The late actress Mary Tyler Moore (1937-2017), who died this month, once played a nun on screen. Among Moore's long list of film and TV credits, she starred in "Change of Habit," a 1969 film in which she depicted a Catholic sister who was, as the movie's trailer pronounces, "dedicated to her calling but at heart a woman." That is, she was yet another woman of her era who had a crush on Elvis.
The movie is one of many Hollywood films about Catholic sisters. From Julie Andrews as a rambunctious novice in "The Sound of Music" to Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen Prejean in "Dead Man Walking," films have frequently turned a lens on life as a sister. Catholic sisters themselves take issue with inaccuracies, but pop culture curiosity about religious life seems to live on.
Seeing the Spirit at work in the world
The late actress Mary Tyler Moore (1937-2017), who died this month, once played a nun on screen. Among Moore's long list of film and TV credits, she starred in "Change of Habit," a 1969 film in which she depicted a Catholic sister who was, as the movie's trailer pronounces, "dedicated to her calling but at heart a woman." That is, she was yet another woman of her era who had a crush on Elvis.
Photographer Toni Greaves spent seven years documenting the transformation of "Lauren" into "Sister Maria Teresa of the Sacred Heart," and her sensitive, beautifully rendered images reveal much about the usually hidden world of cloistered religious life.
Three weeks after Lauren joined the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey, Greaves began taking photos. They show her entry into a world very distinct from her full life as a college student who played sports, had a boyfriend, and once dreamed of marriage and children.
"This story is a window into her early love of God," writes Greaves in the resulting photobook Radical Love. "The story also reveals her daily life over the years and her interactions living within a small community of nuns who are themselves in various stages of their own spiritual paths."
A Nun’s Life Ministry—an online initiative to help people discover and grow in their vocations—is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a cross-country trip Oct. 15-22.
The trip begins at A Nun’s Life headquarters in Toledo, Ohio and will end in Silicon Valley, a nod to the ministry’s use of technology, including anunslife.org and social media outlets ranging from Facebook to Snapchat.
During the trip, the staff of A Nun’s Life will interact with its global online community and will sponsor two live-streamed public podcasts:
● “Praying with the Sisters” will be broadcast from New Mexico on Monday, Oct. 17, at 5 pm ET. Viewers can join the sisters online for prayer and for conversation in the chat room.
● An “Ask Sister - Motherhouse Road Trip” podcast will be broadcast from California on Friday, Oct. 21, at 5 pm ET. The podcast will feature guests Sisters Cynthia Canning and Sally Gunn of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
The trip’s major stops will be in Chicago, Albuquerque, and three California cities: Cupertino, Campbell, and San Rafael.
Sister Maxine Kollasch, I.H.M., who co-founded A Nun’s Life with Sister Julie Vieira, I.H.M. in 2006, explained why they are undertaking the trip: “We want to celebrate the 10th anniversary by sharing the joy, adventure, and innovative spirit that’s at the heart of A Nun’s Life.”
The October journey continues a tradition of outreach through travel for A Nun’s Life Ministry, which sponsored a series of “Motherhouse Roadtrips” starting in 2013 that involved broadcasts from convents around the country.
VISION Vocation Guide featured the ministry’s founders in 2015: "Online door never closes on discerners".
Maryknoll Lay Missioners—a Catholic organization that supports laity living and working in poor communities in Africa, Asia, and North America—has named a new executive director, Matthew Boyle.
Boyle, who has been with the organization since 2014, says, “I am humbled by being selected to help lead this amazing organization into our next phase of growth and service in Christ’s image.”
Maryknoll Lay Missioners is an independent organization but works closely with Maryknoll fathers, brothers, sisters and affiliates in responding to basic needs of the poor and helping to create a more just and compassionate world.
“Pope Francis calls us all to come back to our missioner roots," Boyle says. "There are so many people in this beautiful world that God created for us, who need our assistance and love.”
Motivated by a profound tradition of Catholic Social Teachings and grounded in the history and spirit of the Maryknoll mission family, Maryknoll Lay Missioners recruits new missioners; helps potential missioners through a discernment process; trains new missioners with an intensive 10-week orientation; provides ongoing mission education, including language and cultural experiential learning; and helps match missioners’ talents with the needs of the population they will serve.
Learn more at www.mklm.org.
Read more here.
The Letters, a film about the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), portrays an intimate struggle with hope and despair by one of the most famous religious humanitarians of the 20th century. The story follows Mother Teresa's life as told through her revealing letters to her spiritual director Father Celeste van Exem. The reviews of the film were mixed, but the movie interestingly delves into many aspects of religious life and different types of religious communities.
The film begins with Mother Teresa's first congregation, Loreto Sisters of Dublin, who served in Darjeeling, India, as cloistered teachers of girls. After 15 years of service teaching geography and history, Mother Teresa experienced "a call within a call." She desired to work with the poor, sick, and dying on the streets of Calcutta.
The movie highlights the challenges she faced to establish a new religious community, the Missionaries of Charity, that was fully recognized by the Vatican. Despite her desire to give dignity to those most vulnerable, Mother Teresa experienced deep spiritual darkness at times, which is well-depicted.
The Letters is available on DVD and Netflix. Mother Teresa's canonization ceremony will be Sept. 4, 2016.
A dictionary for discerners is a great reference resource to help understand parts of the film.
Holy Face cloistered nun Sister Benedicta was recently awarded a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering from India’s Defence Institute of Advanced Technology.
She previously earned an undergraduate degree at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Pune University. It was during her doctoral studies that she heard her calling to religious life, according to Crux.
Sister Benedicta joined the cloistered Carmelite convent in Pune in 2015. Sister Benedicta's graduation was the very first time she had stepped outside the convent since entering.
The Carmelite provincial, based in Bangalore, emailed Sister Benedicta and the entire Carmelite community, saying: “You have made the order proud,” and “God bless you!”
Read more here.
Inspired by the movie, "The Way," starring Martin Sheen, about a man who completes the 450-mile Camino de Santiago, the "Way of St. James," pilgrimage, Dominican Fathers Francis Orozco and Thomas Shaefgen decided to do their own "Friars on Foot" pilgrimage in the United States to promote vocations while commemorating the 800th anniversary of their congregation.
According to Catholic News Service, the 478-mile pilgrimage will begin May 29 in New Orleans and end on June 29 in Memphis. Orozco and Shaefgen will average 16 miles per day and encourage people to join them on the walk for an hour or two that roughly follows Highway 51 north to Memphis.
"We will not carry any money and we will sort of beg. We hope people will provide us with apples and granola bars. We don't plan to use any money. We will carry ID cards and medical insurance cards in case that's needed. We've compromised with our superior that we will have somebody update the website every time we reach a destination," Father Orozco said.
The Dominicans plan to stay overnight with Catholic families and churches, celebrate Mass, and give vocation talks about the Order of Preachers, whose earliest members were itinerant.
Learn more about the Order of Preachers here.
Founded in 1991 by the late Cardinal John J. O’Connor, the Sisters of Life are an emotional and spiritual outreach to pregnant women in crisis in New York City. As a contemplative and active religious community, the sisters' charism is to “protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.” Pregnant women are welcome at the congregation's Visitation Mission and its Holy Respite residence at Sacred Heart Convent, and some are permitted to stay in the residence until their babies are one year old.
“One of the reasons for the joy in the community is we believe each person has some beautiful, unique goodness and we have the joy of discovering that in them and reflecting it back so she has the experience of her own dignity, goodness and strength,” Sister Mary Elizabeth said. “That person becomes a gift to us in our recognizing her for who she is. She reveals to us the splendor and beauty of God.”
The sisters do not advertise and rely on word-of-mouth from friends and former clients to share the mission of their community.
Read more from Catholic News Service here.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 17 has taken the lives of more than 400 people, including Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, age 33, and six others of the order.
According to Catholic News Agency, Sister Crockett, originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, once said she felt there was "no room for God" in the Catholic-Protestant tension and violence of her youth. At 18 she was an aspiring actress, but a free trip to Spain that turned out to be a 10-day pilgrimage, which she tried to get out of, changed her life. "It was Our Lady’s way of bringing me back home, back to her and her Son,” she said. “I was not a very happy camper. Nevertheless, it was on that pilgrimage that Our Lord gave me the grace to see how He had died for me on the Cross. After I had received that grace, I knew that I had to change." Sister Crockett entered the Servant Sisters in August 2001 and made her perpetual vows in 2011.
Spiritual director Father Roland Calhoun told BBC Radio Foyle (Belfast Telegraph) that Sister Crockett was "a young girl who gave her life to God and died for the gospel. She was a joyful girl, I've known her since she was a teenager. A beautiful person. I'll remember the joy that she brought to her youth group and the enthusiasm she showed for her vocation to religious life."
The Sisters of Bon Secours have launched an amazing, eye-catching, heartstring-pulling app, Imagine a Sister's Life, to explore what religious life is all about and what it would be like to be a sister. The free app includes daily reflections, blogs, news and views, faith sharing, virtual retreats, upcoming events, and stories about how sisters were called and their passion for their vocation.
The sisters developed the app to create a place "where a busy young seeker of truth can pause to reflect on the meaning of life, pray in silence, and read articles and thought-provoking commentary on world conditions and social justice efforts."
What's more, "Young adults can share their thoughts online and share opportunities to get involved in helping those unable to help themselves. The application gives them a gentle reminder of the presence of God in their life and provides many areas of support and knowledge as they continue to grow through their life experiences. For those interested in learning more about religious life there are a variety of professional videos that give them a sense of what an active life in community and ministry looks like as a sister."
Check out this app with these download links:
ImagineASistersLife APP on iPhone:
ImagineASistersLife APP on android phone:
The sisters said, "Based on current world conditions, the millennials will be called upon over the course of their lifetime to make many serious moral and ethical decisions both in their own lives and in protecting the health and well-being of others globally. It is hoped that this application proves to be a strong support for young adults, creating an online community that enriches their journey of faith."
According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, four members of the Pennsylvania-based Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill presented their discernment stories to a crowd of parishoners, students, and community members at St. Sylvester Church in Brentwood, Pennsylvania, last week. They told stories about how they responded to God’s call and how they serve. Radio journalist Jennifer Szweda Jordan produced the program, called "Standup Sisters."
Some sisters were shy about sharing their stories at first, but later realized the effect they might have on their community. “We rarely toot our own horns,” said Sister Barbara Einloth. "That might be a good thing and humble, but it doesn’t help people know who we are and what we do. This is an opportunity for people to get to know who we are.”
