Be the hands and feet of Jesus

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Pass on the baton

"TO TEACH is to touch a life forever.” I understand the truth of this statement from both sides of the desk! I have been a student through higher education and a teacher on both the elementary and high school levels. Catholic school has had a great influence on my life.

Today, I am a Sister of Saint Joseph. (The NRVC/CARA 2009 study on recent vocations to religious life found that about nine in ten were raised Catholic and most (73 percent) attended a Catholic school for at least part of their education. About half attended parish-based religious education.) Having attended Catholic schools from elementary through graduate levels, I remember the impact of Sister Joan and Sister Eileen; Father Steve and Father Frank; Sister Mary and Sister Kate. They were great examples of religious men and women who reflected the joy of their life in service of the Lord. They were not the only ones. Many lay men and women modeled simplicity, prayerfulness, service and compassion on a daily basis. These teachers were the hands and feet of Jesus. They embodied Jesus for my classmates and me. They also became the examples of who I wanted to be. In addition, they helped me to discover the gifts and talents that I could develop and use in service to others. Their presence in my life made a difference.

As a teacher, I can humbly say that most of my students might not remember the content that I taught them. However, they do recall and tell me how I interacted with them and how my life was a witness for them. I remember that they often had questions about my vocation and were eager to solve the mystery of religious life. Who was I? Why did I choose this life? What’s being a sister really like? And eventually, the most frightening question of all for them: “Could God be calling me to religious life?” I realized that my presence, my classes, and my joyful attitude truly influenced their sense of vocation.

Wake up your students with your witness
Your life is a witness to your students. You have the chance to interact with them in a way that can deepen their personal experience of Jesus and help them to discover the best way to be his follower. As teachers, catechists, and DREs you have the power to touch student’s lives in various and diverse ways. Each time you meet, you encourage students to discover, you invite them to new insight and awareness, and you lead them to horizons they otherwise might not have considered. The Year of Consecrated Life declared by Pope Francis provides a unique opportunity to foster and promote the joy of vocation. In the words of Pope Francis, “Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living!”

In your role as teacher, you often recognize leadership qualities in your students, you lead them in prayer, you affirm their baptismal call, and you expose them to their vocation. Your role as catechist creates a wonderful opportunity to foster prayer and discernment among your students and to claim your unique position as a “vocation inviter.” Have you ever encouraged someone to think about being a brother, sister, or priest? Have you ever really told someone that you could see them as a sister, brother, or priest? Have you ever invited someone to consider religious life? Your attitude and your invitation help students to see that they have important contributions to make in service to God and the church. They, too, make a difference.

You are God’s co-workers
There are more than 66,000 religious sisters, brothers, and priests in the United States in over 800 religious institutes ministering in clinics, counseling centers, college campuses, and anywhere else that they can serve God’s people. Yet we live in a time now when men and women in consecrated life are not seen in the traditional places like school or parish life as they once were. It seems even more important, then, that the entire church, everyone, takes to heart the promotion of religious life. I believe that as a teacher you have the ability to touch a life forever through your efforts toward vocation promotion. Finally, take to heart the following words: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth . . . the one who plants and the one who waters are one … We are God’s co-workers” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Adaptable for most ages. 

» Go through the online service and see where your heart lies.
» Search the religious community listings and find out what religious orders minister in education, health care, media, and so on.
» Read an article of interest to you from the current issue of VISION Vocation Guide, or from prior issues. Write a short reflection on what you read.
» Browse through the community ads online and in VISION magazine. Choose one that really catches your attention and tell why.
» Check out the SpiritCitings blog. Find an interesting vocation/call story and post a comment.
Sister Charlene Diorka, S.S.J.Sister Charlene Diorka, S.S.J. is a Sister of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia and has served as both vocation and formation director for her congregation.




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