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Postings by Dianne Potter

Communities receive—community award!

Posted by: Dianne Potter   🕔 Wednesday 14, April 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Recently I posted an item below about the ministry and vocation activities of the Visitiation Sisters in Minneapolis. Now, the larger Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary to which they belong has received some major recognition: the 2010 Religious Community Award from the National Catholic Education Association. The Visitations shared the award with Franciscan family of sisters and the Sisters and Daughters of Charity.

The award is presented each year to "orders tied to the schools that have been working in the vineyard for a long time and have given long and faithful to the Catholic school system," said the NCEA's Brian Gray. The award is also often tied to a significant anniversary of an order. This June, for example, the Visitation community celebrates its founding 400 years ago, in Annecy, France.

You can find information about all these communities, and many others, here on the VISION Vocation Nework website.

America's first African American priest

Posted by: Dianne Potter   🕔 Tuesday 05, January 2010 Categories: Clergy,Vocation and Discernment

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:

Finding her way through racism

Posted by: Dianne Potter   🕔 Sunday 04, October 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

Sister Patricia Lucas, D.H.M. with two of her students
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Sister Patricia Lucas, D.H.M. professed her final vows with the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary, an all-African American order, in 1965. It was while searching for a community that she encountered discrimination.
 
"As a young adult, I was told by many religious communities that the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary was my only option. I was not encouraged to join any other order," she told the Catholic Advocate. Then, while working in Chicago, she joined the Daughters of Heart of Mary, in 1985, because of that community's flexibility. The members move among the people whom they serve, with no external identification. "I chose the Daughters of Heart of Mary because I can work in any milieu I want to. There are doctors and lawyers who are also sisters," she said.

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."

Volunteering as a way of discernment

Posted by: Dianne Potter   🕔 Thursday 23, July 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

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.

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