The women all share unique stories about working in nurseries and hospice care centers. Although they acknowledged the hardship that comes along with their calling, they understand the importance and beauty of it all. As Sister Barbara Ann Boss, president of Pittsburg's Elizabeth Seton Center, said, these experiences "teach you how to appreciate the joy and how to be with someone who’s suffering.”
During the third annual National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14), women religious are being celebrated in a series of events at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and beyond. NCSW is a week-long chance to recognize, focus on, and honor the lives of women religious and the incredible example and difference they have made in the world in a variety of online and local events; check out the entire list here.
According to the Global Sisters Report, co-executive directors of NCSW Molly Hazelton and Dominican Sister Mary Soher said NCSW is an opportunity for the larger community to get to know about the sisters all around them.
"We have found again and again . . . young women—whether they consider themselves religious or not—they're just in awe of these sisters," said Christina Capecchi, a spokesperson for NCSW. "They're blogging about their relationships with them, they just admire the sisters so much. . . . Of course, their work with social justice, that really excites the young women we work with. To these girls, they're heroes."
On Jan. 20, six novices of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion pronounced their first vows in Jerusalem as the Year of Consecrated Life concluded (officially on Feb. 2). Novices Alejandra, Clara, Joey, Victoria, Rozeni, and Arlyne are originally from Costa Rica, Brazil, the Philippines, and Egypt.
In taking these three-year vows, the novices embrace the Sisters of our Lady of Sion charism: "to work against all forms of racism, oppression, and marginalization." In each of its ministries, particularly Jewish-Christian and other interfaith relations, the sisters seek to respond to the biblical call to freedom and the imperative to “hear the cries of the poor."
View the celebration and commitment to consecrated life in the Christian Media Center's video below:
Don't miss your chance to learn about the newest generation of Catholic sisters and why we need them now more than ever at one more upcoming gathering. Hear remarkable stories from these modern women who have answered the call, and learn how they perceive their mission.
The fourth and final "Today Catholic Sisters" symposium will be held on Jan. 23, 2016 from 9 am to noon at the Rose Hills Auditorium, on the Doheny Campus, Mount Saint Mary’s University, in Los Angeles, California.
The National Religious Vocation Conference organized the "Today's Catholic Sisters" events taking place across the country over the past several months. Featured speakers include various young sisters as well as the authors of New Generations of Catholic Sisters: Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN.; Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C.; and Dr. Mary Gautier. A Q&A session and raffle follows the main presentation, and refreshments are served.
All are invited to attend. RSVP here.
Bart Zavaletta teaches "Theology 12: Responding to the Call of Jesus Christ" at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska, and he learned about VISION Vocation Match, a tool that connects vocation discerners with religious communities that match their interests, through a simple Google search. He was looking for resources for a career connection project he assigned to his class of seniors. Vocation Match turned out to be a great tool for them to learn about religious life and discerning vocation.
Zavaletta had his students go through the VISION Vocation Match process in class so he could answer their questions about types of communities. Zavaletta had the students chose one of their matches and create a marketing poster for that community, which focused on its charism.
Check out some of VISION's other resources for teachers, youth ministers, and DREs here.
The cloistered Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters of Philadelphia have worked in shifts to ensure nonstop prayer for more than 100 years, according to The Huffington Post, but now, with the numbers entering their order declining, the sisters have been reaching out to the community at large to recruit members for the next 100 years.
From banners outside the convent to interviews with news reporters to invitations to schools, the order is working to see growth in new, younger members. "We rarely reached out for vocation promotion before the centennial. But now we want young ladies to see how beautiful the life is and how truer the joy when it is without the trappings of material things," said Holy Spirit Adoration Sister Maria Clarissa.
The order began in Holland in 1896. In 1915, nine of the original sisters in Holland left the motherhouse to come to Philadelphia. Currently there are about 420 Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters living in 22 convents in 12 countries, including three convents in the United States: St. Louis, Missouri; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Lincoln, Nebraska. The sisters wear rose-colored habits, which are meant to call attention to the joy they feel honoring the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Sacrament, the focus of their perpetual adoration.
While they live a life of private prayer, the sisters also manage a hotline where people can call in for advice. It helps many on the other end to know that there are people praying for them and people who care, "no matter what their need may be."
Although they live a simple life, they do indulge a bit sometimes. "We try to be as simple as possible so we can focus on the Lord," explained Sister Mary Angelica. "We are simple in everything, even meals—though on special occasions, we have ice cream."
In December, former gang member Brother Cesar John Paul Galan made his perpetual profession of vows as a member of the Friars of the Sick Poor of Los Angeles at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California, surrounded by his proud family and friends, according to the Tidings. St. Francis Medical Center is also where, in 2001, his brother Hector died from gun violence and Galan himself was left a paraplegic.
Because of this tragedy, Galan experienced an 'aha' moment of realizing what God intended for him: consecrated life. A few months later during a journey to Lourdes, France, he asked people there, “Am I ever going to get out of this wheelchair? Am I going to go back home walking?” He started praying for that miracle to happen but received an unexpected blessing instead: forgiveness of the person who killed his brother and hurt him, and he left the gang life of his adolescence behind.
Brother Galan will continue studying to become a priest at St. John's Seminary and preparing to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
On Monday the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life released a 54-page document, “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church,” that "addresses the identity of the religious brother in three ways: First, as a mystery of a gift received; second, as a communion of a gift shared; and, third, as a mission of a gift to be given away," according to the National Catholic Reporter.
Although not ordained as priests, brothers serve priestly roles in their ministries to the sick, the youth in schools, and the poor in body and spirit. It is important to note that these sentiments about brothers apply to religious women, too, as their consecrated lives are similar.
Crux reports that worldwide there are about 55,000 brothers in the Catholic Church today, a much smaller total than either priests (415,000) or nuns (705,000), though roughly comparable to the number of permanent deacons (42,000).
In this way of consecrated life of service, religious brothers become part of various communities of different orders, societies, or congregations, fulfilling the title of "brother" Jesus preached for himself and his apostles.
Read another report on the Vatican document from Vatican Radio here.
For further information and reflection, read VISION's current and archived articles on Brothers.
The BBC 100 Women series recently featured Mercedarian Missionary Sister Neyda Rojas and her detention ministry in the very violent and overcrowded prisons of Venezuela. Sister Neyda teaches literacy and other life skills to the inmates who she acknowledges have committed serious crimes, but who she continues to see as "God's children." She shares: "They've lost their freedom, but not their dignity."
Through out her 17 years of ministry, Sister Neyda's charisma and perseverance have gained her trust and respect among the inmates. Some of Sister Neyda's best memories include delivering the baby of a female inmate and ensuring inmates with serious illnesses got the medicine they needed. She spreads hope and respect to each person she encounters, which keeps her coming back to the inmates who call her "La Gota Blanca" (The White Drop) because of the color of her habit in a sea of darkness.
The Telegraph reports that Sister Rita Lee is set to star in her own five-part BBC One series, "Sister Rita to the Rescue." To locals in Manchester, England, Sister Rita is known as “Attila the Nun” because of her strength in advocating for those often forgotten in society, especially in her inner-city neighborhood, Collyhurst.
Originally from Cork, Ireland, Sister Rita, 70, characterizes her adopted community as “real life at the raw edge” but see strength in it, too, saying, “People here are the salt of the earth.” When asked if she is ever fearful in her neighborhood, she explained, “If anyone said boo to me, they’d all be at the door, reassuring me. I know the Collyhurst people inside out. They’re wonderful.”
Her leadership style is fair but firm, and based in her Catholic faith. She says, “We must help one another in this life. It’s the commandment. We can’t just go on our own. 'Take the shirt off your back and give it to somebody.' That’s where I come from.”
At the age of 13, she began to hear her call when two nuns from Manchester came to her school in Cork to discuss vocation. They talked about Manchester, the poverty there, and a nursery in which they cared for children. At the age of 18, Rita joined a convent in Manchester and went on to work in the convent school. When the school closed, she worked in various other charitable organizations and eventually ended up in her current home of Collyhurst.
She is excited about the show airing but hopes viewers understand the message. "There’s a bit of a hype about all this, and there’s nothing hype about here," she said. "There’s nobody here above anyone else. We are all on the same level. And that’s it."
The Wall Street Journal recently profiled Sister Jannette Marie Pruitt, who is now a nun, but also the mother of three, grandmother of seven, great-grandmother of two, and one of two black Catholic nuns in the order of the Sisters of St. Francis.
She was educated by nuns and always active in her parish, even as she got older. Pruitt knew she wanted to become a nun when she was younger, but growing up in Mississippi in the 1950s her race was a factor and she was discouraged from joining an order.
When she was 47, she reconsidered this calling. At first, she thought it was a crazy dream, but when she saw an announcement in her parish bulletin calling for members of the black community who were interested in religious life to attend a weekend retreat and meet different orders. She went and spoke with Sister Marge Wissman who is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, Indiana.
She explored other orders as well, but eventually she knew she had found the right fit with them, explaining, “The Sisters of St. Francis were very fun-loving and outgoing,”
The process of becoming a nun took years, which was good, says Sister Jannette, because she needed time to adjust to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. She explained she needed to adjust her lifestyle a bit because she loved shoes, clothes, and spoiling her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but she gained much more than she gave up.
She is now a coordinator of the Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which helps organize programs for black Catholics. She also sits on the board of the National Black Sisters’ Conference and was twice nominated for the Harriet Tubman award, honoring a sister who is “Moses of Her People.”
The balance between religious life and family life may seem daunting to some, but Sister Jannette finds joy in both, saying, “I have two vocations. My life is full.”
In honor of National Vocation Awareness Week (Nov. 1-7), the annual celebration that promotes and encourages prayer for religious vocations, the Brothers of Christian Schools have produced a short documentary-style video that follows a group of brothers and young men discerning religious life who walked the pilgrimage route Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, in Spain this past summer. Together on a Journey explores the discernment and reflection opportunities they shared on their pilgrimage.
Discover more about vocations by exploring our many Year of Consecrated Life resources here.
Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C., co-author of New Generation of Catholic Sisters, asserts that "convents will survive" in a recent article exploring "Who Becomes a Nun in 2015?" in Pacific Standard magazine. The article, along with the book (also co-authored by Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN. and Dr. Mary Gautier), explores the number of young women choosing religious life. Although down from a peak of about 180,000 Catholic sisters in the United States in 1965 to about 50,000 currently (according to a 2014 CARA research study), millenials are showing a pull toward religious communities.
