1.Each pack includes a card with a picture of St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests, and a prayer for priests.
According to Mellender, the project's goal is to encourage children to collect every priest's card, as well as open their hearts to the call to the priesthood.” We want them to understand that God calls ordinary men to do something extraordinary," she said.
Anderson added that the idea of a vocation is somewhat philosophical, so making note of the humanity of each priest may help boys relate and aspire to be a priest. "We need more vocations within our archdiocese, and I personally think that the younger you start to talk to boys about the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood, the more open they are to it," Anderson said.
There is no word yet on what a complete set of the cards might be worth in 20 years.
In April of 2008 I posted a blog item about the Monastery of the Holy Cross, an urban Benedictine monastic community on Chicago’s South Side. Specifically I talked about the award-winning bed-and-breakfast they operate out of one of the monastery buildings.
The community has an interesting history, tracing its roots to three founding brothers who had done mission work and felt called to form a community of prayer. In 1991 they were invited to Chicago in order to establish a contemplative presence in the city and were given a parish church that had been closed. They began renovations of the church and over the next few years were able to purchase several adjacent properties, allowing them to welcome more guests and accommodate more monks. In the mid-1990s the community sought to affiliate itself with the Subiaco Congregation of the Order of Saint Benedict, and in May of 2000 the founding members made their solemn professions as Benedictine monks. On the same day the first new member made his first vows.
The story of the current prior of the community, Father Peter Funk, O.S.B., is as interesting as that of the community itself. Coming from a musical family, Funk studied music theory at the University of Chicago and was getting hired as a cantor at Chicago parishes and leader of music at the university’s Catholic campus ministry. With his childhood friend Jon Elfner, Funk formed a jazz-rock fusion band called Om in 1994, which also included bassist Aaron Kohen and a rotating group of other local musicians. They played their last gig at the Taste of Chicago in 1997. “I wasn’t surprised at all,” Elfner said of his friend’s decision to enter monastic life. “Knowing him as long as I did, he always vested a lot into his religious life.” Funk was prepared to give up music to focus on his monastic formation but got lessons with a voice coach instead.
These days, besides the community’s liturgical music (they devote three and a half to four hours a day to communal sung prayer), Funk also plays in a trio with fellow Benedictines Brother Brendan Creeden, Funk’s former novice master, and novice Ezekiel Brennan. The group performs at social functions the monastery hosts. While he doesn’t listen to much modern music anymore, Funk is still a fan of Steve Reich and Steve Coleman.
Source: ChicagoCatholicNews.com and the Chicago Sun-Times
A former Protestant pastor who is a married father of eight was ordained a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this past June 15. The newly ordained Fr. Paul Shenck was raised Jewish and baptized a Christian when he was 16 years old, Catholic News Agency reports.
In 1994 Shenck left the New Covenant Tabernacle, an evangelical church he founded, and became a pastor in western New York for the Reformed Episcopal Church. He entered the Catholic Church in 2004. He and his wife Rebecca have been married for 33 years.
While Latin-rite Catholic priests are ordinarily required to be celibates, a special provision instituted in 1980 by Pope John Paul II allows the ordination of married men in certain cases.
|Saint Angela Merici
with Ursuline sisters
How could a woman in her 60s, together with a small supporting group of older women, gather two dozen young women to live a new life and end up becoming a force for reform and renewal in the whole Western Church? This is what happened in 1535 in Brescia, Italy and the woman was Angela Merici, says Ursuline Sister Elisa Ryan, OSU in an update sent to VISION about her community.
Within 100 years, following the reforming Council of Trent, her small Company of St. Ursula inspired Ursuline foundations throughout Europe and soon after in North and South America. Today Ursulines are found in every corner of the world. The Holy Spirit was Angela's life-long guide. Her parting counsel to the members of her company was to remain united and obedient to the Holy Spirit who speaks without ceasing in their hearts.
Ursulines are women called to grow in holiness, women committed to respond to the counsels and urgings of the Holy Spirit to lead a new life in our Church and in our world. Ursuline life mentors this growth in ways that have reflected the very diverse times and needs of the Church. Today a new Church awaits a new generation of Ursulines. Click here to read more about the Ursulines in VISION's digital edition.
There are around 24,000 priests in France today, down from 42,000 in 1975. But vocation ministers are responding by launching a campaign to reach out to the public with newspaper inserts and brochures that showcase real priests and their passion for people and humanity, says a National Public Radio story. The campaign is also distributing 50,000 postcards aimed at 16- to 22-year-olds—depicting a Catholic priest's garb with a button reading "Jesus is my Boss" pinned to the lapel and the slogan "Why not?"—in cafes, bars, and cinemas and on college campuses.
“Priests suffer from a low social status, so we're trying to change that by showing what being a priest really means,” says Frederic Fonfroide de Lafon, the head of the firm the church has hired to run the campaign. “A priest has extensive training in philosophy and the humanities. He is not someone who lives apart from society in his own world, but someone who participates. A priest accompanies people in the most important moments of their lives." Church officials say they are pleased with the campaign's reception; its Facebook page has had 40,000 visitors already, and vocation ministers say they are receiving more than 100 emails a day since the campaign began in April.
Listen to the full National Public Radio story.
|St. Scholastica Chapel at Mount St. Scholastica|
That’s the question that spoke to journalist and poet Judith Valente from the Rule of St. Benedict, which has guided Benedictine monastic life for about 1,500 years. The 17th-century bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet called the Rule “an epitome of Christianity, a learned and mysterious abridgement of all the doctrines of the gospel, all the institutions of the Fathers, and all the counsels of perfection"—or, as Valente reported in an October 30, 2009 Religion & Ethics Newsweekly story, “It’s been said everything one needs to know about living the spiritual life is contained in this little book.”
Starting in June of 2008 the Rule had become Valente’s constant companion. She had been invited to share as a layperson in the life of Mount St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery for women in Atchison, Kansas (and a VISION Vocation Network advertising-community), for a book she’d been asked to write. “I admit I questioned at first what practical wisdom a monastery might hold for a modern, married, professional woman like me,” Valente said. “It turns out I’ve learned plenty.
“I used to think of monasteries as outmoded remnants of a past era,” Valente said. “But now, when I enter Mount St. Scholastica, I feel as if I’m peering into the future, a future our world so desperately needs—one that stresses community over competitiveness, service over self-aggrandizement, quietude over gratuitous talk, and simplicity over constant consumption. The Mount is a place where those who listen are valued as much as those who speak up; a place where people forgo personal wealth but want for nothing; where prayers are said for the victims of violent crime and bells are tolled when a Death Row prisoner is executed.”
Valente found another countercultural example in the monastic idea of stability. “At Mount St. Scholastica there are sisters who have lived together for as many as 75 years. Having moved from state to state here in the U.S. and lived in three European cities over the course of my career, the notion of spending one’s entire life in the same place seems quite foreign to me. In fact, the whole concept is alien to our highly mobile American society. Stability reminds us to grow where we’re planted.
“I suppose,” she said, “I am just one of the many Benedict has spoken to through the ages who yearns for life and desires to see good days. ‘Run, then,’ Benedict reminds me and all of us, ‘while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you.’ ”
|Hannah Corbin (left) gets a hug from Sister Denise Wilkinson, general superior, during her entrance into the postulancy Sept. 14 under the watchful eye of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.|
“Hannah’s ‘call’ to religious life,” says a story on the Sisters of Providence website, “was a gradual process. . . . She began to research other religious communities to see what choices were possible. She went online to the VISION website and read flyers on bulletin boards at college. She remembers seeing the Providence Volunteer Ministry (PVM) opportunity [on the VISION site] with the Sisters of Providence.”
Read Hannah’s full story here. And check out the Opportunities section on the VISION site to find a large number of discernment and service events available with Catholic communities of consecrated life.
On Oct. 17 Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Blessed Mary MacKillop, making her Australia's first saint, and Canadian Blessed André Bessette, who will be the first saint of the Holy Cross Brothers.
|Mother Mary MacKillop|
Mother Mary MacKillop, an Australian, founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart in 1866 with the help of English priest Julian Tenison Woods. From the order's inception, the sisters, commonly known as the Josephites, lived among the people they served and provided education and support for the children and families living in remote rural and urban areas. This commitment to follow laborers and their families to isolated communities often without regular access to the sacraments was initially condemned by local church officials. MacKillop was briefly excommunicated but three years later the bishop who punished her recanted and she was exonerated.
MacKillop died in 1909 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.
There are now about 1,000 Josephite sisters living and ministering throughout Australia and New Zealand, as well as Ireland, Peru, East Timor, Scotland, and Brazil.
|Bl. André Bessette|
Bessette spent his day greeting visitors to the novitiate and his evenings visiting the sick in the surrounding neighborhoods. He became known as a miracle-worker, which he ascribed to the healing power of Saint Joseph, and thousands began seeking his counsel and prayers. His devotion to Saint Joseph led him to start a campaign to build a shrine dedicated to the saint. Construction of the Oratory of St. Joseph began in 1924. Bessette died in 1937 and his remains are buried beneath the main chapel of the Oratory. It was reported that 1 million people filed past his coffin.
