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Alyssa Azul Consecrated Life Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer Single life Spiritual Growth Vocations

A Visit from Upstairs

A Visit from Upstairs

Left, Sr. Cora and me (December 30th, 2018), Right: My great-aunt Vilma Ranada and me 2016 ( December 30th 2016).

***

Each photo taken exactly 2 years apart.

“I promise you it’s going to be worth it.”

Entering 2019 has never began with such an affirmation from on high.  My testimony begins with my encounter with a quirky sister.

I spent December 28-January 1, 2018 at Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO)’s annual Rise Up, a national conference for young adults between 18-35, as well as those who serve in and are a part of a religious order. What an environment it was, to be surrounded by hundreds of university students, priests, religious sisters, seminarians, and educators. My intention for going to this congress was to escape. Burnt out by my service in my ministry, as well as frustrated with my dying faith, I was in need of a complete spiritual revival. Little did I know that the Lord was bringing me to this conference for a very particular reason. He had something in store as a part of His plan, and not my own.

During that weekend there was a Vocation Brunch for women who were curious about what religious life looked like. I wanted to attend this brunch, but it was already at full capacity when I tried signing up a few weeks back. Low and behold, 30 more spots had opened up on that very morning so you’d better believe I raced to that ballroom. There were over 30 sisters from orders across Canada, and I had never seen a room so full of virtue, light, and joy.  

A short and sweet-looking sister stepped up to the front. Sister Corazon, the vocations director from the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco was called up to give a testimony about her calling, and something about her struck me a little strangely. She was sharp, witty, and very charming. She talked about how her calling was to serve the young, and I could see the joy coming out of her ears as she spoke about how much she loves teaching children. Her gestures, and her way of speaking seemed very familiar to me.

Something inside of my heart told me to meet her. She took me by the arm immediately, linked mine through hers, and chatted my ear off in a half English, half-Tagalog. It clicked. She reminded me so much of my late great-aunt Vilma, whom I called Lola V (grandmother). Her and I were close, and she often messaged me on Facebook. Vilma was also a teacher, and she had a powerful presence…I would describe it as “unstoppable”. Memories flood my mind and heart of my visit to the Philippines in December of 2016. Lola V would always link arms with me and pull me through the market. She was always on the go— quick but never enough to miss shooting a smile or “hello” at the people around her. She had a boisterous spirit, very similar to Sister Cora’s. The resemblance was so uncanny that I had to tell her.

“Sister, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you remind me exactly of my late grandmother. It’s so strange but you speak just like her too!”

She was delighted, and I continued to show her pictures and tell her stories.

Later that afternoon I went to the chapel to “reconvene” with God, and ask him why I had been experiencing spiritual desolation. In the silence of my prayer, I froze.

Child, it’s me.”

I heard a voice inside my heart and I dropped to my knees.

I checked my phone to check what I thought couldn’t be.

My great aunt died on December 31, 2017.

Today was her death anniversary.

Her voice was like whisper. She told me happy she was and that she missed me. She told me, like she always did before, to take care of my family, especially my mom. She told me that she was visiting me and that meeting Sister Cora was no coincidence. After my many tears, she left me with a final instruction: to to allow God to embrace me right now, because that’s all he’s been wanting to do.

“I know the burdens you’ve been carrying, but I promise you it’s going to be worth it.”

I knew then and there that I was not alone in my suffering.

Vilma was a fearless woman who experienced so much tragedy in her life, but she never let go of God’s promise to her– and that it what I will never forget.

The next day I told Sister Cora about my experience and she teared up. She said she would lift up a prayer for my great aunt.

This was my first time experiencing or receiving some sort of sign from relatives who had passed so I was shaken. Even writing this now I feel vulnerable. I knew deep down that it was one of the things that the Lord had wanted to show me, and that he was doing his everything to remind me how much He loves me.

