With a cheerful “heart” theme for the day, eighty high school junior girls participated in a Gift of Mission vocation awareness program held in Immaculata, PA, sponsored by an intercongregational team of vocation directors – including the Missionary Sisters – from the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC). Young ladies from Bishop Shanahan H.S., West Chester, PA; Mount St. Joseph Academy, Chestnut Hill, PA; York Catholic H.S., York, PA; and Glouscester Catholic H.S., Glouscester City, NJ entered into a fun and interactive day learning about vowed religious life, prayer, and ministry.
In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day; the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life is transferred to the following Sunday in order to highlight the gift of consecrated persons for the whole Church.
World Day for Consecrated Life is celebrated on February 2nd. In 2019, this day is celebrated in parishes on February 2-3. Let us keep the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and all those in consecrated life to celebrate the gift they bring to the Church and to the world.
In a video produced by NRVC Board member Father Toby Collins, C.R. and Andrew Turski, members of the National Religious Vocation Conference talk about why they love their vocation to Religious Life.
To view the video on the joy of consecrated life:
On Saturday, September 15,
Tigist Loja, Ayantu Bishaka, MSC candidates, and Sr. Lucy Panettieri, MSC, participated in an Intercultural Day titled “Roots and Wings” sponsored by the Brooklyn Diocese with Sr. Annmarie Seton LoPiccolo SC, Vicar for Religious.
The overwhelming majority of those pursuing vocations in religious life in the church were born into the faith. But a small, steady stream of men and women choose first to become Catholic and then, in what is perhaps an even larger leap of faith, choose religious life itself. Twelve percent of brothers and sisters making perpetual vows weren’t born Catholic, according to a 2017 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate report. Nine out of 10 entering religious life were raised Catholic, CARA reports.
Whereas once a change of denominations would have been called a conversion (and still is often popularly referred to that way), since Vatican II it has been called entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. Sometimes discerning a call to the religious life can take decades.
In some cases, the journey from changing denominations to taking vows as a member of a religious community seems linear, according to accounts from the women Global Sisters Report interviewed. In others, there is a close connection between a wish to become Catholic and enter the religious life.
“There is no canonical law concerning the time to start the application process in regards to a discerner who was not born and raised Catholic yet became fully initiated into the Catholic faith,” says Sr. Deborah Marie Borneman, a member of the Sisters of Saint Cyril and Methodius; she is director of member relations and services for the National Religious Vocation Conference. Canon law requires that candidates show proof of baptism, confirmation and “free status” before they are admitted to the novitiate, she said in an email. The vocation conference, however, highly recommends a new Catholic wait at least two years, preferably three years, before application to any religious institute. ~ from the Global Sisters Report
Yes, Sr. Jean Dolores Schmidt is everywhere.
The 98-year-old chaplain of the Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team is a media darling, capturing – national – and indeed, international – attention in the Ramblers’ improbably run to a coveted slot in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
Her image is on socks, T-shirts and now is the best-selling bobblehead in history. National stories have also focused on her community, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, Iowa, and the accomplishments of their members as they cheer on and marvel at the media frenzy around their beloved sister.
Her grace, wit and wisdom are rightly spotlighted in the media, along with her basketball smarts.
The media affection for Sr. Jean is welcome, but there are some points that the Global Sisters Report would like to share.
Sisters across the globe do amazing work, most often out of the media spotlight.
At the same time that so much of the nation’s attention [has been] on college basketball, women religious at the U.N. were among the speakers at the annual Commission on the Status of Women which focused on the scourge of the trafficking of women and girls.
Get beyond “cute and stereotypical images. Some of the many media reports about Sr. Jean have taken the time to dig deeper into who she is and have portrayed her as more than a team cheerleader. She is an accomplished woman on many levels, having taught as a college professor for many years. Members of her [religious] community include a former mayor and several former college presidents.
Aging doesn’t have to be scary or negative. A key focus in the Sr. Jean story is her age: 98 and still active, witty and fully engaged. However, that is no surprise to the readers of the Global Sisters Report. We often write of women religious who remain involved in their ministries well into their 80s, 90s or past 100. Even “retired” sisters often are rarely retired in the common definition of that life state. Having a sense of purpose, a greater mission, is a big part of the reason.