Others to be made saints on Oct. 17 according to Catholic News Service:
-- Blessed Stanislaw Soltys Kazimierczyk (1433-1489), a Polish-born member of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, famous as a preacher and confessor.
-- Blessed Juana Josefa Cipitria Barriola of Spain (d. 1912), founded the Daughters of Jesus.
-- Blessed Giulia Salzano of Italy (d. 1929), founder of the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
-- Blessed Camilla Battista Varano (1448-1524), founder of several Poor Clare communities in Italy.
Sainthood was also approved for Stanislaw Soltys, a 15th-century Polish priest; Italian nuns Giulia Salzano and Battista Varano; and Spanish nun Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola.
by Father Paul Weberg, O.S.B.
If someone would’ve told me when I was in high school that I would end up being a Benedictine monk, a priest, a high school teacher and chaplain, and an Army chaplain, I’m not sure if I would’ve laughed or cried, but I’m sure I would’ve been surprised! Somewhere in Saint Augustine’s Confessions he prays to God, saying something like: “When I was young, I wanted marriage, money, and prestige, and You laughed at me.” I think we have two lives: the one we plan for and the one we get, and if we’re in touch and in tune with the Lord, the one we get is always better for our eternal happiness and holiness. That has definitely been the case for me.
|Father Paul Weberg, O.S.B. in Iraq|
All of these “parts” or “layers” make up my vocation. Some have said: If you’ve met one Benedictine, you’ve met one Benedictine! There are truly no two monks alike, and rarely do monks live out their call to seek God in exactly the same way. Saint Benedict doesn’t even expect that—and with the chapters in his Rule on diet and artisans in the monastery, maybe he even discourages it. Being a monk and priest has opened so many doors for me. For me, the Lord has called me to seek him and to glorify him in the monastery, high school ministry, and the military. If you’re following the Lord, be ready for an adventure!
In a recent holiday message from Moscow, Sister Roberta Christine, F.S.P., a Daughter of St. Paul from Virginia, wished everyone a blessed Christmas and happy new year—or, more precisely, С Рождеством и новым годом!—and described some of her activities in the Russian capital.
|Moscow's Catholic Cathedral|
Sister Roberta’s efforts led to an invitation from the Salesian Oratory Youth Group at the cathedral to give a talk on Pauline life and mission, which she did with the help of two other sisters, a PowerPoint presentation in Russian, and youth translators when necessary. “We started the evening with ‘tea’ and ended the evening with the ‘tea’—a very Russian thing to do,” she said. Some of the young people have even started stopping by the Pauline book center.
As for the weather: “We have had -23 C, -20, -16 so that 0 C feels like summer,” Sister Roberta reported. “But at -15C’’—that’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit—“your nose hairs and eyelashes actually freeze. The trick seems to be dressing like an onion.”
The book and film Dead Man Walking did a lot to get the word out about Sister of St. Joseph Helen Prejean's efforts against the death penalty. But did you know the book was also made into an opera, with music by Jake Heggie and a libretto by Terrance McNally? Heggie has also set to music Prejean's poems The Deepest Desire: Four Meditations on Love called The Deepest Desire: Four Dramatic Songs of Praise, which talk about the vocation of love and her own vocation.
The texts of the songs are below. Here's a performance:
Prelude: The Call
More is required
More is required than being swept along—
All the currents pulling me
Easy and wide in a long, slow drift—
Without rudder, floating backwards, now to the side.
What can one person do against a sucking tide?
I coil like a bow;
I gather like a fist;
I forge like a rudder
And I lean into the wide, slow drift.
I tack and veer by God's own will.
I raise my voice against the silence.
My voice alone until a chorus joins.
Love is the pure energy of God: pray for it ardently.
Be grateful when it comes into your life: give of it generously.
Lavish it on others: even the undeserving ones.
Cultivate friendship with care: it is the best love of all.
I catch on fire
Long black dress to my toes—Flowing black sleeves and veil.
A walking bolt of black material.
Fourth grade religion class-Teaching full force:
The gospel according to . . .
Fifty little eyes wide. Twenty-five voices shout:
"Sister! Sister! You're on fire!"
Flames shooting. Hands beating.
Children, this teaches us always to be careful with fire.
Now, years later, when I pray
I catch on fire.
The deepest desire
Pope Benedict XVI gave the Roman Catholic church five new saints on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009, including Father Damien, born as Jozef De Veuster in 1840, a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium who cared for leprosy victims on the Hawaiian island of Molokai from 1873 to 1889, when the disease killed him. The other new saints are 19th-century Polish bishop Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski; Spanish faithful Francisco Coll y Guitart and Rafael Arniaz Baron, and Jeanne Jugan, a Frenchwoman described by Vatican Radio as an "authentic Mother Teresa ahead of her time." (Click here for full AP story featured on NPR).
For more information about Father Damien, read VISION's online listing for Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (code 230).
For Jeanne Jugan, go to the VISION listing for the Little Sisters of the Poor (code 041).
Sister Patricia Lucas, D.H.M. with two of her students
Now the director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, Lucas is also a member of the multicultural and evangelization committees for the archdiocese. In addition she is the regional director of formation for the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and has ministered in Ethiopia and the inner-city prisons of Chicago.
After joining the Daughters she was assigned as director of Nazareth School for Girls in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she was responsible for 1,400 young women. "At that time, the president of Ethiopia had his daughter attend Nazareth School. Everyone there valued their education and viewed attending the school as a stepping stone to England or America. The students prayed so much; they prayed for peace every morning," Lucas said.
Due to the continuing civil war in the area that ended in 1991, she relocated back to the U.S. to become president of a mostly white school. "I sent in my résumé for the job without a photo," she said. "When I was voted in, people were definitely taken aback. I didn't see overt racism, but it was racism that was covered by a smile. People don't respect you as a person with intelligence.""My faith has made me a stronger person," she confessed. "I could not endure the racism, even within my own church, if it was not for my faith. It made me look beyond the atrocities and realize there is a God."
Sr. Jan Lane's reflection on her vocation as an Adorer of the Blood of Christ
In October, 17 years ago, five United States Adorers of the Blood of Christ were murdered in Liberia, West Africa by
| Sr. Jan Lane, ASC
When I was 35, anyone looking at my life would have thought I was perfectly content with the direction my life was taking. I had earned a B.A. in Parks & Recreation Administration and completed 10 years of successful employment serving as Program Director of a large recreation facility in my hometown. I loved working with people of all ages and social-economic backgrounds in designing programs to meet their need for organized social and recreational activity. On my free time I enjoyed training and competing in various 10k runs, biathlons and triathlons, just to stay in shape. I was a home owner, loved my cat, and found pleasure in picking out my own new vehicles and recreational gear. I enjoyed a great circle of supportive friends, which included dating and even thoughts of marriage from time to time. Who would have thought that a call to Religious Life would enter the picture of my very active life? I didn't! At least, not until I started to pay closer attention to my prayer life and a deeper desire to search for God.
Part of my search included drawing closer to my parish community by getting involved with prayer groups, sponsoring RCIA candidates and teaching PSR classes. Another part of my search included attending retreats and "Come and See" weekends, which connected me with women religious. One particular retreat captured my heart and significantly changed the direction of my life forever. I met an Adorer of the Blood who had lived and served in Liberia, Africa for 17 years. She shared her personal experience as a missionary and the story about the five Adorers who had been martyred in 1992. I was struck by the radical witness of the Adorers in living fully their spirituality which is rooted in adoration of the Precious Blood of Christ. They seemed impelled to share their lives, talents and resources for the purpose of building up a community of people who had less then they had. After that retreat, I knew I wanted to learn more about the Adorers and their mission to "bring about that beautiful order of things that the Son of God came to establish in His blood." For the first time in my life, I felt within me a desire to explore the possibility of a vocation to Religious Life.
Today I am a professed Sister with the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and I still love the opportunity of working with people from all walks of life. I have had a variety of ministry experiences including working with inner city after-school programs, hospital and hospice chaplaincy, pastoral training programs for laity, and vocation outreach for the Adorers. Even as a Sister, exercise remains important to me and I have a steady routine of early morning runs and evening swims at the YMCA. I still consider myself a seeker, one who searches for God in my daily encounters and activities. Prayer remains central to my spiritual growth. The difference now is I live in a supportive community of faith-filled women who share a common mission. Together, we draw from a rich spiritual heritage that gives depth and meaning to life both personally and communally. Becoming an Adorer of the Blood of Christ has opened my life to a greater sense of purpose and direction, something that was that was missing at the age of 35. For those feeling the nudge to consider Religious Life as a vocation my advice is: "Go for it! Your life may change forever."
For more information about the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and the ASC presence in Liberia is available at www.adorers.org or contact S. Jan Lane, Vocation Director for the U.S. Region at email@example.com or 1-877-236-7377 ext. 1455
Many people who feel called to a religious vocation face the task of eliminating financial debts, whether accumulated from education loans or other sources, so that they can be free of debt when entering into religious life. One young Chicagoan has found a creative way to address that challenge.
On Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009, Alicia Torres will run the Chicago Half Marathon as part of "The Nun Run,," an idea, complete with its own website, TheNunRun.com, that she created to attract sponsors to help her eliminate her student debt. Torres hopes to become part of The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, a Franciscan community that is forming at the former Our Lady of the Angels parish on Chicago's west side.
On TheNunRun website, Torres says, "This September 13, myself and a group of generous friends will run the Chicago Half Marathon-13.1 miles along the beautiful lakefront-with the goal of raising funds to help me remit my educational debt so I may enter Religious Life Training is in full swing, and every day I try more and more to surrender to God's mercy and grace."
Torres works for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Respect Life Office. A 2007 graduate of Loyola University Chicago, she was first attracted to Religious Life while a university student. "Men and women in my generation are looking for meaning. We desire to make a difference in the world. Religious life really is a supernatural way of living, serving our neighbor in need while acknowledging God is the center of life," Torres told HeadlineBistro.com in an interview.
"Today many men and women want to serve in this way but are hindered by their educational debt. Ironically, the cost of education that should prepare us to serve others actually hinders our ability to freely live a life of prayer and service," said Torres.
Torres is being assisted in her efforts to retire her debt by the Laboure Society, a non-profit organization that helps men and women who desire to enter religious life eliminate their debt. The Society receives donations on behalf of individuals, so that donors may receive a tax-deduction for their gift. All gifts made to The Nun Run will be channeled through the Laboure Society and are fully tax-deductible. The Laboure Society makes payments to the lenders on behalf of the men and women.
"In our world today we function so often as individuals. Really, we can't be successful without the support of others. Every person who helps me as I work toward eliminating my debt is not just assisting me in a financial need. They are enabling me to live a life of love and service. In this way, they are part of the mission of love and service I will live as a vowed religious in the Catholic Church," Torres said.
Jill Kress, a novice of the Monroe, Michigan Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is taking questions. In an interview with the Michigan Catholic she talked about her vocation, snd in a video (see below) she answered the question, “What special advice would you have for someone who is an only child and wants to become a Sister?"
The newspaper asked her a series of good questions, and she had equally good responses. “What,” she was asked, “would you suggest to someone now discerning the call?” “Listen. Notice. Pray,” she said. “Listen to yourself, and that sometimes means having another, such as a spiritual director to reflect back at you what they’re hearing. Notice what feelings, ideas emerge from this. Does a certain theme keep coming back? And pray—in solitude, in community, in whatever ways work for you, hold your desires in prayer and see what happens. It’s a pretty simple formula, I didn’t invent it, [and] it’s helpful to have some way to track inner feelings.”
Why did she think God called her? “How does God call each of us to our true vocation, to what Thomas Merton calls our true selves? We all have a calling, and to figure out what we are called to has to do with living in such a way that we can hear that message in our lives.”
The paper then asked her about the role her own desire plays when it comes to discerning her vocation. “This might not make much sense,” she said, “but I would say that my own desire has everything and nothing to do with my vocation. I say it has everything to do with it because I can’t imagine wanting anything else . . . and yet, it’s not really my desire. I believe it comes from God.
“And yes, I do think that God calls us to a life we’re not necessarily comfortable with. It’s not about suffering for the sake of suffering, I am not at all advocating that. I think of this more as a ‘holy longing,’ or like the Jesuit principle of magis, always seeking the more. The cofounders of the IHM community, Louis Florent Gillet and Theresa Maxis, were always seeking out how to better serve God. As Louis Gillet once wrote, ‘I desire to be everywhere when I see so many needs.’ To IHMs today that speaks of a sense of dis-comfort with the way things are in the world—dissatisfaction with injustice, violence, and poverty in the world, and acting out of that holy longing for peace, wholeness, reconciliation. There is a certain amount of unsettledness with being a seeker, and to the extent that God calls us to see with new eyes the injustices, but also the beauty of the world and to continual conversion.”
Did anyone try to discourage her from pursuing religious life? “I’ve . . . had people in my life who have tried to dissuade me. This has been difficult because my tendency is to want to please others, and knowing that people who are close to me were unsupportive of my call to the IHMs was hard to take. But ultimately it’s between me and God and no one else.”
Read more about Sr. Jill. And here’s the video:
You may have seen the news story about the group of Franciscan friars-in-training who along with two older
|Friars at their journey's end.|
They took no money-what people pressed on them they spent on food and gave the rest away-and made no plans to have a roof over their heads. Their destination was the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land near Catholic University in Washington, which for them had a symbolic meaning as the close of their trip.They have a website about their journey. Their journey echoed Jesus' command to the disciples he sent out ahead of him to "take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money-not even an extra tunic" (Luke 9:3). "Anything can happen when you live in the moment, one step at a time," said one of the older friars. "But to find that out, you have to be willing to take that one step."
Needless to say they attracted a lot of attention. "Dressed like we are in our habits," another said, "it's like a walking sign that says, 'Tell us your life's problems.' " And of problems they did hear: relationship-difficulty-afflicted commuters poured out their hearts; a woman who had recently kicked out her husband and daughter told them her troubles. They chatted with a group of intoxicated bikers. Others who had no idea who they were thought them to be on their way to a Star Wars convention. Some kids took them for Shaolin monks. At the Lincoln Memorial folks wanted their picture taken with them. On one occasion the local police wanted to know what they were up to.
Along the Lee Highway in Fairfax, Va. a woman and her three children picked them up in her minivan and took them out to eat at Chik-fil-A. "It was the oddest experience sitting there at Chik-fil-A with everyone staring at us," the woman said. "The high point was when the guy dressed up like a cow came out and gave us all high fives. He was in costume. They were in robes. A lot of people were wondering what was going on."
Their outdoor sleep locations included a trampoline next to a firehouse (one moved, they all moved); picnic tables behind a church; and five nights on the Appalachian Trail. Indoor locales were the home of a tattooed and toothless Native American healer (where they spent the night exchanging gospel/Native stories and double flute playing/Latin hymn chanting); a Trappistine abbey; Catholic churches; a Baptist church; a church deacon's basement; a police academy barracks; and several nights in the "homes of strangers."
Read the full story with photo gallery.
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Vocation Director Father Andrew Torma, M.S.C. recently wrote about the connection between volunteering and discernment for the website and e-newsletter of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
When I was a boy, my father directed me in the helpful path of volunteering. During the summer he would send me with our lawn mower to an elderly woman to cut her grass. She was nice, but I never received anything from her but friendship and gratitude. Both my parents and my siblings also volunteered to help her with other chores around her little house. By imitating my parents, I discovered that doing a task for another person helps create a mature spirit of generosity. When the gospel said to help your neighbor with acts of mercy, I understood from experience the way to do this.
As I grew, the number of ways to volunteer increased. Some of them were more difficult, which also helped shape my character. Shoveling snow day after day for my grandmother created endurance, and helping my father with the garden created a spirit of sacrifice which became the foundation of a religious commitment. Volunteering helped me see others as children of God, a perspective which in turn helped shape my desires so that I was willing to make sacrifices to help another person.
One day in the seminary, my brother and I were assigned the task of washing and waxing the dining room floor. We worked with efficiency and cooperation and later that day someone remarked that we worked well together. I thought nothing of the incident at the time, but day after day of working as brothers for the well-being of our family made a habit of giving of self for the good of others. Teamwork and love created a spirit of community among us.
Any volunteer commitment shapes us, but volunteering can also help us discern our life's calling. When a person works alongside a member of a religious community, he or she is sharing the experience of the same values, identifying with the organization and its charism. For instance, when a person volunteers as a catechist, he or she takes on the evangelizing characteristic of the church. It is for this reason that when a person is discerning about a religious vocation, the vocation minister may suggest that the person act as a mentor in the RCIA program of his or her parish for a year. Hopefully the person will internalize the characteristic of evangelizing as a life skill, which deepens the awareness of a life commitment to the goals of the church and to the charism of the particular religious order.
Many young men and women have committed themselves to a year of volunteer service with an organization. The U.S. government has developed service projects to pay back loans for education and build the value of patriotic generosity to one's country. The church has provided volunteer programs as a means for the faithful to begin to respond to their baptismal call. While not all immersion experiences are designed as "mission" endeavors, they can serve as good cross-cultural preparations and as wake-up calls to a dormant baptismal calling. A year of volunteer service helps a person feel like a missionary and shapes the person's character accordingly. Volunteering with an organization helps us get to know the organization better, which is also an excellent tool for discerning whether or not this is the way we are being called to serve the church and each other.
Any form of volunteer service helps discern one's vocation, and volunteering is good preparation for all vocations. The call to marriage is founded on self-giving. The single way of life overcomes loneliness by being committed to giving amply of one's time for the good of others. The ordained celibate life finds it strength in personal sacrifice. Consecrated life comes from community support and a life of prayer together in the companionship of Christ. To volunteer in Jesus' name is to direct one's life according to the mind and heart of Jesus himself.
Father Jeremy Tobin, O. Praem. writes of the involvement of his community, the Norbertine Fathers and Brothers, with Catholic social justice.