A Visit from Upstairs, www.catholicsistas.com

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Responding to Crisis

Until recently, I had always thought of myself as a “joyful Catholic”.  Unfortunately, recent events have left me feeling angry, betrayed, heartbroken, and yes, maybe a touch bitter.  I have read with growing revulsion and depression all the latest news coming out about former Cardinal McCarrick, Pennsylvania and most recently the widespread coverup by church hierarchy which now appears to include Pope Francis.  I am devastated.

Our family has somewhat of a personal connection to McCarrick.  He was our archbishop for several years.  He also presided over or attended many of the profession of vows and ordinations of a religious order we have been closely connected to.  In fact, I have many photos that I took in which he posed with the religious sisters after they had made their First Professions.  My stomach churns at the thought. So yes, my initial response to these latest scandals is righteous anger and I firmly feel that is not a wrong emotion to feel at having been so betrayed by Church leadership. I don’t want to remain an angry, bitter Catholic. I must take steps to move on.

I’ve read all sorts of responses to the present plight.  Many are calling for inquests, resignations, withholding of funds, protests of the USCCB at their yearly meeting, etc. One voice I’ve noticed has been largely silent, and that is the voice of the Domestic Church.  As mothers, fathers, and families what can we do to ensure these atrocities against our children and against our Church do not continue?

First of all, we need to move past the emotions of anger and fear.  I’ll honestly say, I still feel pretty insecure about my little guys ever entering seminary.  I know I need to get past that fearfulness.  God willing and with His grace, I know I will.

Right now the Church needs our prayers more than ever.  This crisis has all the hallmarks of a satanic attack on Mother Church. As a family, pray for her.  Pray for her protection. Pray for her healing, Pray for her purity. Pray for justice. As part of this you might choose a penance or sacrifice to make as reparation on behalf of the Church.  

Pray for the victims. I can not even imagine what they have gone through and what pain they must be in. Pray most especially for their healing.

Pray for those who have betrayed the Church and her teachings.  This is a tough one, but we are called to pray for our enemies.  Pray that those who’ve broken faith by ignoring, shuffling, hiding, and lying will finally do what is right and holy and bring light, truth, and healing to the Church.

Pray for your own bishop and priests, that they may remain courageous and faithful to the Church and their vows of celibacy. I still believe most of our priests and bishops are good holy men.  They need our prayers and encouragement more than ever.

Pray for wisdom and fortitude, because we are going to need it when speaking to our children and answering the questions of our non-Catholic family and friends.

How do we discuss such a delicate issue with our children?  As a parent, I have only addressed the scandals with my older children who have either already heard the news or who were likely to hear it.  We need to be honest and let them know we are angry, hurt, and disgusted.  We also need to reassure them that we do not put our faith in men but in Christ.  Popes, cardinals, bishops are not the Church and she will survive this trial as she has survived countless others.  Finally, we should remind our children why we are Catholic in the first place.  The Church is the one true Church, founded by Christ and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.

Just as we need to address the shocking events with our older children, many of us may also need to answer the questions of those outside our faith.  Once again, acknowledge the sinfulness and your own personal ire and disappointment.  Remain firm in defending the Church as a whole and your commitment to remaining Catholic.  Express hope that the Church will address the root causes of the depravity and will make some serious changes that will protect children, teens, and seminarians from now on.

In the future, how do we parents protect our children? 

First of all, we need to be wise and prudent parents.  We should never leave our children in the company of a lone adult who is not immediate family.  I know this sounds extreme, but the one thing I was most taken aback by was that McCarrick and others were so completely trusted by the families of their victims that they thought nothing of allowing their children to be in the abuser’s company alone. This was a tragic and avoidable mistake.

Secondly, listen to your child.  If they come to you with questions or concerns about an adult or other authority figure, hear them out.  Ask questions and take what they tell you seriously.  Many of the victims reached out and were not listened to, which is absolutely heart-breaking.

