Religious women have always been on the cutting edge of anticipating and answering the needs of society. Many religious have also embraced the challenge in Pope Francis that we should be "women and men who are able to wake up the world." And so the question becomes, "How do we nurture and engage the next generation of young women to "wake up the world" as vowed religious spreading the joy of the gospel?" On February 18-19, 2014, over 25 congregations gathered in Chicago, IL to brainstorm and share ideas around continuing the hope filled process of promoting religious life in the 21st century. The event was sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) which is an important partner in the ongoing work of supporting vocations in the Church.
One of my fondest childhood memories includes waiting excitedly each year for the annual television presentation of the "Wizard of Oz." Even as an adult it remains one of my favorite films. So, I was intrigued and excited when our retreat facilitator, Dominican Sister of Peace, Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP, revealed that she would be using this enchanting movie as the theme for our upcoming vocation retreat! What possible wisdom can the tale of Dorothy's mythical journey hold for a woman in the 21st century trying to discern what to do with the rest of her life – especially if she is entertaining the thought of a possible religious vocation? What insights can Dorothy and her companions help reveal about God's call or "path" for her life? I think you will find they will be great guides for the journey!
In much of the world, the beautiful season of Advent is buried amid the constant clamor of commercialism that precedes Christmas. In many circles, hardly a thought is given to the real reason for our hope in a world that can seem to be overrun by the effects of power, greed, war and poverty, not to mention the havoc created by natural disasters. We have only to look at our local, national and international headlines to confirm the truth of this statement.
And then along comes Advent. It’s the beginning of the new Church year that reminds us of the eternal hope and light that came into the world over 2000 years ago, in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the hype we should believe in! May each of us continue to live this new spiritual year in Advent hope.
Promoting vowed religious life and a life of service to God and the people of God continues to be important to the life to the Church. As a Vocation Minister, it is deeply gratifying when others assist in promoting consecrated life as a viable life choice for young people of the 21st century. On November 5, 2013, Black Catholic Ministries of Columbus and the Diocese of Columbus Office of Vocations sponsored, "In God’s Service," a vocation event for students in the diocesan high schools and held at Christ the King Church in Columbus, OH. The program offered information and helpful discernment materials, while also allowing personal interaction with people in vowed and ordained ministry. An important part of the program focused on four participants who shared their unique call and journey into serving God as an associate, a sister, a deacon and a priest.
There are vocations which manifest themselves. They must be fostered. There are vocations which are not conscious of themselves. They must be awakened. There are vocations which are in fear of being lost. They must be renewed.
[Jesus] said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. (Mark 6:31-32)
Jesus knew the value of balancing the important elements of life. He modeled it in his own life, and he encouraged it in the lives of those whom he called to the ministry. Jesus’ invitation to "Come away and rest for a while" is as relevant to us today as it was to his busy followers of the first century. Taking time to refresh and revive our spirit is one of the most important things we can do for both our physical and our spiritual health.
This story in Luke is a wonderful story of Simon Peter's call and response to discipleship. Stories of "call" are inspiring. Early in my discernment process, whenever I would meet a new Sister eventually I would always ask her about her vocation story. How did she hear the call to religious life? What or who influenced her? All of the stories of call were different, but one important element that was present in all of their stories was "trust." Consistent in each story was a deep abiding trust in the One from whom the call came - the call to step out into "deep water" and follow Christ.
One of the most popular questions that Vocation Ministers are asked is, "What is the daily life of a Sister like?" Serious discerners are also interested in knowing what it's like living in a particular community of Sisters? How do you pray? What are the community and vocation stories that Sisters share among themselves and with others? To help women in serious discernment with the Dominican Sisters of Peace gain more insight into these questions, we offer them a "mini-immersion experience" among some of our Sisters in mission. Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling with two discerners, LaKesha and Helen, to visit some of our Sisters and mission sites in New Haven, CT, and Watertown, MA. It was a whirlwind visit, but an enriching experience for both the discerning women and the Sisters.
You may have heard the expression, "It takes a village to raise a child." The thought acknowledges that a child's development is not only influenced by parents. The extended family and other relationships also impact their growth. In the language of vocation ministry, the same sentiment is expressed when we maintain that every Sister of the congregation is responsible for vocations, not just the "designated" vocation personnel. Just as a child's development is enhanced by all the positive influences in their lives, a congregation remains energized and viable when the concept of vocation awareness is shared among its members.