I was at a national convention of human rights activists. Many were young people fired up about doing something to improve the quality of human life on the planet. They represented numerous causes, issues, and every group imaginable. People spoke from firsthand experience with candor and fervor. Every religion as well as no religion was represented. To see 500-plus young people animated about doing something to alleviate the immense gap between rich and poor, workers and managers, made me come alive with our own Catholic tradition of social justice. I see hope for the future. This goes way back beyond Vatican II, but the Council brought it together and gave it new life. So many other groups, religious and secular, freely acknowledge the influence Catholic social teaching has on their particular issues.
This is partly why I get up in the morning. Another piece is Mississippi. We chose Mississippi precisely because it is the poorest state in the union. It has a hoary history of oppression. It has a sparse population of Catholics (2 percent). At the same time it has a Christian culture. The Catholic population has been here from the beginning. The people are friendly and very appreciative of whatever talents we bring. The needs are huge. The enthusiasm is strong.
Katrina brought young volunteers from all over the country, and they still come. Many groups share our hospitality and encouragement at our priory-in-the-woods. I dream of some of them staying longer to do more to help us raise the quality of life and the spiritual energy of all our people.
For those who want to work with immigrants, there are plenty of opportunities: Spanish, Filipino, Vietnamese—all with long Catholic histories. African Americans, Catholic and Protestant, offer a wide range of opportunities to serve from our religious tradition. Catholicism among people of African descent goes back to the very beginning of this region. For those interested in Native Americans, the Choctaw Nation, now with its resorts and enterprises, has been here before anybody else. Many are Catholic, but we can serve all. Everybody is called to be God’s child.
All these groups offer a wide range of social justice, human rights, and religious formation areas to energize those dedicated people who pass through here. There is a strong social justice community, Catholic, Protestant, and other, working in harmony to make this new century one of rebirth and hope.
Norbertines are social workers and teachers, parish priests and chaplains in hospitals and prisons. Opportunities are limitless and the support is strong.
It all comes from Jesus, “When I was hungry, you fed me, thirsty you gave me a drink, naked you clothed me, homeless you gave me shelter, in prison you visited me, sick you healed me.” This is the core of Catholic social justice. Join us!
7100 Midway Rd., Raymond, MS 39154, 601-857-0157
This article reprinted from www.stmosestheblackpriory.org.
In recognition of the Year for Priests, June 19, 2009 to June 2010, VocationCitings will feature stories of Catholic priests—their vocations and lives.
It is hard to believe that I am in my seventh and final year as pastor of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon. It just seems like yesterday that I learned that the Congregation of Holy Cross accepted Archbishop Vlazny’s invitation to serve at Holy Redeemer.
These seven years have been years of growth and inspiration. I love Holy Redeemer School and look forward to bringing my passion for Catholic schools to my new assignment working with the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame. I will work for the future of Catholic elementary and high schools on a broad, national level.
As I think about another change in assignment, I am reminded that God gives me exactly what I need when I need it. God has been faithful to me all my life, and I have no reason to think that will change. God will always be faithful. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This is most true when it comes to God’s faithfulness. My entire life as a Holy Cross priest has involved accepting assignments that I wasn’t so sure about, and they all turned out to be unique opportunities for God’s grace in my life.
I have a friend who says, “The worst thing that can happen to you in your life is not that your life plan fails. Rather the worst thing that can happen to you is that your life plan works. God’s plan for your life is always bigger and better than what you could have imagined.
Read more stories of Congregation of Holy Cross priests.
In a new book, The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision (Ave Maria Press), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) talks about how its perspective is in keeping with the vision of religious life set forth by Vatican II, suggesting that its commitment to a more visibly countercultural life and ministry is what sustains its orders and attracts young women to CMSWR communities.
by Sister Mary Michael, O.S.F., School Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Panhandle, Texas
July, 1993: I came to visit here in Panhandle with an agenda: I wanted to know what it was like to live in a convent.
"What is it like to get up at 5:00 in the morning? What do they do all day anyway? Can I keep up with the schedule and the demands of this life?" I was very curious, but I had no intention of joining this community. It was just a convenient place (30 miles from home) where I could get some answers.
I told the superior to be sure to tell the sisters not to pressure me into joining. As a 23-year-old that liked to go to Mass every day, I had been pressured enough. I just wanted to be able to stay for a few days—to watch, to learn, to experience. The Mother Superior answered wisely with the best answer she could have given:
"If you're supposed to be here, wild horses could not keep you away."
Wow. That was exactly what I needed to hear. To my great surprise, I loved it at the convent! I found myself really enjoying the sisters. I was touched by the way they loved each other. When it was time to leave, I felt like I was being ripped away from something, someplace, and some people that I wanted to be a part of. I now realize that the reason why I had such a connection in my heart with these people was because this was the exact place where God was calling me.
I went home and thought about the sisters a lot. I kept looking at my watch, thinking about how they were doing things without me. "It's 3:00—they're having coffee break without me! It's 6:00—they're praying without me! It's 6:30—they're eating without me!" I called the next day and asked for an application.
I needed a little extra push. It's not easy entering a convent—giving most everything away, moving, saying good-bye to everyone (at least temporarily), and going to a place that you hope is as wonderful as you had already experienced.
Here I am almost 16 years later. (I can't believe it's already been that long!) This truly is where God has called me. It has been a long trip but a good one. Hopefully I have responded to God's grace to make me more like Him every day. There is definitely a lot more for me to work on, but I'm glad that I am here to do it.
If you are considering religious life, in the words of Pope John Paul II, "Be not afraid!" Pray that God leads you to the wonderful place where He is calling you. Pray that others will find it, too.
by Sister Karen Zielinski, O.S.F.
It was a typical Saturday in Sylvania, Ohio, home of my community, the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio. I had two major community events going on at the same time: a meeting and a weekend retreat. I attended the meeting and when we broke for lunch, I rushed to the retreat. Then I went back to my meeting. When the meeting ended early, I attended one of the retreat conferences. A friar there shared some words that hit me right in the heart:
“If a visitor came to your 89-acre campus and asked directions to a building, a Franciscan way of responding to the question is for the person to just accompany the visitor to the spot. That is a relational, Franciscan way of living.”
Just like the gospel message, simple but hard to live out, our presence to others is fundamental but often difficult to do. So many times a sister might present a lecture or a recital or have a fundraiser she is involved in, and we are asked for our support. Usually that means attendance at an event. We are often tired after a day of ministry or not feeling too well. The weather might be cold or rainy, and we just want to put our feet up and stay home. But we go to the talk or lecture. And once we get there, we are glad we did.
Of course all beauty is God’s, and when we rest in prayer, we rest in the presence and beauty of God. Prayer is the ultimate gift of God’s presence. We have to be there to receive that presence as well.
Saint Francis of Assisi’s presence to people guides me. “Francis once took a certain sick brother, whom he knew had a longing for grapes, into a vineyard, and sitting down under the vine, he first ate to give the other courage to eat.” He did not only send the brother the grapes, or send a representative.
Presence is a gift of attention and an opening of the mind to be receptive to the other person. In society today people often feel relieved simply to write a check, make a donation, or find a reason not to attend. Presence is a gift of time, that precious part of our daily lives that we guard for things which are important. There is nothing like being at an event, present in all our humanity to the other person. Being there is important.
The gift of our presence is very simple. We all can remember the times when we accompanied a family member or friend to a medical test. I remember having to go through an MRI test—something I dislike but need for my overall health care. A friend simply accompanied me to the test and sat there with me. It meant the world to me. She was just there beside me, being my friend.
Although a telephone call is not the same as being there, it can be a much warmer presence than email. So often my mother asks me if I have talked to my sister Judy. I tell her I have, because I email my sister often. When my mother asks, “How does she sound? How is her cold?” I realize that I have not been very present to my sister. But email is so convenient! Maybe I can try to make even my email message more “present” to my sister, too—more open to everyone.
Being there is not restricted to Franciscans but to anyone who has a Franciscan heart. A friend of mine who works for the Detroit Tigers baseball team gave me four tickets to a recent game. I went to the stadium with three other sisters. We got to our seats and because I had pulled my back out the week before I simply stayed in the handicapped section and advised my three sisters to go down to the better seats. While I watched the game in the top row, someone called to me. “You all alone? Where are your girlfriends?”
The African American man had one leg and wore a green jogging suit with the words “Turkey Man” on the back of his jacket. I had seen him 20 minutes earlier in the clubhouse—he was the team’s caterer for that game and had just unloaded pounds of freshly roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, and rolls.
“I told them to go down to watch the game. My back is on the mend,” I said to Turkey Man. Turkey Man came over to me and asked where I was from. I told him we were Franciscan Sisters from Ohio and had come to see the game.
“You should not be alone! I will bring you a Coke.” So Turkey Man got me a Coke and shared “Franciscan presence” with me. Oh, one of the sisters came up later and sat with me, but I was most touched by Turkey Man.
Much is said today about the art of being present. Saints Francis and Clare were highly skilled at that. Clare had a profound sense of God’s abiding presence. She never felt abandoned by God; she felt his presence at all times. Being there is actually quite simple: presence to our brothers and sisters flows from our presence to God. You gotta be there!