Many religious congregations have extensive social media presence, interactive websites such as VISION Vocation Match, podcasts, blogs, YouTube videos, and webinars and discernment chats, such as A Nun's Life Ministry. "This generation is shaped deeply by the Internet and social media, and it's important for older people and sisters to hear about that dynamic. It will enhance the whole group," Wittberg said. The community aspect of religious life is important whether it starts online or at an informational retreat. This new generation of sisters is bringing new perspectives and a new reality to religious life.
Check out the fourth and final event in the "Today's Catholic Sisters" series, which will be held on Jan. 23, 2016 from 9 am-noon at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, California. For more information or to view past events, click here.
A father’s love and support of his daughter’s vocation to the sisterhood can make a huge difference in a woman’s life—as evidenced by the story of Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Margaret Irene shared on the Nunday blog.
VISION social media editor Siobhán O'Neill Meluso authored the story about her great-aunt Sister Margaret Irene, who faced some family reluctance about her vocation but who ultimately had the backing of her parents. In fact, her father sent her a lighthearted but touching poem called “I'm the Daddy of a Nun.” Read the full post here.
The Nunday blog, which tells the stories of Catholic sisters and nuns, is produced by A Nun’s Life Ministry, which was founded by Sisters Julie Vieira and Maxine Kollasch in 2006. This online faith community and nonprofit ministry reaches out with a pastoral presence to thousands of people worldwide each day. The website at aNunsLife.org is a place to talk with Catholic sisters and nuns and others on topics such as spirituality, prayer, community, ministry, and more.
Find more blogs by people and communities involved in Catholic religious life and vocations to religious life in VISION's Blog Index.
As he explained to Indystar, Father Thomas Haan felt he was a bit different from his teammates in the Purdue University locker room. He worked hard and became a walk-on quarterback for Purdue as a freshman. He looked like he had it all, but he knew he wanted something more.
Raised on a farm in Lafayette, Indiana, Father Haan did not always want to be a priest. His family was religious and attended Mass regularly, but as a record-setting quarterback in high school, he thought he knew where his life was headed.
One day, a parish priest said to him, “Are you open to whatever God’s got in store for you?” Father Haan explains, “I’d always say ‘Yes’ because I was dating someone throughout high school and I thought I knew what God wanted, so I didn’t take it seriously one bit in high school.”
In college, things started to change. He made the football team, which left little time for other activities. “When you’re playing college football, you study football, you play football, you think football, you eat football. It’s just very time-consuming. It wasn’t until after that year was over that I began to ponder bigger questions,” he said.
At the beginning of his sophomore year, he began praying and discerning and eventually decided to quit playing football and instead coach a junior high school team. “I loved teaching them technique, but I began to realize I cared more about them growing up as true men, their virtue, their relationship with God," he said. "I cared more about their spiritual life than their spiral.”
He began devoting time to Catholic studies and eventually left Purdue for the University of Notre Dame to live in a house of discernment with other men. He graduated from Notre Dame with degrees in economics and philosophy and a greater understanding of what he wanted to do.
He went to the seminary at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and was ordained in 2013. He now works at Guerin Catholic High School where he helps students see the value in both sports and God.
“I still see sports having the tremendous potential of being a great forum to learn the virtues of life,” Haan said. “Of self-sacrifice, of discipline, of tempering your passions, of teamwork, of humility, of obedience to superiors, to coaches.”
German media outlet DW recently profiled Tobias Schrörs, a Dominican monk and university student, about his discernment journey. He is not your typical guy on campus, and he knows it. "It's very clear to me that I stand out," he said. "That escapes nobody's attention."
As the youngest of four, Schrörs was raised in a devout Catholic family, and his parents are very involved at their church. When he first began discerning, he spoke with an older priest and even went to stay in a monastery for a week at the age of 14.
He did service for a year and then became a postulant in Braunschweig and a novitiate in Worms. His desire to enter religious life remained steadfast, so he went to Mainz and joined the St. Boniface Monastery and began his studies in Catholic theology at the Johannes Gutenberg University.
A few times a day, he puts aside his schoolwork in exchange for morning, afternoon, and evening prayer. When he is not representing the monastery, he dresses in skinny jeans and attends classes.
While Schrörs has taken his “simple vows,” he must still decide if he is ready to take vows for life. Though he is still in the midst of his discernment journey, he can picture spending his life in the monastery. "A healthy decision always comes with doubt. Especially a decision that will last until death. Such a decision is often put off. But when I look back on my time in the Order, I'm able to imagine a life like that.”
The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the growth of Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity, a religious community near San Francisco where members focus on prayer and are encouraged to participate in painting, music, and yoga.
The order, established in Spain in 1963, is attracting many young women seeking to enter consecrated life as well as people from all over the world to its retreats, prayer groups, and spiritual discussions. They recently purchased a retreat center and reopened a shuttered convent. Its members are relatively young—most in their 30s and 40s.
The sisters interact with the outside community, and as Sister Rosalia Meza, who heads the community, says, "We are not holy-holy nuns who think this is a superior vocation. We want people to know that everyone has access to God."
Verbum Dei wants to transform its place into a "Catholic urban oasis" for people across the region.
The increasing interest in religious life among millennial women in America may be surprising to the New York Times, and due in part to social media and reality television shows, but in the article, Sister Colleen Gibson, S.S.J., VISION Vocation Guide and Take Five for Faith author, corrects those notions. “I’ve never met anybody, who was like, ‘Oh yeah, I saw Christina on the Italian Voice and that really made me want to be a sister!’” Gibson said. Instead, she says, it is usually face-to-face interaction that helps young women realize their vocations.
However, this does come from someone who found her congregation on VISION Vocation Match, an online tool to help people in discernment find a religious community that fits with them. “It’s basically Match.com for nuns,” Gibson said.
There are many steps to becoming a Catholic sister and VISION Vocation Match and other online outlets are a great place to start the learning process and begin to connect with other discerners and sisters—a virtual introduction to religious life that jibes with the young. According to the article, the National Religious Vocation Conference reported that of the more than 2,500 women who completed online VISION Vocation Match profiles in 2013, the majority were under 30.
Read Sister Colleen Gibson's 2016 VISION article, "Why being single and living as a sister aren't the same," and check out Take Five for Faith, daily renewal for busy Catholics.
Prior to Pope Francis' recent visit to the United States, the first Jesuit pope sparked attention and interest in the Society of Jesus, the Franciscans, and the priesthood in general. According to Newsday, the Jesuits have experienced a surge in the number of men considering the priesthood, which vocation directors are calling the "Francis Effect."
The number of men inquiring with the Northeast Province of the Jesuits has jumped from one or two a week to as many as seven weekly since Francis was elected, according to the head of vocations for the province. Although only 10 percent of those seriously consider entering the order, the increase is cause for hope.
Jesuits live in community, with the core of their Ignatian spirituality being to "find God in all things." They are known for their work with the poor and living a life of simplicity.
In choosing the name Francis, the pope's commitment to peace and love of creation is clear. Father James Martin, S.J. said: "He's a Jesuit who took a Franciscan name, which is the perfect combination. The choice of Francis telescoped early on his desire to speak out for the poor, to care for the poor, and to encourage a church that is poor."
The second of four events in the "Today's Catholic Sisters" series will be held in the Lund Auditorium at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, on Sunday, Sept. 20 from 1-4 pm. This symposium can be watched online live here.
The National Religious Vocation Conference is organizing the "Today's Catholic Sisters" events taking place across the country over the next few months. Featured speakers include various young sisters as well as the authors of New Generations of Catholic Sisters: Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN.; Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C.; and Dr. Mary Gautier. A Q&A session and raffle will follow the main presentation, and refreshments will be served.
All are invited to attend. RSVP here.
Questions? Call the NRVC offices at 773-363-5454 or email Julie Montague at email@example.com.
A major study on the role of families in nurturing vocations found that recent entrants to religious life and diocesan priesthood come from families that go to Mass weekly, pray together often, have active faith lives, and encourage family members to be open to vocation options. The study, commissioned by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, also found that new entrants responding to the survey come from families who:
· Give importance to private and public religious practices—in addition to Mass attendance—such as saying grace before meals and bedtime prayers, displaying religious art and objects, and actively participating in parish life and charitable services
· Witness and talk about their faith in their daily lives
· Attend Catholic schools or receive parish-based religious education
· Regularly eat dinner together and gather as a family for games or discussions
· Have Catholic periodicals and other media available in the household
· Support the idea of a vocation to religious life and the priesthood
“The study confirmed what we’ve known instinctively: Families are the seedbed of vocations,” says NRVC Executive Director Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C. “Our goal is to help Catholic parents understand their crucial role in the future of religious life and ordained ministry and encourage them to create a culture of vocations within their families.”
The new taboo? Catholics have a hard time talking to their parents about vocations. Although most entrants to religious life and diocesan priesthood come from families that are open to vocations, approximately half of the respondents found it difficult to start a discussion with their family about their vocation, though they usually found support once they broached the topic.
Among the few who were actually discouraged from entering religious life or the priesthood, family concerns included that the family member was: “wasting” his or her talents, rushing things, or forsaking a career or marriage. However, among those families responding to the survey, most report that they are not worried now about the future of their family member who entered religious life or the diocesan priesthood. “She is so happy being a religious sister,” said one mother, echoing the comments of others, “There is no need to worry.”
The New York Times recently profiled a contemplative order of nuns that are attracting a fair number of millennials. The Nuns of the Order of Preachers at the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, are eliciting noteworthy interest in their cloistered life of prayer.
In the last decade, 15 aspirants entered the order and nine are on track to take their final vows or have already done so, and two more women will join the community this year.
The community credits the web and social media with helping the order get exposure to grow, but ironically, the appeal to the young lies partly in unplugging from a hyperconnected world.
Sister Mary Catharine, a mentor there to six women under 30, welcomed four aspirants to the order this summer. When asked why she thinks these young women are interested in religious life, she explained, “With all the technology, I think they’re just saturated. And they see this life as really radical and they have a desire for it. Maybe their families are fractured and they see our life as really stable."
After photographer Toni Greaves accompanied a writer to the monastery to do a story about how the nuns were using the Internet to market their community, she was inspired to spend the next seven years capturing their daily lives. Her book, Radical Love, out this month from Chronicle Books, is a collection of images that document one young nun’s journey from her first weeks in the monastery to her solemn profession seven years later.