We hope that the affection for Sr. Jean spills over into bolstering broad appreciation for Catholic women religious. Yet, long after the swish of the last basket of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, there will be religious women calming the fears of refugees torn from their country by war, drying the tears of a young woman recovering from a life of exploitation and helping disaster victims to start anew. Because that’s what sisters do.
To read the full account: http://globalsistersreport.org/blog/gsr-today/trends/flurry-over-sr-jean-dolores-schmidt-can-open-clearer-more-complete-look-women?utm_source=GSR%20digest%203-29-18&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email
To read about the U.N. Conference on empowering rural women and girls: http://globalsistersreport.org/news/trends-trafficking/un-womens-commission-agrees-measures-empower-rural-women-and-girls-52856?utm_source=GSR%20digest%203-29-18&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email
The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week, November 5-11, 2017. This annual event is a special time in the United States to actively foster and pray for a culture of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Chair of the US Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, reminds us that each of us in the Church has a key role to play in the witness of our vocation in ordinary circumstances, “As we go about our everyday life and most especially this week, we must keep vocations in our prayers, while, at the same time, being a mindful witness with our own vocation. We may never know how our lives may have an impact on someone else’s story. Simply living out our call as disciples of Jesus Christ fully and joyfully in the world bears witness to the love of Christ as He generously bestows on each of us our own personal call.”
National Vocations Awareness Week, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question: “To what vocation in life is God calling me?” Parish and school communities across the nation are encouraged to include, during the first full week in November, prayer and special activities that focus on vocation awareness.
To view a video of Sr. Thea Bowman: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/national-vocation-awareness-week.cfm
Six Ways to Thrive in Your Vocation
“KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” is one of those slogans that lingers and lasts because it can be applied to so many situations. The phrase originated in the spring of 1939 in Britain as the country anticipated the dark days of World War II. The [British] government designed the famous poster and printed more than two million copies but according to Brittany Fowler, author of a history of the phrase, for Business Insider magazine, “not one of them was posted, as officials had last-minute doubts about whether the content was too patronizing or obvious.”
Most of the posters were destroyed, but, more than sixty years later, one of them surfaced when a bookseller found it hidden in a book that he bought at an auction. He put it up over the cash register at his bookstore and customers began asking where they could purchase the poster. The shop owner started printing copies, and a craze was born.
The phrase has been adopted, adapted, and some might say exhausted over the last several years. But its truth is timeless because it captures an essential quality of faithfulness, steadfastness, and resolve in difficult situations. So how do we apply this to vocation ministry?
I offer six ideas to encourage thriving among vocation ministers and other wanderers, wayfarers and dreamers of God’s realm. I hope these thoughts will help us to keep the faith and carry on when the road seems treacherous and we discover more dead ends than expressways, more roadblocks than rest stops.
# 1. Live in the Now
Thomas Merton mused, “Time is given to us not to keep a faith we once had but to achieve a faith we need now.” Time passes quickly, and with so much pain and suffering in the world, we are often advised to “keep the faith.” But what faith are we keeping? Is it the faith that served us as children when we were spoon-fed without questioning? Is it the faith that leaves little room for doubt and often fails to give others the benefit of the doubt?
What kind of faith do I need now? The older I get, the more doubt crowds in. I need a faith that leaves room for doubt and gives others the benefits of my own doubt, understanding that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. I need a faith that helps in those times when fear threatens to get the best of me.
The kind of faith we need today is one that reminds us that no matter the bitter disappointment or the beauty too stunning to describe, life goes on. Perhaps the work of faith is to simply know and believe that life goes on.
Recently, I was listening to National Public Radio’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. The guest was Norman Lear, the television producer. The host asked him about his longevity – he is almost 94 years old – and is still working, still creating. Lear said essentially that he is guided by two words, “over” and “next.” The image he suggested is a hammock between two poles marked “over” and “next.” So, how does he remain creative? When one project is finished, whether it is a success or a failure, he moves on to the next.