It’s so important to teach your children appropriate boundaries with adults and authority figures.  Sadly, we need to have these conversations at younger ages than ever before and I, for one, hate that we have to impinge on their innocence in this way but it has become a necessity.  Elizabeth Foss wrote an excellent article addressing this need in light of the recent disgrace.  I highly recommend reading her article and following her sage advice.

Finally, we can turn to the sacraments and pray for the protection of our children’s innocence. As a family, make a practice of frequent confession and try to attend Mass at least one extra day a week. Pray continually for the protection of your children’s innocence, especially imploring the intercession of their guardian angels.  We have been given a very precious and important gift in being parents and it is our responsibility to protect and defend them to the best of our abilities.

A final action item for the Domestic Church relates to our diocesan bishops.  I believe we have a duty to write our bishops, expressing our dismay and concerns regarding the recent news about the immorality of McCarrick, the abuses in Pennsylvania, and the rumors that many in the USCCB and Church hierarchy knew, remained silent, and did nothing.  Ask your bishop how he intends to respond and if he will make it a priority to address the crisis in November at the annual conference.  In closing let him know you are praying for him and all the Church.

For whatever reason, God is allowing this tribulation to come to a head.  We must remain firm and cling to our Faith in this time of trial.  Holy Mother Church will survive.  We have Christ’s word for it.  Pray. Do Penance. Take Courage. Remain in Hope.

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20 Habits You Can Cultivate NOW to Help Your Children Stay Catholic

20 Habits You Can Cultivate NOW to Help Your Children Stay Catholic

THE HARSH REALITY

Notice the title said Habits You Can Cultivate Now to Help Your Children Stay Catholic – focus on the word HelpSadly, there is no magic formula in assuring anyone will remain Catholic, let alone our young Catholic adults. Statistically speaking, they have the odds stacked so heavily against them – research shows that Catholics ages 18-22 are the most vulnerable and leave the Faith in droves by the age of 23, or 79% according to Pew Research. This is also the age range when most attend college. 

So, what’s a parent to do? Believe it or not, there are some strategies that can assist us in our role and prepare our kiddos to face the world as the Church Militant. 

THE HESITATION IN WRITING THIS POST

I have had some hesitation in writing on a topic such as this for some time. But when God places it on your heart, you comply and do what’s asked, even if you don’t feel qualified to speak on such matters. That’s when I reached out to personal friends, some of whom I know online and some of whom I see at church who have adult children who are practicing Catholics. I asked them to share what they did that helped create the spiritually fertile soil. I was looking for a convergence of experiences among these folks that would help offer encouragement to other parents because none of us parent perfectly.

BUT I GET IT

See, I am a cradle Catholic. 

I married a cradle Catholic.

I know what it’s like to grow up Catholic, and in that regard, I can relate to my children in a very specific way. Unfortunately, and fortunately, my husband and I also understand what happens when apathy takes root as a young Catholic adult.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

But I also know what a rich tapestry we live as Catholics. Because of my kids, I am blessed to say they had a hand in elevating my faith game, making sure I put my pride on the shelf to say “I don’t know the answer to that, let’s look it up together,” and worked on learning together alongside my children. 

Humbling. Truly humbling. 

Getting down to the nitty gritty

When I look for advice, I find a typical pattern with myself – usually those who are older, but those with similar life circumstances. Why? Well, I find a sense of solidarity uniting my questions and concerns with those in the trenches or who have come out the other side somewhat unscathed or scarred for life. 😉 

So, if you’re like me, and respond similarly to writing that resonates with you for those same reasons, then my post is for you. If you’re not like me, then maybe something I write will jump out at you that connects dots. At the end of the day, as parents, none of us want to see our children leave the Faith, but are our fears real or perceived? Let’s explore that.

If you’ve read what I’ve written over the years,  you may have learned about me and my family – that I have seven children, and currently our oldest is 21, the next oldest is 16, 12 {almost 13}, 10, 7, 5, three in heaven, and one year old. I think the world of them. Even when they drive me nuts, there isn’t a day that goes by that I thank God for the gift of each of them; girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl. God has a sense of humor, amiright? 🙂  

The Encouragement

Let’s be honest – this post is going to require a lot of change on the part of parents, and even then there’s still no guarantee that your children will continue living the Faith of an active Catholic. But…this post is meant to inspire you and challenge you as a parent – one takeaway might be that whatever we’re doing, we can always do more, and do better. 