“There was an exuberance and vibrancy to all the young women,” Greaves said. “It’s the energy that we embody when we’re in love, and it was amazing to me.”
Pope Francis recently told a group of teenagers and young adults that one of his greatest challenges as a Jesuit has always been discernment. According to the Catholic News Service, the pope spoke in August to about 1,500 members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement from 35 countries during a meeting in Rome.
The pope explained to them that experiencing the peace of Christ is a sign that a person is on the right path, but he cautioned against "superficial peace, that peace that makes you a bit content" because true peace "comes wrapped in the cross."
"... don't be afraid of tension, because it helps you grow," he said. "... resolve tension with dialogue because dialogue unites."
The Eucharistic Youth Movement is a Jesuit-run outreach celebrating its 100th anniversary. The group helps guide young people to a life of church involvement and service.
The Daughters of Charity released a video on YouTube, called Making an impact, about Brother Roberto Martinez, F.S.C., and the role of his grade-school teacher, Sister Marianne Olives, D.C., in helping him discern his vocation.
Sister Olives taught Martinez how to read English, his second language. After grade school, Martinez attended a Catholic high school run by Christian Brothers. Martinez said that his faith and the prayers of the Daughters of Charity helped him get through a battle with cancer.
Throughout his discernment process, Daughters of Charity prayed for and supported him, and Sister Olives was present when he made his first vows. “It is always a joy to know that my consecrated life is an inspiration to somebody else who also wants to do the same with their life," she said.
Again following in the steps of Sister Olives, Brother Martinez is now a teacher. About the future of his students, he says, “You never know, one day [they may turn out to be] brothers and daughters.”
|Founded in 2014, NFCRV serves as a sign of hope in the future of consecrated life and is dedicated to increasing the number of women and men entering religious communities. The Fund hopes to accomplish this goal in numerous ways, including offering financial assistance to religious institutes so that they may accept candidates who have student loan obligations.
The National Fund for Catholic Religious Vocations (NFCRV) awarded its first grants to religious communities to pay the educational debt of 10 candidates to religious life. The fund grew out of a 2012 Study on Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life that found that student debt has become a serious obstacle for religious communities in being able to accept new candidates.
“It is notable that these first grants are being awarded during the Year of Consecrated Life, as established by Pope Francis,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley, O.F.M.,Cap., honorary chair of the NFCRV board. “This initiative will support the work of celebrating, renewing, and promoting the gift of consecrated life and help the people of God to gain a greater appreciation for this important vocation and ministry. We are grateful for the vision and initiative of the National Religious Vocation Conference and the financial support of the Conrad N. Hilton and GHR foundations.”
Brother Ronald Hingle, S.C, chair of the NFCRV board, says the Fund’s mission “is to support Catholic religious life by alleviating the financial strain educational debt poses for religious communities. We also want to assist communities in developing effective policies for candidates with student loan obligations.”
“There is no more satisfying ministry than to provide help to those in need,” says Mark J Teresi, CFRE, first director of the NFCRV. “The board and I are grateful to have the privilege to provide financial assistance to so many religious communities this year.”
“Our challenge and my goal,” says Teresi, “is to fully endow this fund, through soliciting major gifts, to solve this obstacle to vocations permanently for women’s and men’s religious institutes.”
The following women’s religious communities are the 2015 recipients of NFCRV grants:
Adrian Dominican Sisters
The Congregation of Divine Providence
Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
Dominican Sisters of Peace
Felician Sisters of North America
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Conception
Sisters of the Humility of Mary
Sisters of Christian Charity
The funds awarded this year totaled $213,000. Payments will be made to grantees each year until the candidate with educational debt makes final vows and becomes a fully professed member of the community or the student loan is paid off, whichever comes first.
The Fund will send out grant applications to religious communities who are members of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC), the founding organization of the NFCRV, in January 2016 with the NFCRV Board approving the year’s recipients at their May board meeting. Grantees will be notified of their application status in June.
For more information on the terms of the grant, applying for a grant, or donating to the fund, please go to NFCRV.org, or contact Mark J. Teresi, CFRE at 773-595-4028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, work
in their garden, which is part of the order's sustainability plan.
Pope Francis may be making headlines for his recent challenge on climate change, but environmental action in the church is nothing new. Caring for the earth has always been part of the Franciscan spirit, and one Franciscan order, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been practicing sustainability on its campus near Lake Michigan for years.
According to Milwaukee Public Radio, the order created a land-use committee in 2009, received a grant to help remove invasive plants, and are transforming an old athletic field into an urban forest. They also maintain bee boxes and vegetable gardens on their property.
The sisters rely on volunteers, the local Boy Scouts in particular, for help. They also have a group called “Habitat Healers,” which meets every Thursday morning to work where needed.
The sisters plan to eventually turn their headquarters into a meeting place for environmental groups. They hope that combining environmental stewardship with spirituality will be part of the order’s legacy.
|We need Catholic sisters now more than ever.|
They said yes. Come learn why.
The remarkable stories of the newest generation of Catholic sisters will be shared at the symposium "Today’s Catholic Sisters: Who They Are, Why We Need Them" at four universities this fall and winter.
In partnership with the National Religious Vocation Conference and the GHR foundation, these events will feature several young sisters, along with the authors of New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity. There will be a Q&A session and raffle following the main presentation. Refreshments will be served.
The event dates and locations are:
Sept. 12, 2015 9 am-12 pm
University of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas
Sept. 20, 2015 1-4 pm
River Forest, Illinois
Oct. 10, 2015 1-4 pm
(Mass to follow)
Jan. 23, 2016 9 am-12 pm
Mount Saint Mary's University
Los Angeles, California
New Generations of Catholic Sisters authors -
Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN.
Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C.
Dr. Mary Gautier
Questions? Call 773-363-5454, or visit NRVC.net.
|Religious women participated in a "Discernment Morning" in Phoenix
to encourage young women to listen for a call to consecrated life.
Young women learned about religious life and were encouraged to hear its potential call at a "Discernment Morning" on May 2 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Phoenix.
“The culture today is more about relationships, not even marriage but just being in relationships, and so the idea of consecrating yourself to Christ is very, very foreign to the culture,” said Sister Mary Eileen Jewell, of Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. “All the vocations are beautiful and we need to present all the vocations, but consecrated life especially tends to be the softest voice that people have a hard time hearing.”
Five religious communities participated in the event, including the Religious Sisters of Mercy; the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul; the Missionaries of Charity of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta; the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist; and the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate.
All of the women who attended were given the chance to ask questions about consecrated life and hear the discernment journeys of many religious sisters.
One woman in attendence said, “We’re all called to something and some of us are questioning that. ... We just need that guidance. I think there are some people that just automatically assume they’re called to marriage and they don’t ever question another vocation. The possibility of a religious vocation shouldn’t be something scary because it’s what God wills for you and He’ll let you know.”
Read more here.
|The Institute of the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb is a unique
religious community of women with and without Down syndrome.
The Institute of the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb is a 30-year-old contemplative order in France that accepts young women with Down syndrome called to religious life.
According to Regina magazine, "At the priory, the Little Sisters receive young women touched by the spirit of poverty and dedication... Every day they receive the Eucharist, living in the spirit of silence and prayer, while meditating on the Gospel."
The order was founded with the encouragement of geneticist Jérôme Lejeune, who discovered the cause of Down syndrome.
Read more about this small contemplative community here.
When Sister Mary Anne Francalanza considered religious life, writes Janet Tansley in an aricle for the Liverpool Echo, she did what most of us do when we’re looking for a book or new outfit: She went on the internet.
Sister Mary Anne took her final vows with the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) in Wavertree, Liverpool (U.K.) three years ago.
“I was the first person to have contacted the sisters through the internet," she says. But things are different now. “Today if people want to look for us we are on Facebook, Twitter, [VISION!], the lot..."
“It’s about finding God in all things and all places!”
Click here to learn more about the Faithful Companions of Jesus.
| Theodora Hawksley left academia to join the Congregation of Jesus.
Last week the Guardian reported that the increasing number of women joining religious orders in the United Kingdom is perhaps, according to postulant Theodora Hawksley, because of a "snowball effect." Hawksley believes, "God always calls people to religious life, but various things can make it harder to hear that, and one of the things that makes it easier is lots of people openly talking and thinking about it, and giving it a go."
According to the article, the number of women entering U.K. religious communities has reached a 25-year high. The article debunks myths surrounding religious life and highlights the joy of living in community. The religious interviewed encourage people to spend time with religious communities, including on hosted retreats. One sister quoted said, “Things like that raise the profile of different ways of living out vocations and help normalise what it is to be a nun or religious sister in the Catholic church."
Read the full article here.
Explore your vocation through weekend encounters, retreats, volunteering, and more on the VISION Vocation Network Events page!
Discover more about the Congregation of Jesus today.
|A mother comes to terms with her son's priesthood in "Vocation Crisis" in America magazine.|
Kristin Grady Gilger faced the same journey that many parents have when finding out their son or daughter has been called to a religious vocation. In her article, "Vocation Crisis," in America magazine, she recounts the shock she and her husband felt after their son, Patrick, told them that he wanted to convert to Catholicism and join the Society of Jesus. She writes, “As a Catholic priest, he would take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—vows that are about as countercultural as you can get in 21st-century America. And even then, he would wait a decade or more before he would be ordained a priest and be allowed to do the things priests aspire to do: say Mass and administer the other sacraments. ...Why would any 20-year-old in his right mind choose a life like that?”
She recalls how she was wondering what she had done wrong and how she and her husband “didn’t even raise him Catholic!” She was angry, frustrated, and felt that her son was throwing away his future, until one friend brought God into the equation. Gilger remembers, “He said something that made me sit back hard in my chair. ‘God has his hands on your family in such a special way,’ he told me gently. Something inside of me shifted when he said those words: It was the first time I had considered whether God had anything to do with it.”
By acknowledging God’s part in the discernment process, she was able to better understand the call her son was feeling, and as her son entered the priesthood and she was able to see firsthand the different ways he was needed and loved, her worries about loneliness began to vanish. She writes, “In fact, he is far less alone than almost anyone I know. He even, on occasion, goes on vacation.”
When it comes to her son, Gilger still worries, as most mothers do, about his future, but by acknowledging the role of God and the joy her son has found in his role as priest, she has come to accept his decision and has recently completed a memoir about how her son’s journey has brought her family back to the Catholic Church.
| The Shroud of Turin, believed to have wrapped the crucified
body of Christ, will be on public display through June 24.