Then there is the image of the hammock. To some it might be a symbol of a summer’s day. But, it also speaks to the creative process. Taking the time to listen, to emerge in the gentle rocking back and forth allows one to stay focused, stay faithful, remain calm, before carrying on to the next project, the next person, the next possibility.
When we apply this to religious life and particularly to vocation ministry, if we dwell only on our losses, we’ll get stuck. We must allow time for quiet to invite the Spirit to stir our creativity. And then we move on to what or who is next.
#2 Keep your eyes on the road
Every Sunday in the New York Times is a column on leadership called “Corner Office” which carries interviews with CEOs of successful companies. In a recent column, the CEO of a software company said he learned many life lessons from his rowing coach in college who gave him this image: “When you are driving and rain is pouring down, with the windshield wipers going,” he said, “you can either watch the windshield wipers or you can watch the road. Which is going to be more successful?”
When we are going through difficult stretches on our journey, if we pay more attention to the rain, the storm, the wipers, instead of keeping our eyes on the road, we’re going to be in trouble.
Keep our eyes on the road is what spiritual writers call mindfulness. It is the ability to center oneself, to pay attention to what is most important, rather than being distracted by the worries and fears that can cause us to lose our way. We can be “attentive and compassionate toward our own fear without being paralyzed by it,” spiritual activist Robert Gass writes. Awareness of fear “while cultivating…a capacity to think and act with clarity and power” is at the heart of the matter of mindfulness.
Cultivating this inner silence is an absolute necessity when confronted with a culture that is impatient and prone to shame and blame. Thus, if we are less than enthusiastic about our mission or ministry, we need to check the pulse of our prayer life. Keeping our eyes on the road affords us the opportunity to pay attention. Time in solitude will lead us to connect with others who share a passion for our community mission.
# 3 Cultivate Community
Author and pastor Rick Warren has noted that most people fall into three categories: caretakers, undertakers and risk takers. Our communities are filled with people who dwell in each of these categories. Which category do you dwell in?
Most of us are caretakers – that is the nature of religious life. We take care of one another and those we are called to serve. We take good care of those we love and even those we find difficult to love.
But we also know some undertakers in our communities – those who take us under, whose cynicism and sarcasm serve as sharp shovels to dig a grace and bury us. Sometimes we are the undertakers and we dig our own graves with our negativity. We sense the life drain from us as our energy is depleted by the shadows of doom and gloom that often shroud our world. When we fee on this negative energy of those who take us under, we will experience an acid reflux disease of the soul. Its symptoms are anger and bitterness.
We need to surround ourselves with people who are not bitter, who do not suffer from lethargy of spirit, with people who remain grounded in hope. We need to surround ourselves with risk takers, people who enlarge our minds, hearts, and imaginations and instill hope.
The biblical tradition is filled with risk takers. From Abraham and Sarah to Elizabeth and Zechariah to Mary and Joseph; from the prophets of old to the first disciples and witnesses to the resurrection, we have numerous examples of ancestors in faith who took the ultimate risk to trust God and say yes to what seemed incomprehensible and unimaginable.
What allowed them to be risk takers? Is has something to do with this understanding that we are formed, known, dedicated, and appointed by God. Those are the verbs expressed in the call of the prophet Jeremiah (1, 5). He could be the patron saint for vocation directors because he thought he was too young to be a prophet. He needed more time in community to understand the history and spirituality, and to deepen his relationship with God.
In reflecting on the call of Jeremiah, we often focus on his excuse instead of the original call of the prophet. Notice the actions taken by God: formed, knew, dedicated and appointed. God forms us and has a purpose for us before we are born. Our vocation reaches back to the very mystery of life. We are formed and known by God.
Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet was his purpose in life. Discerning one’s purpose is at the heart of vocation ministry. When time get tough and losses mount, it is important to return to the original source of our call and to ask ourselves: what risks are we willing to take to promote and propel the reign of God in our lives? What risks are we willing to take to make our charism, spirituality, community and ministry know to those who are seeking to belong? What risks are we willing to take in calling forth from our congregations a deeper and wider commitment that will shake, rattle, and roll those undertakers in our community who have their sights set on death rather than life? Next week: Preserve your perspective.