And when we know better, we do better. Amen?

Habits You Can Cultivate NOW to Help Your Children Stay Catholic


STRATEGIES THAT CAN STRENGTHEN THE FOUNDATION

  1. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. And then pray some more. There is no magic formula for keeping your kiddos Catholic. That’s why the grueling work during the formidable years is so critical! Pray unceasingly for protection of their hearts – against the world, against any of our misgivings as parents, and for openness to whatever vocation God is calling them.
  2. GOD’S CHILDREN. Our world teaches us that children are commodities, *things* to add to our list of “accomplishments”; however, when we look to the Church, we know that isn’t true. We are their guardians, and they are a gift from God to whom we are responsible for their souls. We are all children of God. So it goes they are not just our children, but our little brothers and sisters in Christ. 
  3. MODEL YOUR PRAYER LIFE. Family prayer is foundational and at the basic level should be before family meals and bedtime. Do you bless your children before bedtime? Keep some holy water on hand. Say “God bless and keep you” as you make the sign of the cross on their forehead. Now, let’s take it a step further. How many times have your kiddos caught you in prayer? Or do they know that you have a personal prayer life? Or know that you have a personal space and time dedicated to prayer? What about praying with your spouse?  
  4. TEACH THEM TO PRAY. You pray as a family, and they see you pray alone and with your spouse. But have you taught them the tools to pray on their own each day? Help them find a special place and time that they can devote to God first. Teach them the importance of placing God in their daily plans. Teach them that praying is one of the primary ways we report for duty and receive His orders for our life. 
  5. TALK ABOUT VOCATIONS. How often did you hear the word vocations growing up? I have nothing ingrained in my childhood memories of the word, but one of my fervent prayers for my children was always for them to have examples of holiness in their life. As it turns out, we have been immeasurably blessed by priests and religious in our everyday life who witness to the kids. It’s common in the secular world to talk about what kind of career path your child should consider. As Catholics, we should also teach them to be open to discerning God’s will for their life, whatever that may be – marriage, holy orders or religious orders. 
  6. MASS – EVERY SUNDAY AND HOLYDAY – WITHOUT APOLOGY. Make Mass and Holydays of Obligation top priority. Kids can sniff out hypocrisy. If they see you deliberately miss Mass, they too will not see the value in going to Mass each Sunday. Beyond that, you’re breaking a commandment and under most conditions, it’s a mortal sin {1. subject matter must be grave, 2. it must be committed with full knowledge (and awareness) of the sinful action and the gravity of the offense, 3. and it must be committed with deliberate and complete consent}. The bottom line? Don’t miss Mass. Toe the line if the kids balk about going to Mass. This is the hill to die on, friends.  Best practice: get to Mass early, dress up {yeah, I said it – if you dress up for an interview, you can wear something nice for God}, and don’t leave early without an extenuating circumstance. 
  7. RECONCILIATION. If not already, consider making a standing date to take the family on a regular basis, at a minimum, monthly; more frequently is even better. Even if you’re blessed with a parish that offers confession almost every day of the week and faith formation programs that offer you or your kids opportunities to go to confession, going together as a family allows you to model that routine for each other. 
  8. MODEL AUTHENTICITY. Not perfection. I don’t want you to read something I’m not saying. I’m saying be authentic. Be honest about any failings you have, when possible. There’s a difference between honest struggle and outright hypocrisy. And kids can sniff out the difference!  You lose your audience when you either don’t live up to the standard you put in place for them or you don’t share in some of that struggle. Be honest and real with them. That doesn’t mean you have to tell them every last detail – save that for your spouse or your confessor. 
  9. HUMILITY. Be a house that encourages Truthseekers. Don’t answer their questions with the ‘it’s tradition,’ ‘it’s just what we do,’ or ‘go ask your mother’ that many of us got as youngsters. It’s in our nature to be curious, especially when we’re learning who we are within the Catholic Faith. There are over 2000 years to cover! Some of the most rigorous studies were a result of a question my kids asked. It might be uncomfortable, but let them lead you to a deeper understanding of the Faith. This may come as a shock, but you didn’t “graduate” when you received the sacrament of Confirmation! Consider all learning that happens after that final sacrament of initiation as continuing education and necessary to living the life of discipleship.
  10. GOD THE FATHER AND THE BLESSED MOTHER. When I feel inadequate as a mom {which is often, believe you me!}, I share with my kiddos that although our relationship will be imperfect, try as we might, they will always have eternal parents in God the Father and the Blessed Mother. I encourage them to call on them in prayer to protect them and to nurture their relationship with us, their parents. 