The public exposition of the Shroud of Turin officially opened in April at the Italian city's cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
According to Catholic News Service, Pope Francis authorized the public display of the shroud to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint John Bosco, a 19th-century priest from the Turin region who was a pioneer in vocational education, worked with poor and abandoned children, and founded the Salesian order. The pope is scheduled to visit Turin June 21-22 to venerate the shroud.
The famous relic is believed to have been the cloth to have wrapped the crucified body of Christ. On the shroud is the image of a man that bears "all signs of the wounds corresponding to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death."
The church invites the faithful to reflect on the shroud's image as a way to grasp the suffering Jesus endured and the love for humanity that sacrifice entailed.
Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin said, "The shroud invites us to never let ourselves be beaten down by evil, but to overcome it with good."
|Pope Francis was happily overwhelmed by his enthusiastic reception in Naples.|
Pope Francis recently met with priests, religious leaders, and seminarians at the cathedral in Naples, Italy, and The Telegraph reports, "once Pope Francis' presence was announced, the starstuck sisters broke into applause and waved excitedly... and then a half dozen of them scurried up close surrounding the pontiff in their long black religious habits. One carried a large wrapped present."
Over a microphone, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe urged restraint and made lighthearted commentary. “Sisters... Later... Well, would you look at that? And these are the cloistered ones. Just imagine the non-cloistered ones,” he said, provoking laughter from the crowd in the cathedral.
Pope Francis said the sisters' great enthusiasm was a reminder to religious leaders to "live their convocation with joy and enthusiasm."
|Sister Xiskya Valladares, the "tweeting nun," takes a selfie with young people.|
The name of the Spanish website, buscoalgomas.com, translates to “I am looking for something more.” When users enter the site, a women immediately greets them by asking if they’ve ever considered religious life and says, “You may have a vocation without even knowing it.”
This is just one of the many ways Spanish convents are recruiting new members to religious life. They are also turning to Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media sites.
Many, such as Olga Maria, the prioress of the barefoot Carmelite convent in Valladolid in northeast Spain, seek to give young women alternative methods to discern. In 2012, she went to Rome to ask for permission to use social networks while recruiting young women as well as permission to let discerners join the convent for a trial period to see if it suited them. Since then, the convent’s popularity has grown considerably, with its Facebook profile receiving 8,000 likes and its Twitter account gaining 461 followers. It also uses WhatsApp to reply to young women’s questions about the discernment process.
In Mallorca, Spain, Sister Xiskya Valladares of iMisión has become famous as the “tweeting nun” and has almost 25,000 followers on Twitter. She says, “We have to be in touch with reality, and listen to people who are suffering, both existentially and materially. As Pope Francis says, 'The shepherd should smell of sheep.'”
Read more here.
National Catholic Sisters Week, an annual celebration to honor women religious, begins March 8. Events during the week, sponsored by groups all over the country, are meant to instruct, enlighten, and highlight the lives and witness of women religious and encourage a new generation of young women to follow their example.
• Visit www.nationalcatholicsistersweek.org, to find resources and ideas for
celebrating both the Year of Consecrated Life and National Catholic Sisters Week.
histories at www.sisterstory.org, and read first-person accounts of religious life.
|Sister Maria Cimperman, director of the new Center for the Study of Consecrated
Life, speaks at the center's opening at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
The Center for the Study of Consecrated Life at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago opened in February with activities including a symposium on hope and discussions on the changing nature of religious life. Under director Sister Maria Cimperman, the center plans to have both on-campus and online courses, as well as host symposia and workshops for participants to explore and study consecrated life in all its forms.
Father Robert Schreiter, professor of theology at the Catholic Theological Union, said the timing of the center’s opening is perfect. He believes the center is exactly what Pope Francis meant when he called for religious institutions to be “closer to people and their struggles in general and closer to the poor in particular.”
While there are a few centers dedicated to the study of religious life around the world, the center at the Catholic Theological Union is the first in the United States. Here, many will be able to gather information from all over the country as well as work with other international centers in order to use resources like never before.
Father Mark Francis, CTU president, said, “I believe the center is going to be a clearinghouse for a lot of what’s going on in the study of religious life. We hope to link up with the other international centers, and examine how religious life is transforming itself. We want to make sure we’re looking not just here, but at the developing world and from all these various perspectives.”
Sister Barbara Reid, vice president and academic dean at CTU, expressed her excitement for both the future of religious life and the new center for studying it. At the opening, she explained some of the goals for the recent addition to CTU, saying, “Part of the vision for this is that we are at a turning point – the way religious life was lived in the past, that form of religious life is dying. Something new is coming about, and we’re right at the cusp of that.”
Read more here.
|Using VISION Vocation Match, Rebecca Lasota researched
many communities before deciding to enter religious life.
At the age of 18, Rebecca Lasota is the youngest woman formally discerning religious life with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate (PVIM). She is joining the contemplative order whose sisters are also missionaries, according to The Catholic Sun.
Lasota's journey to sisterhood began at a young age. She read about Saint Dominic’s early start with missionary work and prayer, which appealed to her. At 15, her serious research of religious communities began when someone suggested that she try VISION Vocation Match at vocationnetwork.org, a tool designed to narrow the search in a fun and easy way.
From her match results to a series of conversations, lunches, and visits to the motherhouse in New York, Rebecca became a postulant three years later with the community whose "unique apostolate is fallen-away Catholics."
|Father Josh Johnson speaks about his vocational journey.|
Father Joshua Johnson, 27, is a priest at Christ the King Catholic Church at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He is the youngest priest in the diocese, and uses his gifts of rapping and storytelling to connect with young Catholics.
Johnson explains that he was not initially open to his calling, revealing, “I was raised Catholic, but I just never liked the Catholic Church growing up. I thought it was boring, and I didn’t understand it.”
He first encountered Christ through Eucharistic adoration during a retreat, but even after he understood his calling, he was not ready to accept it. Still, he went on to earn his master's degree in theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
Johnson used to rap to entertain other seminarians; now he raps to witness for Christ. He said, “Whenever I got to seminary, I continued to do it for fun and people started hearing me, and the next thing you know I’m doing it at festivals and youth conferences.”
While some do not condone his religious rapping, Johnson believes it is a way to connect with young people and help them find Christ, explaining, “Rap in and of itself is not evil; it’s not a sin. It’s part of the culture. We can use that. We’re not called to reject the culture; we’re called to go into the culture and promote what’s good. And there’s a lot of good that can come from this kind of music.”Read more here.
|A CARA study finds about 68 percent of religious entered their institute with at least a bachelor’s degree.|
The latest study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) was released just before the World Day for Consecrated Life (Feb. 2) and the national Day of Open House with Religious (Feb. 8).
Study highlights on religious men and women who professed perpetual vows to the nearly 800 communities in 2014 include:
* They were more likely to have attended Catholic high schools and colleges than the average American Catholic.
* Two in three (68 percent) entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree (61 percent for women and 80 percent for men). 18 percent of religious earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute.
* Most religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among those who did report educational debt, however, they averaged one year of delay while they paid down an average of $15,750 in educational debt.
* The average age of responding religious of the Profession Class of 2014 was 37. Half of the responding religious were age 34 or younger. The youngest was 24 and the oldest was 64.
* Nearly all of the religious of the Profession Class of 2014 (89 percent) participated in some type of vocation program or experience prior to entering their religious institute. Most common was a “Come and See” experience (59 percent) or a vocation retreat (50 percent).
* Nearly half said that a parish priest or a religious sister or brother encouraged their vocation (49 and 47 percent). Men were more likely than women to have been encouraged by a parish priest, religious sister, or brother.
“Given the fact that 89 percent of those responding to the recent CARA survey of new religious had participated in some form of a ‘Come and See’ experience prior to entering their religious institute, we know it is important for our youth and young adults to have greater exposure and familiarity with the community life of religious,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to visit local religious communities in their own area during the Day of Religious Open Houses, Sunday, Feb. 8.”
Read the full CARA study here.
For a full list of upcoming Open House and "Come and See" events, click here.
|Vatican report concludes: “Women religious have courageously been in the forefront, selflessly tending to the spiritual, moral, educational, physical, and social needs of countless individuals."|
In mid-December, the Vatican released its final report on a multi-year investigation into how American sisters live, work, and pray. The report was largely postive and expressed gratitude for the sisters' ministry and witness.
“Women religious have courageously been in the forefront, selflessly tending to the spiritual, moral, educational, physical, and social needs of countless individuals,” the report said.
The Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America resulted from a visitation beginning in 2008 "to look into the quality of the life of religious women in the United States." It was initiated because "apostolic religious life in the United States is experiencing challenging times."
Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference (VISION's parent organization), shared his thoughts on the report with America: "Religious sisters are an essential and formidable force in the life of the church. They have managed hospitals, schools, and universities and have forged innovative, effective ministries to meet the needs of the poor with little money, but with great vision and determination. I applaud the Congregation’s acknowledgement of the structural, cultural, and financial challenges women’s religious institutes face in attracting and retaining new members. I am especially heartened by the Congregation’s very clearly stated commitment to work with Pope Francis to find expression for 'feminine genius' and a role for women in 'decision making in the different areas of Church life.' During this Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis invites all religious to look to our future with hope."
The Global Sisters Report said of the report: "Using some form of the word 'gratitude' eight times over its 12 pages, the report also acknowledges the suspicion many sisters had over the launching of the investigation and says the Vatican is seeking 'respectful and fruitful dialogue' with those who refused to collaborate in the process."
Although the number of those in religious life is diminishing, support for these challenges is present in the report. The Year of Consecrated Life will offer even more opportunities for the laity and religious to experience the charisms, community, and grace of consecrated life.
|Vocation director Sr. Marilyn Schauble believes that technology helps play a role in increasing vocations.|
For the first time in nearly 20 years, four women entered the monastic religious order at Mount Saint Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pa. In a recent article from Faithlife, vocation director Sr. Marilyn Schauble, OSB, said of the vocations, "It's new life, it gives you a little spark."
Schauble explained that all of the women are in their 50s, each of them researched several other religious communities before committing, and all have been working with Erie's inner-city poor.
VISION executive editor Patrice Tuohy said that the overall numbers of people entering religious communities are beginning to increase slightly. Tuohy attributes this to religious communities using the Internet to attract new members. Schauble similarly finds her vocation ministry responses must be quick and efficient via email and text to draw in younger women. "You always have to think of the future of the community," Schauble said.