In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day – the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all people. The World Day for Consecrated Life was celebrated in the Church on Thursday, February 2, 2017 and in parishes on the weekend of February 4-5, 2017.
Joseph Cardinal Tobin, of New Jersey and Chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations states, “Our Holy Father Francis has given the Church this special opportunity to pray for all those women and men in consecrated life who have given their lives in love to God. This prayer may prompt each of us to ask, ‘How is God calling me to give of myself this day, that I might know the deeper joy of service to God and others?'”
Please pray for all those who have made commitments in the consecrated life, especially our beloved Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You might want to thank them on their special day by giving the Sisters a call or sending them an email. May they continue to be inspired by Jesus Christ and respond generously to God’s gift of their vocation.
With Joyful Hearts and Great Thanks to the Lord
On Saturday, December 3rd, at the Cabrini-on-Hudson House of Discernment and Formation in West Park, New York, Sr. Martha Lopez Prada, MSC made her first profession of vows with many Missionary Sisters and friends in attendance. Called forth by Sr. Lucy Panettieri, MSC, Novice Directress, Martha, a native of Colombia, responded with the words, “Here I am Lord, for you have called me” and thus began her request for vows.
Sr. Pietrina Raccuglia, MSC, Provincial, asked, “Martha, what do you ask of God and his Church?”
Sr. Martha replied, “I, Martha Lopez Prada, have by God’s loving kindness and your charity, lived among you as your sisters during the time of my novitiate; I now make my request to you, Sr. Pietrina, that I may be accepted to first profession of vows and to live my consecrated life, as lived by this community.
“I want to follow Jesus, the living of the evangelical counsels and by observing the Constitutions of our community. I shall fulfil my desire of preparing more perfectly for perpetual commitment, and of offering myself more fully to the service of God and of the Church.”
Thereupon, Sr. Pietrina responded, “May God in His loving kindness fulfill your hope, and may he enable us to help you, and work together for the Kingdom of God.”
In the presence of the Assembly, Martha made her first commitment to Christ through the Institute of the Church and the assembled community stated, “We welcome you with joy, Martha. We promise to support you in love, to be united with you in faith and to share with you the Spirit of the Sacred Heart all the days of your life.”
In presenting the MSC cross to Sr. Martha, Sr. Pietrina said, “ Sr. Martha, receive this Cross and know that on a Cross Christ’s compassion was shown for us unto the piercing of His Heart. May your own life in this community be a giving of yourself for the life of the world.”
The Lord has done great things for us and we are happy! On Saturday, October 1st, we had a beautiful vocational meeting in our Cabrini High School (CHS) in New Orleans. Twelve young people from different parishes and also of different ages, participated in the activity. Ten of them came in person, brimming with enthusiasm, feeling that the Lord has called them and the two others, participated in the meeting by Skype.
It was an unforgettable encounter, where everyone was open to hear the experiences related by the other. We were amazed to hear how the Lord calls when He wants and in the most amazing and unimaginable ways! Some expressed, with tears, the emotion of being “chosen”. Others – like one of the Cabrini High School students – shared joyfully how during the Open House held by the High School that when she entered the room of Mother Cabrini [which is in the Esplanade Building of the High School], that she felt that she wanted to study at CHS and wanted to give her whole life to the service of immigrants. We cried, we laughed, we ate, we shared … And at the end of our meeting we hugged each other, promising to continue to pray for our vocations!
There is definitely an awakening of young religious vocations in women in New Orleans, and although, currently, most young people who become priests or religious are typically in their thirties or older, it is likely that the roots of these [budding] vocations were established in their teens or even earlier. So we believe it is important to heed their concerns and provide support and accompaniment for these young women who dare to express what they feel their hearts.
May the Lord grant us many and holy vocations and that the garden that Mother Cabrini cultivated in the United States of America, continues to flourish, for us to continue being “Bearers of Christ in the world.” Please pray that we continue to “awaken the world” living our present with passion.