  11. SAINTS AS FAMILY MEMBERS. This one I love! When my kiddos hit a rough spot that neither my husband or I experienced, there is always some saint we can point them to read about and identify with. It’s the beauty of our faith that there is always someone to whom we can turn to who walked before us! 
  12. GET INVOLVED.  In middle school, high school youth ministry, adult faith formation. You know why? Because while your kids are transitioning out of listening to you, or flat out ignoring you, you can rest assured it’s happening to other people’s kids, too! Be a role model for other kiddos and a source of encouragement to other parents! Plenty of children come from broken homes or are experiencing hardships of their own. Your witness and love of the Faith will assist and bless the program at your parish. 
  13. TALK ABOUT THE HARD TIMES BY BEING HONEST AND VULNERABLE. Especially when they’re in those high school years! You know your child best, and protecting their innocence is paramount. A young adult who stayed with the Faith has this to say to parents: be open and honest about the struggles of living a Catholic life in the world. You don’t have to air all your dirty laundry to your kids, but tell them about your experiences and times you found it hard to do the moral thing, how you wish you had done x, y, and z differently in college. Being a little vulnerable with your kids, even if they don’t seem receptive to it at first, can really make an impression on them. Even if they then go on to make the same mistakes, it’s still in the back of their mind that you eventually regretted those decisions. 
  14. COMMUNICATE. Don’t let your online activities and mindless scrolling trump one-on-one conversations with your children. Put your phone down. Make sure to set aside dedicated time to connect with each of your kiddos. Those of you with larger families, I know how impossible this may sound, but it is worth it and necessary! Kiddos need to know you are their soft landing spot. Put your phone down. 🙂
  15. FRIENDS AND EXPERIENCES. Once your kiddos hit high school, your influence as a parent has mostly fizzled, you uncool person, you! Surround your kiddos with Catholic friends and consider sending them on Catholic camps and retreats when possible. Those bonds and experiences will carry them long after they’ve stopped listening to you. I’ve always referred to the high school years as the time when the Catholic training wheels come off. You’ve formed them through their childhood and now it’s time for them to learn to steer their own faith. Solid friendships with those in similar boats will go a long way as the years pass.
  16. CREATE THE RED THREAD. A priest who struggled with the Faith as a young adult had this to say: warm, positive memories as children are so important. He talks to many fallen away people. Even if they have bad things to say about Catholicism now, almost all of them have some really great memory. Either of going to midnight Mass with their Grandma or some other distinctly Catholic tradition as a child. Even coffee and donuts. Build that database of memories. It can be really helpful in keeping a child feel connected to the Faith in some small way. It may be the thread that guides them back.
  17. PARISH COMMUNITY. Involve yourself in parish life and meet people! Going to Mass each week is where it all starts. Nothing can be better than receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. After that, getting to know those in your parish community becomes an important means of fortifying you and your family. 
  18. THE DANGER OF “BEING NICE” AND BEING “TOLERANT.”  Compare and contrast how the Church uses these words vs. the secular world. There is a big difference. Being nice and tolerant in the eyes of the world means that a Catholic should compromise their belief system to fit the mold of the world’s definition. Nice means not speaking up when you need to or should, and being tolerant is often the same thing. The Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy point us more authentically how to be nice and tolerant in a way that is ordered toward the path of heaven. 
  19. MODEL A LIFE IN SERVICE. First, you – YOU need to model the behavior you want to see. See a theme here? Our example matters. No matter how you serve-local soup kitchen, make care bags for the homeless to distribute or volunteer in parish ministries, Vacation Bible School, catechist, pastoral council, etc.-your example sends a strong message to your children. Serve others and then the next point will make sense. 
  20. TEACH YOUR KIDS TO SERVE OTHERS. Especially in those teenage years! Have you ever met a teenager or young adult? While they are typically not the crowd often associated with selfless behavior, their capacity to influence younger children is astounding. It’s time to harness that beautiful gift into something positive that gives them purpose, reinforces what they’ve learned about the Faith to this point in their life, and gives them the inspiration to go outside themselves at an age that is naturally inclined to be selfish and self-seeking. Consider finding ways they can minister to or assist with your parish youth programs. You will help give them the skills and life experience that will help solidify their walk with Christ and equip them to face the world when they leave home. I have personally witnessed the power of this gift. After Confirmation-high school years in particular-as the sweet spot for keeping them connected. 