Discover more about the Benedictine Sisters of Erie.
Check out the "Guide to growing your community in the digital age" for tips on how to reach young, energetic discerners of the modern world.
The best of VISION Vocation Guide has been published as an ebook, ‘Discover Your Path,’ available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PKHUP08.
“Discovering our vocation in life is absolutely impossible without coming to some awareness of our own life stories and a deep appreciation of the advice and support of friends,” writes Friar Douglas Adam Greer, O.P., in VISION 2002, “Getting to know what makes us tick, what energizes us, what vision of life gives us hope, pounded-out and pulled-together in the mortar and pestle of friendship, is the process through which we come to make an informed vocation choice.”To that end, the articles collected in 'Discover Your Path' will help discerners pound out and pull together information and insights into where God might be calling them—a process often referred to as “vocation discernment.” May the readers of 'Discover Your Path' find it useful as they seek the vocations within themselves.
|USCCB prayer card for vocations|
The 2014 National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW), Nov. 2-8, will be celebrated in U.S. parishes as a special time to "foster a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life."
Pope Francis emphasized the culture of vocations in Evangelii Gaudium, proclaiming: "The fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration."
The observance of NVAW is sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. The organization has created a variety of NVAW resources including news releases, videos of daily reflections, homily points, Holy Hours for Vocations, Prayers of the Faithful, prayers for vocations, and other resources such as lesson plans and activities.
Fr. Shawn McKnight, USCCB’s executive director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said: “When three or more people encourage someone to consider a religious vocation, he or she is far more likely to take serious steps toward answering that call.”
Nov. 30 marks the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life. Check out the VISION Year of Consecrated Life section on our website for articles, resources, and the commissioned song “Wake the world with dawning joy," in honor of this celebratory year of consecration and discipleship.
|Rev. David Rider (right) and Rev. John Gibson became an Internet sensation
for their tap and Irish dance moves. (AP Photo)
Rider attributes his vocational calling to Pope John Paul II. In a 2012 CNS video interview, "David Rider: Off Broadway," Rider speaks of the death and funeral of his "hero": "I saw the way he [Pope John Paul II] impacted the entire world for the choice he made for the priesthood. I felt well up within me also the desire to follow in his footsteps and become a priest." Despite a promising theatre career before him, Rider chose the priesthood and now dances "with the desire to bring forward the Kingdom of God," proudly wearing his collar.
On the heels of the dancing priests, Sister Cristina, the winner of the TV show, ‘The Voice of Italy,’ has released her first single: "Like a Virgin." According to the RNS report, "Sister Cristina, 26, says her version of the salacious pop song is a 'testimony of God’s capacity to turn all things into something new' as well as her personal calling to be a nun."
|In the new reality series 'The Sisterhood,' five young women consider joining religious life.|
Lifetime is set to release a new show, “The Sisterhood,” which profiles five young women who are considering becoming nuns. The “docu-series will provide an honest, behind-the-scenes look into the struggles, triumphs, and unique experiences that shape these women as they attempt to leave their old lives and take religious vows.”
The women profiled are all at different points on their faith journey and come from different backgrounds.
The Carmelites for the Aged and Infirm in New York, the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Illinois, and the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker in Kentucky agreed to let the series into their establishments for filming. This is the first time cameras have been allowed in convents to profile the discernment process.
The show is set to premiere on Nov. 25 at 10pm ET on Lifetime.
Read the full story.
|Martina Purdy bids the BBC goodbye on Oct. 10.|
One of Northern Ireland's most respected political journalists, Martina Purdy, announced she was leaving her career of almost 25 years to enter a religious congregation. In a statement, she said: "This is a very personal decision. I ask that the media respect my privacy and that of the religious congregation which I am entering, as I face up to the new challenges of my life. I will not be making any further public comment about this matter."
However, she was recently spotted on her way to mass with a group of religious from Adoration Convent of the Falls Road in Belfast, and she also took to Twitter to thank the public for their support.
In June, VISION posted on Facebook a report from the National Catholic Register that a famous Spanish model, Olalla Oliveros, also left her career to enter religious life.
|Albanian faithful awaiting Pope Francis|
Sr. Maria Kaleta, an 85-year-old Franciscan Stigmatine nun, was a highlight of Pope Francis’ recent trip to Albania. During his meeting there with priests, religious, seminarians, and members of ecclesial lay movements, Kaleta recounted stories of her faith during the Communist regime in that country.
Kaleta spent seven years with her order but was forced to return home to her family by the Communist regime before taking her final vows. While there, she was unable to publically declare her faith but learned “to keep the faith alive in the hearts of the faithful” in secret.
She recalled a time when a Communist woman approached her and asked her to baptize her child. “I was afraid," Kaleta said, "because I knew the woman was a Communist, and I told her I didn't have anything to baptize her with because we were on the road, but she expressed so much desire that she told me there as a canal with water nearby. I told her I didn't have anything to collect the water with, but she insisted that I baptize that child, and seeing her faith, I took off my shoe, which was made of plastic, and I filled it with water from the canal and baptized her.” This was just one of many times she risked her life and safety to spread God’s word and witness her faith.
Among other stories of how she lived out God’s will in secret for years, Kaleta also focused on the strength her faith gave her. "The Lord gave strength to those He called; in fact, he has repaid me from all my sufferings here on earth," she said.Read the full story.
|Fr. Vincent Mulligan receives Vatican's Good Samaritan medal.|
Fr. Vincent Mulligan, 74, was awarded the Good Samaritan medal by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers for his decades of service as the director of pilgrimages for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) order in Dublin, Ireland. For the past 27 years, Mulligan has been conducting pilgrimages to Lourdes, France, for patients suffering from illnesses. He is the first Irish priest to receive this honor.
“I didn’t expect it at all, and I don’t deserve it either," Mulligan said, after receiving the award. "I am just an ordinary working priest. Lourdes is a place of peace and contentment. You are faced with suffering on a massive scale. Your health is your wealth, and if you haven’t got that, you’ve got nothing.”
Lourdes is home to the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes, where many pilgrims travel to pray to the Blessed Mother for healing. Along with many volunteers, Mulligan takes those who would not have otherwise had the opportunity to travel to the religious site.Even after visiting Lourdes so many times, Mulligan still enjoys the trip and is thankful for the volunteers that accompany him. “I look forward to it," he said. "You are helping people that cannot help themselves. It is not something I expected at all in any shape or form. I feel this is recognition of all the workers, all of them. Without them, and without the young people, we could not do what we do here.”
Read the full story.
|Sr. Teresa Fitzgerald
Sr. Teresa Fitzgerald always knew she had a calling to work with children, and she did so, first as a Catholic schoolteacher and later as an administrator. Then, that calling took her in a new direction.
One of her colleagues, who was working with imprisoned mothers with infants, asked if “other nuns would be interested in dealing with older children, giving them a home and offering them the chance to stay in touch with their mothers.” Fitzgerald decided to seize this new opportunity.
She went on to start “Hour Children”—named for “the typical hour allowed for visits with incarcerated women”—which houses 70 children. The program offers thrift shops, a day care center, a food pantry, and job training. The residents and nearly all the staff are former convicts.
Fitzgerald has made it her goal to help people who society often casts off as those who brought this upon themselves. “For some, there weren’t any choices, it was just a life experience that they were channeled into for whatever reason–economic or personal or addictive issues. But I was amazed and touched by their goodness and their openness…I met very few people who blamed someone. And their resiliency, their hopes and dreams are big,” she says.
Fitzgerald recognizes that there are many factors that lead people to make the choices they do. She realizes that everyone makes mistakes, giving her the reputation of “the nun who gives second chances.”
Read the full story.
Sr. Loretta Mann, 85, a Sister of St. Francis of Assisi since 1948, retired from education in 2008, but not from service, and she joined the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., as a "cuddler," where she volunteers three times a week.
"Mothers who have grown kids or have other responsibilities, they can't be here, but I can," Mann says. As a cuddler, she rocks the babies and keeps them company, often reading books and singing to them.
Mann joined the convent when she was 19, knowing she wanted to work with children. She taught in Pennsylvania for two decades and was then sent to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to get a master’s degree in administration. While she was not happy about the transition at first, she understood that it was part of God's plan. "I always believe that God puts you where he wants you," she says.
After working as a principal in Media, Penn., she was placed in the Hartford area as the curriculum coordinator for the archdiocese and later became superintendent, a post she held until she retired.
"Did I want to retire? No. But I knew it was time. And do you know what? I was at the St. Francis NICU the very next day as a cuddler," she says.
Her services are appreciated by many at the hospital, including Dr. Jose Arias-Camison, the director of the NICU, who says Mann's loving touch helps the infants recover.
"As we know, for many years when the mothers come and touch and hold their babies, their vital signs improve. Sister is not their Mom, but it has the same effect," Arias-Camison says.
Mann's kind spirit and willingness to help spreads throughout the NICU, and she loves making sure the infants know someone is there."I have loved every job, every ministry I have been in," she says. "When I gave up teaching, I thought that was the best job in the world, but then I came here."
|Twins, Todd (left) and Gary Koenigsknecht, are among the Class of 2014 newly ordained priests.|
But that is not all...
"The elevation of religious life here has also had an effect on young women: Westphalia has produced 37 Catholic nuns over the decades, according to diocesan data, while Fowler claims 43. Marita Wohlfert, who is 20, is in the running to make it 44, having professed her first vows last year with the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará and taking the name Sister Mary of the Holy Family."
Is grass-fed beef the culprit? What's in the water of Westphalia and Fowler, Michigan? Please share it with the rest of us!
Mary Annette Gailey had worked at a day-care center, in retail food management, customer service, and with computers. Then, drawing inspiration from her father, who had worked in a Mack Truck engine plant, she became an over-the-road tractor-trailer driver. It was here she also received a call to become a religious sister. After several years of discernment, Gailey, 38, recently made her final vows with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Gailey frequently drove in silence to take better advantage of the contemplative side of her solitary hours on the road, which lent themselves to listening to God and sorting out the direction her life was taking. Driving a truck “allowed me to listen to the Holy Spirit,” she told the Associated Press. “It was a metaphoric journey being played out.”
“I was spending time in solitude, with just the Holy Spirit, and God spoke to me,” she said. “It’s definitely not like people picking up the phone and someone calls you . . . . There’s no lightning bolt. It’s much like a quiet whisper and listening to your own heart.