Nun encounters are rare occurrences in the lives of most Americans. In the January issue of America, Sister Charlene Diorka, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, describes how her chance meeting with a curious 20-year-old during a short plane flight, gave her the opportunity to reflect on her vocation and what it means to be a "real, live nun" in the 21st century. Here are the key things she says she learned over the past 25 years:
For the full article click here.
by Sister Marie Tersidis, O.P.
I grew up in East Africa. It was in 1977 that my vocation to religious life began to stir. I was born and raised around religious. My schoolteachers were 80 percent religious sisters. Besides, I have an older sister who is a religious. Providentially, our home is very close to the motherhouse of my sister's religious community so I had the privilege of attending daily Mass at the convent before school for seven years from the age of 10 to 17.
As I grew, observing the sisters coming to Mass in procession after their morning prayers and making their profound genuflection on both knees two by two, made my heart dance with joy. I could hardly wait to be one of them.
As soon as I completed elementary school, I sought to enter the convent, but by this time I did not want to join the community that my sister belonged to. I chose an international congregation, which meant I had to learn English. I did well with English. However, as I advanced in my religious training, I faced a challenge that threw me off my horse. The senior sisters who returned from their missionary activities shared with the novices their experiences in the missions.
The spirit of the founder was to preach the Word to all people and especially to the people in the remotest parts of the world. There are parts of the world where education is unheard of, and people are really primitive in many ways-clothing and eating, to mention a few. Now, one of the challenges at the missions was to identify with the people in their way of eating and dressing. That was way too difficult for me to conceive. I was too afraid to face this reality so I chose to go back home and pursue high school studies.
I tried to silence the voice within me. I thought I had succeeded when all of a sudden, [during] the final year of my studies, the desire came back stronger than ever. Now the dance changed. It was no longer an outward dance, but an inward dance of the heart. I had now to face the reality that I could no longer quench the desire to consecrate my life to God. It felt so unreal and yet so real. A mixed feeling! I started asking advice. My parish priest did not seem convinced of my vocation. This was very painful, but I trusted in God. Finally, I decided to go back to the same community I left.
I applied myself to my religious training. Two years passed. Then my fears about the missions began to build up. I could not believe I was to step out of the convent a second time.
And now, what next? What a dilemma! What a disappointment! I was plunged into a dense cloud where I was drawn to pray and to meditate on the word of God. I had within me the faith to seek the will of God in my life at any cost. My family was very mad at me because I had given up what was "the most important in the world," namely education and the good jobs that go with it.
Finally, the Lord, in his own mysterious way, led me to my true vocation. This I cannot explain because I never wanted to become a cloistered nun. Providentially, I was acquainted with a Dominican priest who wanted to establish a contemplative religious community in his country in West Africa. The priest was a good friend of the Dominican nuns in Lufkin, Texas, U.S.A. He managed to convince me that nuns live a normal life and that I should come to the States to be trained so that I could be of help in the formation of those interested in the life back in Africa.
I came to Lufkin and met the nuns. I was so scared that my neck hardly moved. I looked at them so carefully. I noticed they were happy. They dressed the same. There was nothing that indicated different classes in the way they dressed. Then I was led to the enclosure where I awaited strange things to happen. Nothing extraordinary happened. I noticed, too, they ate from the same table with the prioress and did everything in a good community spirit. I began to feel at home and at peace. I began to realize and savor the nobility of the life.
Before I knew it, my time for training was over and I had to go back to Africa to help in the formation of the postulants and novices. There I met another disappointment. The original vision of the community had changed remarkably within the two years I was away. I realized then that my real vocation was to be a cloistered contemplative after all. I sought to come back to Lufkin, and here I am.
All I had to do was to say yes to God, try it out, and let God do his work. I felt like Peter and the apostles when they spent all night fishing with no success. When the Lord gave the command to cast the net into deep water they caught more than they could handle. The same could be said of my vocation story. The Lord let me try so hard with no success until he plunged me into the enclosure.
Sister Marie Tersidis, O.P. is a sister of the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas. Her story is reprinted with permission and adapted from Vocation in Black and White: Dominican Contemplative Nuns Tell of How God Called Them, from iUniverse and available from the major online booksellers.
Born in Manhattan into a blue-collar Irish family, Patrick Buckley worked at Smith Barney as a foreign exchange trader, earning a high salary. He enjoyed parties and the single life. He had an expense account, traveled, and entertained foreign traders. But now, at 43, he is called Father Pat and is the associate pastor of St. Stephen’s Parish in Warwick, New York. He was interviewed by Francis Moore.
You did not choose the priesthood as a teenager, right?
I chose what I wanted to do—put my degree to use, work in the business world, live the high life, go out to parties, be in the thick of millions of dollars, feel the high of money in your pocket.
The job was all you expected, but you became a priest. Why?
There was something missing: a lot of time with God. When you open your heart just a little bit to the grace of God, he gets in there and he doesn’t let you forget about it. That’s what happened to me. I kept thinking about it. My uncle was a priest. He never asked me to be a priest, but I kept watching him whenever I went out to see him on weekends, and I said, "Here’s a man who enjoys what he’s doing." It’s not about money; it’s about bringing Christ to and getting Christ from people.
It wasn’t the angel on the bedpost and it wasn’t bolts of lightning, it was walking to work after a snow storm at 6:30 in the morning and starting to see God in things: the homeless guy laying in a cardboard box, seeing that life isn’t about everything at your beck and call, the nice shoes, getting to work, having your coffee. Some people are cut out for that, but God was trying to tell me you’ve got to do something different.
Had you ignored a calling?
I ignored it! But if God wants you he works on you. It’s up to you. You respond. That’s where free will comes in. In my case, I didn’t want it; I was ignoring it but, in his divine plan, I know that the right time was when I left. That’s the great thing about God. He knows what’s going to happen; he lets it play out. Easily I could have rejected it.
Were you praying about the priesthood?
If I didn’t pray as I was discerning, I would never have made it to the seminary. Every morning I prayed before I went to work. I prayed that I would stay healthy, do well, and “is this what you want from me God?” That’s cooperating with God because when you pray you’re actually letting God into your life. Each one of us . . . God has the best in for us.
Have you discovered any benefit or reward from becoming a priest you never expected?
I think you become humbled. On the day of ordination, other priests who are like thirty or forty years a priest, come and kneel down before you and ask you for a blessing. So you are all built up and starting to feel like Superman, like you’ve got these powers. And when you actually do the blessing you feel like you’ve been humbled into the priesthood.
My expectations have all been fulfilled. Every day is something greater. It’s a surprise. Mother Theresa was right: We’re all instruments in God’s hands, and that’s a template for everybody. As a married man, God uses you to bring his love to your wife and your family. God uses me at the altar, at the nursing home. My expectations have all been fulfilled, even surpassed.
How have you changed as a person from when you were younger?
Have I changed much? No. Have I changed for the good? I’ve let God’s grace work in me. In the business world, you more went with the flow. As a priest you have to be more of a listener—compassionate and understanding. That’s the hard part. You never look down at people. You’re not higher than them. When you go into the priesthood, don’t look to be served; you’re there to work with people, to serve them. But, if you use the priesthood for your own personal agenda for power, you’re wrong.
What is calling about?
Calling is about being Christ-like to other people. If you have weaknesses, I should help you improve them, yet be who you are. That’s what’s good about being a priest. Everyone is different yet we have the same goal to be Christ-like.
There are three ways to go. God may say, “You’re not going to be a priest, you’re going to be a married man with a family and maybe a great lector at Mass. You’re going to bring up your family with Christian values. That’s one way. Or you’re going to be single the rest of your life and you’re going to do wonderful things. And the other way is the priesthood and the religious life. It all winds together with the question are you who you were when you were growing up.
Every day as a priest is a challenge and every day there is something new. I’ve never been happier. Have an active prayer life. A prayer life leads to avoiding temptation, and God can work with you when you pray. Cooperation with God and his grace help you make right decisions. If a young person thinks about becoming a priest, never look back. Be thankful you’ve answered the Call. Trust in God.
When Chase Hilgenbrinck of Major League Soccer's New England Revolution wanted to talk with president of player personnel Michael Burns and coach Steve Nicol, the two “weren't exactly sure what he was going to say,” Burns said. “It’s not what you usually hear.”
What they heard from Hilgenbrinck was that he was retiring from professional soccer to enter the seminary and become a Roman Catholic priest.
Hilgenbrinck, 26, a defender and captain of the Revolution’s reserve team, will attend Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After his studies he will report to his home diocese of Peoria, Illinois for assignment.
"I felt called to something greater," Hilgenbrinck told ESPNsoccernet. "At one time I thought that call might be professional soccer. In the past few years, I found my soul is hungry for something else.
“I fell back on what I knew, and that was the Catholic Church," he said. "I grew up as a Catholic. I was always involved in the church, went to Catholic schools. It was when I got out on my own that my faith really became mine. I really embraced it. I didn't have to go to church any more, I was free to really believe what I wanted to believe.”