WHAT STRATEGIES WOULD YOU ADD?

I’ve written so much and yet there is so much more that could be written here. I may end up writing a follow up piece to this, and would love your thoughts! 

Name some strategies have you seen work in your own family growing up?

What strategies have seemingly worked with your children?

Have you witnessed something good in another family? Share with us in the comments!

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Theology of the Body Congress: Hope for a Broken World

 

theology of the body congress

There is no denying that our world is broken. We only have to turn on the television or read the news online or in print to know that our world is hurting. As a result of this brokenness, we see our society seeking to change what it means to be a family. As concerned parents we have to wonder how we can prepare our families to remain faithful to God’s vision and hope for the family.

Between 1979 and 1984 St. Pope John Paul II began giving Wednesday audiences known as “Theology of the Body”. In his talks he spoke of the beauty and dignity of the human body. He reminded the Church that each person was made in the image and likeness of God and that the human body therefore had a specific meaning- it made visible an invisible reality. Instead of being made simply for personal pleasure or gain, the body was capable of answering fundamental questions about life but also was able to give us the means to love others in the way that God loves us. It is through the God-given gift of our human bodies, made both male and female, that we are able to find true happiness and fulfillment.

TOB for every bodyTheology of the Body is not simply for married couples or for those wishing to teach their teens how to stay chaste. These of course are wonderful reasons to study Theology of the Body, but TOB is made for all people. It is for those who are single, those who are married, for the anxious teen, the celibate priest or religious, for those who are in relationships, those who wish to instruct others, and most importantly it is for families. TOB reaches into each and every facet of our lives and helps to educate us all on the beauty and the sacredness of the human body.

This coming September in Southern California The Theology of the Body Institute will host a Congress to bring St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to all those who wish to discover the joy and freedom that comes from understanding the sacred gift of the human body.

The Institute’s mission reads, “…the 2016 TOB Congress will propose a powerful vision of sexual complementarity that reaches the core of what it means to be human, made in the image of the God Who truly is a Family – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through presentations from experts in the field of TOB, participants will encounter God’s plan for fruitful, self-giving love, which lies at the very heart of what the family is meant be, as well as ways of ministering to the human family on the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and sociological level.”

TOB

The three day Congress will be led by over 30 powerhouse Theology of the Body experts and enthusiasts including Greg and Julie Alexander, Christopher West, Jason Evert, Dr. Pia De Solenni, Bill Donaghy, Dr. Angela Franks, Matt Fradd, Fr. Sean Kilcawley, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D., as well as many more amazing men and women dedicated to sharing the joy and freedom that comes from understanding God’s intent for the human body.