Her discernment process included attending come-and-see events, keeping a journal, meeting regularly with a vocation director, and living as an affiliated member of the Holy Family Sisters. For a while she spent one week living as a layperson, and another as if she were to be part of religious life. Her experience living as a religious gave her greater peace. “Someone said to me, ‘Go where the peace is,’ ” she said. “When you find the deepest peace, you know it’s true.”
“God never stops calling,” she says “When do we finally listen?”
Character Sister Ingalls and Sister Ardeth lived in their "camp," serving their time as well as serving as chapel clerk and ministering to women of many faiths. And post-camp life, the real-life-Domincan Sisters Carol, Ardeth, and Jackie continue to advocate for peace and justice.
#oitnb #domincansisters #peaceandjustice
|Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe holding a pop tab purse made by her St. Monica's Girls' Tailoring School students in Gulu, Uganda.|
Last week the Global Sisters Report highlighted an extraordinary Sacred Heart of Jesus Sister from Uganda-Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe. Perhaps you remember her as one of 2007 CNN’s Heroes or as the recent keynote speaker for the 2014 TIME Magazine -The 100 Most Influential People in the World.
In fact Sr. Rosemary’s vocation and survival during the horrific time of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army is the subject of a new book and movie narrated by Forest Whitaker, Sewing Hope. Her life’s story is “the story of one woman's fight to restore hope to her nation. Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe resides over Saint Monica's Vocational School in Gulu, Uganda. Rosemary learned that [many girls] had been abducted and spent years with the rebels, losing a chance at any education. Rosemary introduced a practical tailoring course, where students who could not complete school were able to learn skills to provide for themselves and their families.”
View the Official Website for the Documentary Film and Book Sewing Hope here.
#bringbackourgirls #sewinghope #sisterrosemarynyirumbe
|REBECCA GUTHERMAN, a senior at Immaculata University, blogs about her plan to join the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary or the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.|
The Philadelphia Inquirer recently interviewed millennial Becca Gutherman about her blog, “Road Less Traveled” (the title a nod to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”) and her journey to becoming a nun.
“The blog gives a face to religious life,” says Gutherman, who is majoring in English and secondary education, with a minor in theology. When she graduates in May, she would like to teach in the inner city and someday write a young-adult fiction book. “People see that this is still a real life choice.”
What other online ways have you witnessed millennials discern?
#discernmenttrends #millennialnuns #bloggingmillennials
|Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed Pope John XXIII -photo credit CNA|
“We deem it opportune to remind our children of their duty to take an active part in public life and to contribute toward the attainment of the common good of the entire human family as well as to that of their own political community. They should endeavor, therefore, in the light of their Christian faith and led by love, to insure that the various institutions—whether economic, social, cultural, or political in purpose—should be such as not to create obstacles, but rather to facilitate or render less arduous man’s perfecting of himself in both the natural order and the supernatural . . . . Every believer in this world of ours must be a spark of light, a center of love, a vivifying leaven amidst his fellow men. And he will be this all the more perfectly, the more closely he lives in communion with God in the intimacy of his own soul.”
―Pope John XXIII ( Pacem in Terris: Peace on Earth)
"I invite you all to pray for those young people who, throughout the world, hear the call of the Lord and for those who may be afraid to answer that call. May they find educators at hand to guide them! May they perceive the grandeur of their vocation: to love Christ above all else as a call to freedom and happiness! Pray so that the Church may help you in your search and in arriving at a correct discernment! Pray so that Christian communities may always know how to pass on the call of the Lord to the younger generations! With me, thank the Lord “for the gift of a vocation, for the grace of priesthood, for priestly vocations throughout the world” (Gift and Mystery, 10)! Let us thank him for consecrated persons! Let us thank him for families, parishes, and movements, the cradles of vocations!"
―Pope John Paul II, Paris 1997
#JohnXXIII #JP2 #popescanonization
|The Sisters of Bon Secours' new website connects women on their journey to religious life.|
In an age where advances in technology can sometimes disconnect us, I must say that the "Imagine a Sister's Life" website welcomes the visitor in very real way. This site offers a conversation starter for women both struggling to find their purpose or need confirmation that they're on the right path.
With a wide array of multimedia tools, "Imagine a Sister's Life" invites visitors to explore religious life by exploring three steps that are outlined on the home page: 1. Meet a Sister, 2. Picture Yourself as a Sister, and 3. Becoming a Sister.
Don't forget to click the "Talk to a Sister" tab to view their blog, join the chat room, and even send a comment or suggestion.
Click Sisters of Bon Secours to discover more about this innovative community.
#imagineasisterslife #pictureyourselfasasister #becomingasister
|NCR columnist Sr. Camille D'Arienzo|
Mercy Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, whose column Conversations with Sr.Camille is regularly featured in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), recently posted two great interviews with members of religous communities: Providence Sr. Susanne Gallagher, S.P. on her work with children with special needs, and Marist Br. Sean Sammon, F.M.S. on the future of religious life.
|Providence Sr. Susanne Gallagher, right, with her sister Rita who inspired her work with Special Religious Development, better known as SPRED.|
Read the full interview here.
Learn more about the Sisters of Providence--Saint Mary-of-the--Woods, IN
|Br. Sean Sammon, F.M.S., says that religious life is meant to be a leaven within the church and society.|
Br. Sammon told Sr. Camille that there has never been a "golden age" of religious life. "Each era has had its challenges. We need to use our energies to address today's, including the changes that very few welcome. ...Young people coming to religious life today are reminding us that community and a vibrant life of prayer are as important a part of religious life as the ministry of our congregation."
Read the full interview here.
Learn more about the Marist Brothers.
|SISTER STORY website launched during the first National Catholic Sister Week.|
The National Catholic Sister week has successfully concluded and created a lot of buzz for women religious.
Attendee Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau writes on her blog: "This new tradition [NCSW] is sparked by the funding obtained by St. Kate’s [St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, MN] from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for a 3-year project called “Sister Story.” One of the goals of this project is to demystify religious life by collecting the personal stories of Sisters from various communities/congregations from all over the nation. To accomplish this, college women are being paired with Sisters with the goal of forming close relationships that will culminate in a videotaped interview which will be made accessible on a public website."
The sisterstory site Sister Paule is referring to, provides an opportunity for viewers to participate in the "Tell Us Your Story" tab which includes thanking a nun. Particularly noteworthy is the SisterStories tab itself. It is quite incredible to read the "In their own words" stories as the Huffington Post acknowledged their blog a wrap up of the NCSW: "Let's Hear It For The Nuns! 7 Stories To Kick Off Inaugural National Catholic Sisters Week."
Enjoy being demystified by these remarkable stories as I am.
#ncsw #sisterstory #womenreligious
|"It’s my first experience on stage is as an altar boy. You’re on stage next to the priest, I’m a co-star," Jimmy Fallon on growing up Catholic and wanting to be a priest.
Deacon Greg recalls Jimmy Fallon's 2012 interview with NPR about his Catholic upbringing in Brooklyn, NY.
Fallon shared: "I just, I loved the church. I loved the idea of it. I loved the smell of the incense. I loved the feeling you get when you left church. I loved like how this priest can make people feel this good. I just thought it was – I loved the whole idea of it. My grandfather was very religious, so I used to go to Mass with him at like 6:45 in the morning, serve Mass. And then you made money, too, if you did weddings and funerals. You’d get like five bucks. And so I go ‘Okay, I can make money too.’ I go, ‘This could be a good deal for me.’ I thought I had the calling... It’s my first experience on stage is as an altar boy. You’re on stage next to the priest, I’m a co-star."
Read the full 2012 NPR transcript here.
You've heard about Pope Francis' prior work sweeping floors and as a bouncer right? If not, you can read the Catholic News Service report here.
Surely, you've seen the Huff Post article of the Pope joining his Almoner at night giving alms to the poor of Rome no doubt, correct? Read more on this rumor that is "probably true" from "a knowledgeable source in Rome [that] told The Huffington Post that "Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women,"" here.
Perhaps you haven't heard of Mother Dolores Hart, OSB who before becoming a cloistered nun, played opposite to Elvis Presley in "Loving You." Relish in Mother Dolores Hart's journey toward her true vocation as she reflects that "The extravagance of my Hollywood career only mirrored the extravagance of God’s creative love expressed through His Son." Read the full USCCB blog here.
Discover more about the Benedictine communities here.
|BRUCE LEE: Vocation promoter.|
A life-long fan of the Hong Kong martial artist and actor, Villegas, the newly-installed president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, remembers coming across these words from Lee: “He said: ‘The cup realizes itself only by being empty.’ For me,” Villegas said, “it’s a call for sacrifice or for something greater than what I have been doing.”
Source: Sun.Star (Philippines)
|NOVICES! SHARE YOUR STORY with HGTV's new show new house, new life.|
Casting applications are being accepted now and production will continue through the fall. Ideal candidates will be outgoing people who would love to share their life-changing vocational and discerning experience with HGTV’s audience, inspiring others to pursue their dreams of religious life or spiritual fulfillment and service.
For more information please contact: email@example.com, 720-259-1546.
#callingallnovices #shareyourjourney #inspireothers
Have you ever wondered who is considering a vocation to consecrated life? Who is answering THE CALL? Well, you are in luck!
In the past year nearly 5,000 people completed a Vocation Match profile. How old are they? What kind of community interests them? Where do they live? Check out our cool new infographic below (click here for a larger version of the graphic).
| Results compiled from completed
Vocation Match profiles.
|“AFTER 17 YEARS of being a priest,
Sunday mornings still never get old for me,”
says Father John Herman, C.S.C.
Father John Herman, C.S.C., touched upon the importance of Sundays Eucharist this last October (2012), in his blog piece: Nothing Better than Sunday Mornings. Heshares his love and gratitude for God calling him to become a Holy Cross priest aswell as a glimpse into his life of blessings and challenges as pastor of La Luz Parish in México.
Fr. Herman says: “One of the things that helps me feel very grounded in celebrating the Eucharist here is the connection that I’m developing with the people after being here for a little more than a year. I see Imelda out there and know that she’s suffering greatly from the tragic and violent death of her daughter. I see Pablo and Carla who are expectantly awaiting the birth of their first child. I see Arturo and know how he and his family are struggling to keep their family business going. I see Edgar who is discerning a possible vocation to religious life and priesthood in Holy Cross.
“I love Sunday’s, not because it’s the day for NFL football. I love Sundays because we all get to come together for our celebration of the Eucharist. Does it get any better than this?”