Because professional sports careers tend to be short, did he consider putting off his move into the priesthood until his soccer career ended? "Trust me, I thought of that," he said. "I discerned, through prayer, that it was calling me to the Catholic Church. I do not want this call to pass me by," he said. "I was putting up a bunch of barriers, saying I'm not worthy to be called to something like that. But, one by one, the barriers started to come down.
"We are all called to do something. I feel like my specific call is to the priesthood. So, no, it was not possible to continue with soccer. It's absolutely inevitable."
Player personnel president Burns commented on Hilgenbrinck’s decision, "When he said it, I was glad. I was glad for him. This is something that he clearly wants to do, and we wish him all the best."
I first felt the call of the Lord to follow him more intimately at the age of 10. At that time I participated enthusiastically in the various religious activities of my parish. As I grew older, I did volunteer work at a nearby orphanage and got involved in children’s catechesis. I was also a member of the Catholic Youth Action. The Lord’s call became clearer to me when I was 15, at World Youth Day 2000 in Rome with Pope John Paul II, when I heard interiorly with a soft and irresistible voice the “come, follow me” of the Lord. God called me to be His ‘sentinel of the dawn’. Moved by immense joy I responded, “Here I am, Lord, may your holy will be done in me!” The One and Triune God had captured me with His love.
From that time on I understood that God had chosen me to consecrate myself totally to Him. I did not yet understand, however, where He was calling me to live this vocation. And I did not know how I was going to communicate this choice to my family, who, though devout and practicing Catholics, had other plans for my future.
For about four years, I prayed for discernment to understand where the Lord wanted me to live the religious vocation to which he was calling me. I always remained open to others, and always had the desire to work with others. But I desired above all to pray and to be in the constant presence of God. At first I never thought of my vocation to be a monastic one. But truly, our thoughts are not His thoughts, nor our plans His plans.
Gradually, I understood the basic points of my vocation to be the life of prayer, community life, faithful witness of the gospel, devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, and the religious habit as a sign of my special consecration to God. That which touched me most was the biblical example of the “narrow gate” and the words from the gospel, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world . . . freely you have received, gratuitously you give.” These words gave me the courage and the strength to offer myself to God in a radically evangelical life without reserve. Surely there were always problems, but the Lord sustained me always by his grace.
During my philosophical studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, I met the Basilian monks of the Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata. This is an ancient Catholic Monastic Order of Oriental rite and traditions that has ecumenical dialogue as its specific mission within the Church. The monks live and pray to bring about Jesus’ ardent prayer to the Father at the Last Supper “so that they all may be one” and the words of St. Paul, “so that God may be All in all.” In fact, the Byzantine rite is a great help for the Orthodox brethren to draw closer to the Catholic Church, and the Latin Catholics to approach more easily to the Oriental Christianity.
Immediately I was touched by the monks’ lifestyle, marked by prayer. I was particularly struck by the spirituality of Saint Basil the Great and the Byzantine tradition. I was also captivated by their interesting activities, their profound and joyful fidelity to the monastic life, their fraternal life, and their openness to life in Christ. In short, my contact with the monks was a spark of light that ignited in me great happiness and serenity. I finally understood that it was here that God was calling me. “You have called me? Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will: You are my highest Good forever!”
After an experience of about 20 days in the monastery, I entered as a postulant in August of 2005. On June 28, 2006, during the feast of the Apostle Saints Peter and Paul, I made the monastic investiture and then entered into the novitiate. The first year of novitiate was a year of abundant graces. Guided and accompanied by the novice master Fr. Antonio, I began to deepen my relationship with God. I studied the monastic Typikòn (our Holy Rule), the Byzantine liturgy, the Greek liturgical language, the writings of Saint Basil the Great, the ascetic life, and the spirituality of the holy fathers and the Holy Scriptures. I have served in our laboratory for the restoration of ancient books and in our infirmary, serving the sick in the community. I am presently a second year novice and God willing, I will make my solemn vows next year. As part of the ascetic-monastic formation, I am studying theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and at the same time doing diverse duties in our community.
The monastic life is a mystical experience which someone enters only through God’s invitation. The solemn vows are evidence. But it is an invitation that requires our attention. Yes, because the Lord Jesus calls many, but some people do not listen, do not realize that their names are uttered by the lips of God. My invitation to all youth like me is this: If you feel this attraction towards God, don’t put off the flame of Love that the Creator has ignited in you. Respond generously and readily and you will never regret it! God is love!
I belong to: The Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata. For more information about the Basilian Monks, contact Father Antonio Costanza, O.S.B.M. at 0039-06.9459309 or write to: Basilian Monks—Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary, Corso del Popolo 128, I-00046 Grottaferrata (Rome) Italy. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sisters of the Living Word, founded in 1975, minister in 12 dioceses across the United States. Their mission is to reflect and affirm the Word, Jesus, who frees the oppressed and gives new life. “As Jesus was sent by the Father in the Power of the Spirit, so are we sent as Sisters of the Living Word. We reflect and affirm the Word in the Word, the Word who continually frees the oppressed and gives new life.”
In keeping this mission alive, the sisters celebrate the memory of foundress Annamarie Cook. Her unbounded courage—based on total, loving openness to God’s call—is a poignant model for the Sisters. Cook passed away October 20, 2005. In her own words: “As I look back to 1975 I am grateful to God for forming us as a new community. I look forward to whatever time I have left in this world to continue to bring Christ to others wherever and whenever I can. Meantime, I live from day to day knowing that all I want to do is His will in whatever way it is shown to me. When He calls me at the end of my journey, I will say a happy ‘Yes.’ ”
Their works include youth and adult education, parish, campus and diocesan ministry, health care, retreat and spiritual direction, counseling, healing ministries, environmental advocacy, and outreach to new immigrants as well as to victims of violence, hunger, unemployment, and homelessness.
“Living among this Lakota tribe has helped me to see the beauty of a people that has survived in small numbers against great adversities.” —Elaine Tworek, S.L.W. is ministering to the young, the elders, the sick, and those in search of deep faith in Lower Brule, South Dakota. Her deepest desire is to help empower and invite each individual to claim and share their personal richness and goodness so the entire community can grow stronger in faith and love.
“I feel blessed to be here. Our parishioners are from all over the city, and a number of our parishioners are homeless. I feel privileged to be with them for breakfast and lunch listening and sharing with them. This also affords me the opportunity to give them resources that might benefit them. In addition to this, I am a director for religious education for our small religious education program. Our teachers and children are an inspiration to me. I am truly grateful to God for leading me to this parish.” —Vianney Moore, S.L.W. is ministering at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and its center, St. Jude, which is located at the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
“Collaborating with our sacramental minister and my brothers and sisters in this faith community, we have been able to fulfill—a long-desired dream—that of building a new church and hall. This dream became a reality in 2002 with the dedication of this new building—indeed a day of celebration and thankfulness to our God for the support given by our bishop, benefactors, and parishioners.” —Joanne Fedewa, S.L.W. is Pastoral Coordinator of Christ the King Parish in Flint, Michigan.
“I believe so much in the body-mind-spirit connection that I explored massage therapy as a ministry. This is what my ministry is to this day.” —Jeannine Randolph, S.L.W. offers massage therapy at the House of the Good Shepherd whose residents are abused women. She also offers massage therapy to the frail elderly at various nursing homes, including Lutheran Home, Resurrection Life Center, and Addolorata Villa, all in Illinois.
Most people think religious orders were founded centuries ago, but many were established in the last few decades. Does that fact change how you think about religious orders?
From the heart of a missionary
Words come rushing into my awareness as I think of my missionary life so far . . . Kenya, my dream come true, far away from my birthplace of Detroit, Michigan. Fulfilling years of wondering, praying, searching, which culminated in my joining the Medical Missionaries of Mary, in Boston, Massachusetts. One dream, of being a nurse, had already come to fruition; now the missionary segment was unfolding. I was sent to a place called Turkana, a desert area tucked away in a corner of northwest Kenya. It was a land so totally new to me and “foreign,” yet it was there, in a seemingly barren land, that my life really bore fruit. I found a new life, a new home and all my dreams were fulfilled.
How to sum up my years as a missionary? So many experiences: joys and frustrations of learning a foreign language, becoming part of a gifted people so very different from my own. So much learning: about life and death, risk-taking and loving, failures and accomplishments. I discovered within me: my love for a people and land that is so deep that they will always be enmeshed in my heart and soul. It was a land where I experienced the deeper meaning of communion and commitment, of realizing more deeply what a missionary really is, the costs as well as the tremendous gift.
O what wondrous things I have experienced! What can compare with an old woman’s toothless smile as she eagerly awaits the often mispronounced or haltingly expressed words I speak in her language? Or who would trade anything for the laughter of a healthy baby and mother who have successfully fought the battle against tuberculosis? Again, what is equal to helping to quench the thirst for knowledge about God, about healthy living, about what the “rest of the world is like” that young people have?