Through keynote speakers, break-out sessions, and panel discussions Congress goers will have the opportunity to hear how TOB relates to numerous topics that affect our lives- pornography, teenage sexuality, infertility, same sex attraction, the struggles of married life, the struggles of family life, teens in a digital age, TOB for singles, TOB for feminists, divorce, and many other issues.

In the coming weeks here at Catholic Sistas we will be featuring interviews with a few of the keynote speakers from the Congress. We are honored to be able to share with our readers the insights these amazing individuals have gained through study, through prayer, and through their everyday lives. Not only have they dedicated their lives to learning about the sacredness and beauty of the human body and how it relates to love of self, love of others, and most importantly love of God, but they also seek to live their lives embracing these tenets as well.

We hope that you will be inspired by their stories and encouraged by their advice. We hope that they will bring hope to you in a time where hope often seems to be lacking.

 

male and femaleOur human bodies are sacred and wonderful. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. They can lead us into a fuller and deeper relationship with not only one another but ultimately with God. It is through our humanity that we can come to know God. Theology of the Body gives us the insights and the tools we need to grow closer to one another and to our Father.

If you are interested in attending the Theology of the Body Congress in Ontario, CA from September 23-25, 2016, please check out the TOB Congress website here. You can read about their mission, you can view the complete lineup of speakers and their topics, and you can register for the Congress.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body but can’t attend the Congress, check out the Theology of the Body Institute website here. “The Theology of the Body Institute spreads the life-giving message of Theology of the Body through graduate level courses, on-site speaker programs and clergy enrichment training. Theology of the Body Institue seeks to penetrate and permeate the culture with a vision of true sexuality that appeals to the deepest yearnings of the human heart for love and union.”

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for interviews with some of these amazing speakers! I promise you will not only learn about the importance of the Theology of the Body in all aspects of your life but you will also be inspired and entertained!

tob pope john paul II

 

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Consecrated Life Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Series Vocations Year of Consecrated Life

World Day for Consecrated Life: A Fitting End to the Year of Consecrated Life

Since 1997, the Church has celebrated the vocations of men and women religious with a special day of prayer. This World Day for Consecrated Life also coincides with the Presentation of the Lord on February 2 each year. This year it also marks the conclusion to the Year of Consecrated Life. If you’re a regular follower of Catholic Sistas you may have noticed our special series over the past year to recognize and honor men and women religious. As we conclude this year, I thought today was an appropriate time to recap these eleven interviews.

Presentation of the Lord, Hans Holbein the Elder
Presentation of the Lord, Hans Holbein the Elder

Before we get into that that, I urge you to please take a moment today to pray for all those who are living the vocation of consecrated life, for all those discerning a call to consecrated life, and for those who are being called to consecrated life to have the courage to hear and answer that call. The USCCB has provided a prayer for the faithful to use on this special day. Find it HERE.

Between February 2015 and December 2015, I had the privilege of communicating with eleven different people who are living the consecrated life. I enjoyed this project and really enjoyed learning more about these lovely people. If you haven’t seen the interviews, I encourage you to check out the links below and read their stories. It was inspiring to learn how these women, and one man, heard their calling, what they enjoy most about their vocations, and to learn about their everyday life. There are take-aways here even for those of us who are married and raising children, for example, structuring your days with prayer, finding joy in your work, looking for God in all those you encounter, serving others. There is a lot to glean from the ten sisters and one monk/priest that I interviewed.

I also want to mention the importance of the family to religious vocations. Religious vocations start in the family, in our very own domestic churches. If you are raising a family, don’t forget how important it is to be an example of the Church for your children. Make sure they know about religious vocations and how special they are to God. And, encourage your children to pray for vocations to both the priesthood and to religious life. There is plenty of inspiration in these interviews.

Interview graphicIn February 2015, I spoke with Sr. Anne Joan, FSP. I loved her story of how she heard her calling to join her order, proof that the Holy Spirit knows us well and will use others to get to us.