Learn more about the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
#throwbackthursday #sundaymornings #celebration #eucharist
|"THERE ARE a handful of young people across the country who have interpreted 'calling' in perhaps the most literal way possible."|
First, Emma Green of The Atlantic shares her thoughts on this in the context of the millennial generation in her article Why Would a Millennial Become a Priest or Nun? The highlights that struck me come at the beginning of the article:
"There are a handful of young people across the country who have interpreted 'calling' in perhaps the most literal way possible: By devoting their lives to the Church. The decision seems radical in the context of common stereotypes about millennials, a generation often accused of lack of discipline, skepticism bordering on snark, preference for a hook-up culture, and only the vaguest spiritual impulses. These millennials defy those clichés, taking lifelong vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to God—and to the Catholic Church, which, especially in their lifetimes, has been regularly plagued by scandal.
Sister Colleen Gibson, a 27-year-old in the second year of her formal training with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, took the quiz on a website during college to determine what the best path might be for her. "It's like Match.com, but for religious communities," she explained. After identifying some of the aspects of religious life that appealed to her, she clicked a box to send her answers to various orders that might be a fit. "The next morning when I woke up and opened up my inbox, there were 40 emails—it scared me to death. It's like throwing red meat into a lion's den." In time, obviously, Sister Colleen found the community with the best fit, and her may options gave her the chance to look at different kinds of communities.
The website Sister Colleen searched is the VISION Vocation Network's very own Vocation Match survey!
Second, on the Huffington Post Agapi Stassinopouslos posted a blog item regarding the topic of "purpose" and "calling" in her piece "5 Essential Questions to Lead You to Your Calling."
", , , When we connect to our heart's calling," Stassinopouslos says, "everything starts to have meaning. So I have come up with five questions that as you answer can bring your calling closer to you.
"What am I here to learn?
What am I here to teach?
What am I here to overcome?
What am I here to complete?
What am I here to express?"
|World Youth Day Madrid 2011 priest in prayer.|
Father Leonardo Lopes, member of the Pastoral Preparation Sector and Head of the Vocations Fair for World Youth Day Rio2013 shares: “The goal of the Fair is to help all who attend to ask themselves what God expects of them.”
From July 23 until the 26, from 8 in the morning until 8 at night at the Quinta da Boa Vista site of World Youth Day Rio2013, pilgrims will have the opportunity to visit confessionals specifically designed for WYD, along with a tent of 600 square meters for adoring the Most Holy Sacrament, participate in catechesis, eat at the food court and various restaurants, and even visit tents with DJs and finally Evangelization 180º, with extreme sports like climbing and zip-lining. Read further here.
Is there an upcoming Vocation Fair in your area? Share the information of date, time and location below.
Also, remember to follow our VISION staff at World Youth Day Rio2013 at https://www.facebook.com/VISION.Vocation.Guide
“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.”
From a story by Veronica Scarisbrick on Vatican Radio: Pope Francis has chosen the motto Miserando atque eligendo, meaning "lowly but chosen," which in Latin means "by having mercy, by choosing him."
The motto is one the pope had already chosen as a bishop. It is taken from the homilies of the Venerable Bede on Saint Matthew's gospel relating to his vocation: "Jesus saw the tax collector and by having mercy chose him as an Apostle saying to him: Follow me."
This homily, which focuses on divine mercy and is reproduced in the Liturgy of the Hours on the Feast of Saint Matthew, has taken on special significance in the Pope's life and spiritual journey.
It was on the Feast of Saint Matthew in 1953 that a young 17 year-old Jorge Bergoglio was touched by the mercy of God and felt the call to religious life in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and entered the Jesuit order.
Beyond the motto, the coat of arms has a blue field and is surmounted by the mitre and the papal keys. On the crest itself at the centre is the symbol of the Jesuits, a flaming sun with the three letters recalling the name and the salvific mission of Jesus. Underneath we have two more symbols: to the right the star representing Mary and to the left the nard flower representing Joseph.
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:
- Benedictines (17):-
- Gregory I, Boniface IV, Adeodatus II, Leo IV, John IX, Leo VII, Stephen IX, Gregory VII, Victor III, Urban II, Paschal II, Gelasius II, Celestine V, Clement VI, Urban V, Pius VII
- and including Camaldolese (1):-
- Gregory XVI
- Augustinians (6):-
- Eugene IV
- and including Canons Regular (5):-
- Honorius II, Innocent II, Lucius II, Gregory VIII, Adrian IV
- Dominicans (4):-
- Innocent V, Benedict XI, Pius V, Benedict XIII
- Franciscans (4):-
- Nicholas IV, Sixtus IV
- and including Conventual Franciscans (2):-
- Sixtus V, Clement XIV
- Cistercians (2):-
- Eugene III, Benedict XII
- Jesuits (1):-
- Francis I
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.
A Nun's Life Ministry has been working hard to create a website that is accesible and functional for all its users. Today, the sisters will be hosting a LIVE website tour to show off their wonderful new site. The streaming audio and video tour will begin at 6 p.m. Central Time. The chat room will be open too, so you can interact with the sisters and with other folks during the tour.
Some of the new features include:
- New designs by Ann Betts
- New Podcasts by the Sisters called "Random Nun Clips!"
- New videos that highlight the sisters and all they do
- Easier navigation features to help you find exactly what you are looking for
Make sure to check out the website and join the sisters tonight for their special podcast. Way to go sisters!!
Click here to learn more about the Sisters of Mercy.
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?”
The Huffington Post reported that Colbert, who has taught Sunday school classes to school-age children, said people in comedy often don't understand how he could remain Catholic. But he said he views the church as teaching joy, which he called the "infallible sign of the presence of God."
The official twitter hashtag for the event was #dolancolbert.
Read followup comments from Father Martin at America Magazine.
Click here to learn more about the Jesuits.
Art by by Tim Luecke, Fordham senior.
President of the College, Monsignor Hugh Connolly, said in his welcoming to the new candidates and their families, "As you begin your formation journey I wish you every blessing during this privileged time for discernment, for learning, for vocation, for praying, for listening and for being especially close to Our Lord in the word of Sacred Scripture, in the faith of the Church, in your participation in the Liturgy and in your service of others."
The Church of Ireland has had quite a memorable year hosting the Eucharistic Conference in June, and later this year will host a 50th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
As Monsignor Connolly concluded his welcoming he also expressed the great need this year is to be reminded of the importance of faith in each of our lives, to continue to deepen our relationship with God, and to be committed to sharing our faith with others.
Let us continue to pray for those who are considering entering into religious life and for those women and men who already live a religious vocational life.
*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.
The message was so powerful and so thoughtful that I would like to share it with you today:
Hi Sister, what motivation did you have to become a nun? Why did you choose that type of career/life??
You asked what my motivation was for becoming a nun. Well, I didn’t really plan on becoming a nun. My motivation was to live my life the best way I could as a young, single, Catholic woman. I knew my options were single life, married life, and religious life. I figured that I was destined for married life. I always wanted to be married and to be a mom. But, I decided I’d check out the religious thing just to say “been there, done that” … so I wouldn’t have any doubts about that NOT being my call. Well, that didn’t happen.
more I am able to say “not my will, but yours be done.”
Being a nun is more of a way of life than it is a career. I think of a career as something that at the end of the day or week, I can come home and do my ordinary stuff. I’m “off duty” so to speak. Just like being married is not a career, being a nun is not really a career because being a nun is part of who I am. It’s like I’ve got this IHM “DNA” now that is as much a part of me as my family is. As with married life, our vows are for life — in good times and in bad.
In a way, I wasn’t the one who first chose this life of being a nun. It’s like it chose me. I know that sounds kinda weird, but it’s true. It’s not something I ever would have thought would “fit” me. Yet, by golly, it does. Once I realized that this is what God was calling me to, I had to take the time and space to choose it for myself, to make God’s call my own, to embrace it freely. After some major resisting, running, and denial, I was able to freely choose this life, knowing that it is the best way I can be me and serve God and the world.
Please pray for all those who are discerning a vocation and take some time today to really listen to where God is calling you.
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.”
Congratulations to the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) - on whose behalf VISION is published - for being awarded a $650,000 grant by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The purpose of this “capacity building” grant is to strengthen and enhance the organizational systems, structures, management, publications, communications, and governance of the NRVC. It is the largest grant ever received by the NRVC.
The Hilton Foundation has identified the NRVC as a key organization with whom they would like to
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)|
That way led her to the Sisters of Mercy, where she is now pursuing answers to other questions, like “how many of us long for something more in life?” and “how many of us live our lives content that we are on our journey with God?”
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.”
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:
- Greeting enthusiastic young adults, teenagers, youth ministers, parents, chaperones among the 22,000-plus in attendance
- Watching teenagers bowl with the bishops using the Wii that VocationMatch.com sponsored
- Feeling the enthusiasm and spirit of the faith-filled crowd in and around Kansas City's Bartle Convention Center
- Eating at Lidia's restaurant--yum!
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
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:
- Being Proactive about Vocations
- Creating a Culture of Vocations
- Vocation Director and/or Team
- Use of Media for Vocation Promotion
- Discernment Programs
- Targeting Age Groups
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:
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?
Click here to viewto the CBS clip. The link to the clip is also available on the VISION website homepage.
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
To love God. To be with God in Heaven.
A bud unfolding; a dutiful, prayerful nun.
I pleased God, I thought,
By being obedient.
It made me feel holy.
But getting to heaven takes a long time.
And dwelling far below was a Voice, calling:
"Lose yourself upon the deeper currents!"
Then I heard cries from the heart of the city:
"Is there life before death?"
I saw. I heard. I followed.
I made my way to prison cells.
I made my way to death chambers.
I saw. I heard. I followed.
A desire for justice woke in me.
A fierce desire that will not let go.
The deepest desire.
The deepest desire of my heart.
I live my life in primary colors.
I let praise and blame fall where they may.
I hold my soul in equanimity
And leave the fruits of my labors to God.
At night, when I pray, I catch on fire.
And when I put my head on the pillow,
I fall instantly to sleep.
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
"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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
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.
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.
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:
- A call always involves an invitation to freely come and see.
- A call is about God’s time. It involves waiting and tending to a process.
- A call is a journey of trust, and God is always with us.
- A call is a gift graciously given and full of grace.
For the full article click here.
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.”
Hilgrenbrinck with the
New England Revolution
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."
Novice Bryan Cuocci, O.S.B.M.
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: email@example.com
Sister and Foundress Annamarie Cook, S.L.W.
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?