Whom did I find? I found friends, people I am close to and will remain so until the day I die. I found Christ already present among the people who were labeled animists by some and heathens or pagans by others. I, the missionary, was missioned to, in countless ways, such as the heartfelt compassion I received from a starving mother of three who comforted me as I cried while telling her we had no more food to give, that our supplies were finished after a year-long drought and famine. I am the woman of little faith that, during that same famine, when death from hunger and disease were literally all around us, thought that Christmas would be dismal—but who had the best Christmas of her life! I experienced that Christmas Eve the true spirit and meaning of Christmas shining in the eyes and hearts, in the faith and joy of the people. These and countless other experiences I hold dear and will cherish always.
I lift my heart in gratitude to God for my missionary vocation and for all I have lived and experienced as a result! Glory and praise to our God!
I belong to: The Medical Missionaries of Mary
About Me: I grew up in a big family, 6 kids—I was the second oldest. We all went to St. Patrick School, which is where we received the sacraments and first learned about our faith. Although I enjoyed the teachers and the sisters, it never occurred to me that I could aspire to be a religious sister.
While a senior in high school, I was considering becoming a lawyer, but the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) announced it would accept women. I was intrigued about its history of developing leaders of character. So I graduated with the first class of women, serving 5 years active duty after graduation. I then left active duty, and with an M.B.A. got a job at a large bank in downtown Manhattan, all the while staying in the Army reserves. I enjoyed this job, the fast pace of the city, and the world of finance. Five years later, I accepted a position in St. Louis with a different firm that offered more responsibilities and new challenges.
In St. Louis, the job became busier, often requiring late hours and weekends. I felt I had no time for the Army reserves, so I put that aside for a while. I had a full life, with working and dating and a weekly Bible study with a great group of people. The latter led to learning about various retreats in the area, and I would squeeze one or two weekend retreats in my busy schedule.
My Vision: Although outwardly successful, I still felt something important was missing. So when my company was purchased and my job was phased out I started working for myself in a financial seminar business, which afforded me a more flexible schedule. I had time for more prayer and reflection that really fed my soul.
In November of 2004 while on retreat at a hermitage in High Ridge, Missouri, I chatted with the priest there, telling him about myself and my career journey. At a break in the conversation, he shocked me with his invitation, “Have you ever considered a religious vocation?” It hit me like a bolt of lightening, and I knew I found what I was searching for. Yet, what kind of religious order? To help me narrow this down, I found a wonderful priest who helped me discern whether an active or contemplative order would be a better fit.
After visiting several orders, I visited and fell in love with the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, a contemplative order. We live a monastic life of work and prayer, following the rule of Saint Benedict. We make altar breads and also pray the Liturgy of the Hours several times a day. I have been here a year and a half now and feel extremely happy and blessed. I would encourage all women who have had careers, even in their 30’s and 40’s, to consider whether a religious vocation is right for them.
I Belong to: The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, Missouri
How would use your talents if you were a member of a religious community?
About Me: Blessed Maria Schininà was born in Ragusa, Italy in 1844 to noble parents. Maria, the fifth of eight children, lived her days of infancy and adolescence surrounded by the care and attention of her parents and brothers.
Until the age of 21 Maria was no more than a carefree girl born of a wealthy family. Her intense and happy life alternated between religious duties she carried out with her family and her love for beauty, which she continuously perfected through music, fashion, and above all dancing. Maria never displayed any particular spiritual inclinations, even if she inherited her parents’ sensitivity towards the poor and the needy.
The death of her father in 1865 induced her to change her life, which she often declared did not satisfy her inner needs. Her soul could no longer ignore the cries of the poor who were living only steps away from her home. Her comfortable lifestyle was too much of a contrast to the misery just outside her door. It was for this reason that Maria began to look into herself, enlightened by faith and God’s calling which became ever clearer at the feet of the Eucharist. These were years of deep reflection.
In 1874 her youngest brother got married, leaving her and her mother alone. This turn of events posed no obstacle to her. She took off her elegant clothes and dressed like the poor, saying: “Let that which served my vanity go to the poor.”
From this moment on she decided to dedicate herself completely to the sick, the poor, and the outcasts who languished in the most squalid hovels in Ragusa, and to abandoned children, without paying attention to the criticisms from people of her social class who thought she was insane. Everything she did was suggested to her by her love for the Eucharist, which would constitute a fundamental characteristic of her life she would pass on to her spiritual daughters.
My Vision: Maria made herself poor to serve the poor, to cure in them “the suffering members of Jesus’ body.” Her life definitely took a new course. She started to participate in various humanitarian and charitable initiatives.
In 1877, after being elected directress of the new Pia Unione delle Figlie di Maria, she was able to attract young people in Ragusa, becoming a living example of how to carry out a “true social revolution” in the light of the gospel. A voice she heard one day while praying before the image of the Sacred Heart told her to obey the “ministers of the church.” This revelation brought her to renounce the monastic life and found an institute, following the advice of the archbishop. This institute would give material and spiritual aid to the poor and the needy in her city.
She loved Christ in the poor. “Love and reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus” meant for Maria Schininà an offering of herself by serving those who are poor and marginalized. She called the new congregation the Institute of the Sacred Heart. This congregation continues to serve the poor in different parts of the world: Italy, the United States, Canada, Madagascar, the Philippines, Nigeria, Romania, India, Panama, and recently France.
I Belong to: The Institute of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
About Me: When I first thought of becoming a priest, I was a freshman at Penn State University, heading towards an engineering degree and contemplating marriage to a lovely woman named Lucille.
One day, while at the university, I attended a discussion sponsored by the Newman center on the topic of married priests. I remember telling our campus minister at the time that I would consider being a priest if I could be married. I told God that I would be open to the idea if things didn’t work out with Lucille. Time passed and Lucille and I did break up and I kept my promise to be open to the possibility of being a priest. I then began to look for some definite sign from God.
Although I didn’t receive any big signs, I did get lots of little indications that helped me to discern my call. For one, when seeing how active I was within the church, my dorm mates became convinced that I was likely to become a priest. I, too, began to realize that at vocation talks I felt as if the priest was talking directly to me. I asked some priest friends how I could be sure I had a vocation. They assured me that when the time was right I would be at peace with the decision.
It all came together for me the fall of my senior year at a friend’s wedding. I realized that I was identifying more with the priest at the ceremony then I was with the groom. Later, I saw the priest dancing, having fun, and receiving many hugs. Well this worked for me since I really enjoyed dancing and didn’t want to give it up to become a priest. I went back to Penn State that evening and things seemed to be coming together. I awoke the next morning feeling very happy about becoming a priest. I waited till the next weekend to tell my family and when I told them they were very supportive. They remained supportive and helpful throughout my discernment process.
My Vision: Now that I knew I was to be a priest, the next part of the discernment was —what kind of priest? As I looked at all the options, I began to explore religious communities and was drawn to the Paulists. The relatively small size of the community and the Paulist mission of evangelization, ecumenism, and reconciliation to North America really fit in to how I wanted to serve the Church as a priest.
Since May of 1989, I have enjoyed many years as a Paulist priest. It has been a challenging and wonderful journey thus far, and I am still dancing, hopefully for many years to come!
I Belong to: The Paulist Fathers
Have you had signs, even little ones, about your calling in life?
Father Ed Nowak, C.S.P. is currently working as the director for vocations of the Paulist Fathers. The vocations office is located in New York City. He has ministered in the areas of campus ministry in Minneapolis and Santa Barbara, RCIA, evangelization, outreach to inactive Catholics, and young adult ministries. His story is reprinted here from the website of the Paulist Fathers.
About me: Mother Theresa Maxis, cofounder of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, was born an illegitimate child of a Haitian mother and white British father, a fact concealed for over a century. An IHM historian discovered the truth in the mid-1940s while writing the history of the congregation’s first 100 years.
Although the IHM community has confronted racism since at least the 1930s, in their schools, during the Detroit civil disturbances in the ‘60s, and in many other political actions, its members didn’t realize their own cofounder was a woman of color, nor did they realize there was a cover-up until the writing of the book, No Greater Service, published in 1948.
Mother Theresa Maxis played a key role in forming four communities of women religious, including the first African American community of women religious in the United States, the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The other three communities include the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM's) of Immaculata, Pennsylvania; Monroe, Michigan; and Scranton, Pennsylvania.
I belong to: The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
My vision: During her time in the Oblates, Teresa had spent some time as the community’s elected superior. Unfortunately the era was one of pre-Civil War bigotry in Maryland. The bishop didn't see the need for an African American community of sisters and forbade them to take in new members. The threat of of the community's dissolution was very real. She left the fledgling Oblate community and traveled to Michigan to join a Redemptorist priest in founding a new order of religious sisters to teach immigrant children. From this beginning sprang the three communities of IHM's.
The four communities are now formally involved in a reconciliation and healing process confronting racism. In September of 2006 the four communities wrote a statement proclaiming the racism in their history and condemning the sin of racism.
About Me: In his ministry with incarcerated and at-risk youth, Father David Kelly, C.PP.S., anticipates that he will fail at least 70 percent of the time. He has worked against those odds in inner-city Chicago for two decades. At the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, which he helped found, staff members work with youth, help families heal from the violence that claims their sons and daughters, and reach out to a neighborhood that can seem like a war zone.