Sr. Georgette Andrade, SSC, was next up in March. I know Sr. Georgette personally and I knew her story would be a good one. For those who may wonder about a vocation late in life, definitely check out what Sr. Georgette has to say and then look up her order.

In April we took a slightly different turn and interviewed a woman living as a consecrated virgin. Bernadette Snyder is a member of the Order of Consecrated Virgins. It’s a very unique calling and very interesting. Click through to learn more about Bernadette and her decision to take on this vocation.

Sr. Constance of the Little Sisters of the Poor agreed to an interview which we shared here in May 2015. Her answer to my question regarding what it meant to her that Pope Francis called this special Year of Consecrated Life was one of my favorites. It really spoke to me (because I’m always that “busy” person). I need to go back and read her words about once a month, or possibly more often!

Next up was Sr. Marie-Aimee, OCD. She is a member of an active Carmelite order (most Carmelites are contemplatives) and she is one of the younger voices in our list of interviews. Her story of repeatedly saying she wasn’t discerning a vocation to eventually being led to accepting it is a great one. I also loved how she described God’s call as more of an experience than “just knowing” you have a call. Follow that link to read more, it’s worth it.

Putting in some manual labor for the community.
Putting in some manual labor for the community (Sr. Patricia Cushing, SJW).

In July we had a lovely interview with Sr. Patricia Cushing, SJW. She has a great story about finding the order she is now a part of (definitely an act of God) and the story she shares about the founding of her order (in 1974, so pretty young in the eyes of the Church) is an interesting one.

Up until this point all my interviews were with women in religious orders that had active apostolates (meaning, out in the world teaching or nursing or working in communications, etc.). In August I was able to secure an interview with Sr. Joseph Marie, OP, who is part of a cloistered Dominican order. Personally, I enjoyed reading her description of their day-to-day life in the convent. It’s actually quite full, just in case you were wondering.

My first and only interview with a man in religious life was with Fr. Meinrad Brune, OSB. Fr. Meinrad is a Benedictine monk and a priest for his order. He’s also my oblate director, so I was already acquainted with him and pleased he agreed to this interview.

This past October I posted my interview with Sr. Mary Beth, SDSH. Sr. Mary Beth currently lives and works in Taiwan. Her story reflects how important the support of family and friends are for those who might have a call to a religious vocation. I hope you enjoy her story.

Sr. Mary Rose looking out at the monastery
Sr. Mary Rose looking out at the monastery

The November interview was with Sr. Mary Rose, TOR, with a little help from the community’s vocations coordinator, Sr. Elizabeth, TOR. Sr. Mary Rose and Sr. Elizabeth probably represent one of the youngest communities on my list, having been founded in 1988. She describes the charism of the community as being a blending of the the contemplative and the active life. Sounds fascinating and the pictures she supplied are beautiful.

Finally, the last interview got published in December with Sr. Maria Gemma, OP. I loved reading through her responses to the questions and learning more about her background and how she came to find a home in religious life. Another must read!

I think many people, especially those of us who grew up with limited contact with religious (or none at all–that would be me), have a pretty narrow view of what life must be like as a nun, sister, or brother/monk. But as these eleven interviews show, there is a lot of variety in the religious life and a great diversity of people enter it. If you know someone who is contemplating a religious vocation or if you know someone who you think might have a calling to a religious vocation, tell them. And then pray for them. And maybe also show them this list so they can see the great variety that is out there.

I hope our readers here at Catholic Sistas enjoyed these interviews. I certainly enjoyed doing them (even when I was worried month after month that I wouldn’t get an interview back in time, it always worked out!!). Please continue to pray for vocations. Our beautiful Mother Church needs faithful, committed young men and women to not only answer the call to the priesthood (for those young men), but also to religious life. And if you know someone in religious life, be sure to thank them at the next opportunity you have for devoting their life in service to the Church and God.

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