My Vision: Idealistic and pragmatic at the same time, Father Dave believes that only the reconciling power of the Precious Blood of Jesus can bring peace to such a place. “Reconciliation does not happen readily. In fact, it rarely happens,” he said. “But first and foremost, it is the work of God. It begins with the victim. And it makes of both the victim and the wrongdoer a new creation.”
I Belong to: The Missionaries of the Precious Blood
About me: James Joseph Alois Marty was born in Switzerland in 1834, the son of a shoemaker. Before the age of two, his mouth and face were both severely burned when he drank from a bottle of acid in his father’s shop. The acid caused swelling that nearly suffocated him and would leave his face permanently disfigured.
In 1847 Marty enrolled in the Benedictine school attached to Einsiedeln Abbey. After graduation, he entered the Benedictine novitiate at Einsiedeln and took the name Brother Martin Marty when he made his vows. He was ordained to the priesthood a year later and began teaching moral theology at the monastery school.
In 1860, at the age of 26, the abbot of Einsiedeln sent Marty to Southern Indiana to help solve the problems of the fledgling missionary community of Saint Meinrad. Marty facilitated peace between conflicting factions in the small Benedictine house and articulated a vision for the new community.
My vision: He envisioned a Benedictine abbey that would serve as a spiritual and liturgical center for the area, educate priests in a seminary, and provide pastoral assistance to the local people. This vision of monastic life, combining a life of prayer and work with support for the pastoral work of the church, has remained the mission of Saint Meinrad Archabbey o this day.
Although the assignment was intended to last only one year, Marty was elected the first abbot, and under his leadership Saint Meinrad flourished, becoming one of the cornerstones of Benedictine life in the United States. After a decade and a half of monastic leadership, Marty was named to lead the church in the missionary territories of the Dakotas. He became bishop of the Dakota territories and later the second bishop of St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he lived the rest of his life and demonstrated great enthusiasm in his work with the Sioux.
I belong to: The Benedictine Monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey.
Many thanks to Brother Christian Raab of St. Meinrad Archabbey for information on Bishop Marty. Information also drawn from Wikipedia.
About me: My call to a religious vocation started when I was about 8 years old. When I grew up I was going to be a nun. My father would see me walking around the house with my “towel veil,” and he would say, “You know, if you become a nun, you can't get married.” I assured him I did not want to get married, to which he would joke, “Good, then I won't have to buy a gun."
Time passed and my family moved to an area where Sisters were not active in the church my family attended, so they no longer had an influence in my life. As my teen years passed, I not only lost the thought of becoming a nun, I had gone away from the church all together. After a long time away, and within a short time after returning to the church (but not the sacraments yet), I started hearing a voice in me that maybe I should become a nun. Each time the thought came to me, I’d laugh it off as I felt that receiving the sacraments should be a prerequisite to entering religious life.
When I had returned to the sacraments, the thoughts of entering a convent would suddenly appear, but I was able to push them away due to the fact that my active life was in full swing and I had many responsibilities. I couldn’t just drop everything for a thought that was possibly—maybe—from God. After all, that would be quite a risk! After consistent inner promptings, I finally decided to stop fighting the “possibilities” and started praying to God that if this was what He really wanted, to please get me there, as I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
I would pray this prayer every time my mind turned to the convent, and then one night instead of the inner voice giving me the typical inspirations of the past several years, I heard, “So, now why can’t you look into the convent?” As I started to make the usual mental list, I realized that all the reasons that kept me from searching were no longer there. With still a bit of skepticism, I said, “OK, I’ll look into it if only to prove that this is not what I’m supposed to do. Then I won’t have to think about this again, and I can finally be at peace.”
I belong to: The Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hubbard, Ohio. Mother Maria Teresa Casini founded the order in 1894. Our charism is to offer our lives for the sanctification of priests. This calling is most visibly seen through our work of caring for retired priests, working in parishes, and running a school and day care which our Sisters were asked to take on when they first came to the United States from Italy.
I was strongly drawn to the charism of offering my life for the priests, as I believe the priest is the door to the heart of Christ. The holier the priest, the more people he will bring to Christ. There is one thing, however, that can stand in the way of doing God's will: ourselves.
My vision: Now, here I am, four years later in my second year of professed vows, preparing for the many joys and challenges that await me in Rome, Italy where I will continue my formation and study to prepare for ministry during the next two years. There are also a few things I have learned about God through this journey: —God is full of surprises —God never gives up on us —God is never outdone in generosity So, if you think God is calling you, don’t say no: Say you’ll look into it!
For more information about the Oblate Sisters, contact Sister Teresina Rosa at 330-759-9329 or write to: Oblate Sisters, 50 Warner Rd., Hubbard, OH 44425, email: email@example.com.
About me: The future founder of the Passionist Congregation of priests, brothers, and nuns was born in Ovada, northern Italy, in 1694. Paul Danei was the eldest of six children and as a young man the main support of his father’s dry goods business. In his early childhood, his mother used to gather the children at her knee each day, telling them gospel stories, especially the details of Jesus’ Passion and death, as well as the lives of the saints, including the desert fathers.
Anna Maria probably had no inkling how her Paul remembered and pondered these stories, as they resonated with the grace of God in his young soul. Gradually, Paul and his brother, John Baptist, found their own desert in the family attic, where they prayed and imitated those ancient desert ascetics, even as the presence of God was becoming the center of their young lives.
Since the family fortunes varied, Paul’s teenage years passed as a “working student,” learning some Latin and Christian doctrine as he could. Whether at this time or in later life, Paul fed his soul on the writings of Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross, books that gave him the language and understanding of mysticism.
One milestone marked his first conversion: the impact of a priest’s sermon. Those words preached at Mass pierced his young heart, setting him on fire with love for God. Paul always called that sermon his “conversion.” Subsequently, he renounced the bequest of his uncle’s estate and declined a prearranged marriage.
As time passed, Paul's spirituality matured, but still he discerned no clear call. He became afflicted by a trial of relentless scruples, with severe temptations against faith. Paul prayed, did penance, but relief was long in coming.
Then, world events shook all of Italy: The Turks declared war on Venice, the pope summoned a crusade, and Paul signed up—a chance to suffer martyrdom for the faith. Even before embarking, as he was praying in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord let Paul know that being a soldier was not exactly what he had in mind for him. So, armed with discharge papers, Paul returned home to pick up where he had left off, and to wait, wait, wait, for a clear indication of God’s holy will.
I belong to: The Passionist Congregation.
My vision: In 1718, when Paul was 24, the Blessed Virgin Mary took his life into her own hands, appeared to him clothed in black, with the sign of the Passion sign over her heart, and told him to gather companions and preach God’s love to the people. Every uncertainty in Paul’s heart melted, his soul glowed with love, and he broke into a flood of tears—at last: blessed assurance. Other visions followed, as did intense interior trials, but Paul claimed the grace Mary gave him, was clothed as a hermit by his bishop, and made a solitary retreat of 40 days during which he wrote a rule for the community Mary had asked him to found.
Paul lived to be 82, after he had founded many monasteries of Passionist men and one for the Passionist nuns in 1771. And in every one of his monasteries, he loved to pray in the attic!
Details of Saint Paul's life drawn from Rev. Gabriele Cingolini, C.P. and compiled by the The Passionist Nuns of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.
Feast day: October 19
About me: My desire to respond to God through religious life came when I was a sophomore at Smith College. A certainty about God’s invitation to me started in prayer and reading of Saint John of the Cross. As time went on, only the “way” of entering religious life seemed to envelop me in peace. As college graduation and my 21st birthday drew near, I made an effort to ignore my desire to enter religious life and considered other alternatives such as graduate school.
These other alternatives, however, could never compete with the peace that entering religious life seemed to bring me. I did not know any sisters; so entering a religious order seemed terrifying, a bit like jumping into a dark well. On a college retreat during my senior year, I met a Cenacle sister who suggested that I consider the S.H.C.J. She spoke to me about Cornelia Connelly, the foundress of the society, and how Cornelia wanted her sisters to love the children they taught. As she spoke, a great certainty came over me, a feeling that this was the religious community for me.
I wrote a very vague letter to the provincial of the society and in turn, I was invited to take the entrance tests. I wrote to say that I would take the tests and enter in September. I had no idea I needed to be “accepted.” I met the Holy Child Sisters for the first time when I took the psychological entrance tests, and I loved them!
My vision: The society has encouraged me to develop all of my abilities, even those I did not know I had! I have even been able to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. As a member of the society, I have taught high school as well as college students. Teaching has given me the ability to impact the lives of students and in turn, I have been changed by my experiences with them. I enjoy watching students come alive as they learn new concepts and ways of thinking.
Over the years, the society, the church, and our world have changed significantly. But my certainty about belonging in the society has never been in doubt. When I was a novice, I remember thinking how amazing it was that God called me to a relationship with him and how astounding each religious vocation was. Even though we are now seeing smaller numbers of religious vocations, I am not discouraged–each one still seems like a small miracle to me!
I belong to: The Society of the Holy Child Jesus.
This article adapted with kind permission from the vocations website page of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.