Today we continue our series in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life with our ninth interview. A friend of mine introduced me to Sr. Mary Beth Kozlowski of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I was very pleased to have her agree to an interview. Sr. Mary Beth is currently living in Taiwan doing mission work with her community. I really enjoyed reading about her community and I ope you do to. All in God’s plan, we also happen to be sharing this interview during the month that the Sacred Heart Sisters are celebrating 75 years since their founding. Perfect timing! Please continue reading to learn more about Sr. Mary Beth and the Sacred Heart Sisters.
What is your name?
Sister Mary Beth Kozlowski, SDSH
What is the name of your order and what is your order’s particular charism?
Name of our order: Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Charism: Quoting our foundress, Servant of God Sister Ida Peterfy, “Our devotion to the Sacred Heart is a personal, ardent love for the Son of God who showed for the love of the Father in a human form, that, united with Him, we may return the infinite love of God with a love befitting Him, a love enkindled by His Holy Spirit and given to us as a free gift.” (Constitutions #2)
We are a religious community with a family spirit. Our communal and prayer life is the source from which our apostolic love flows. Our primary concern is to bring people to a personal encounter with God who is Love, so that they too would desire to be united with Him. We do this primarily through catechetical work in parishes, guiding children and youth as they prepare to receive the Sacraments, directing RCIA programs, giving retreats to people of all ages, conducting summer faith camp programs for families, children and youth, offering Catholic Leadership Training for high school and college aged women and a variety of other such works, bringing the Good News of the Gospel to others. Our catechetical apostolate is complemented by medical work in mission countries such as Taiwan, where I currently serve as a missionary.
How did you know God was calling you to this life?
I knew many priests and religious sisters growing up. They made a positive impact on my life. Through their words and the words of the Sunday readings at Mass I heard Jesus say to me again and again: “Follow Me!” Sometimes the invitation also came in unexpected ways, for example, when shopping in a department store or driving somewhere, I would hear one of my favorite popular songs, sensing it was really Jesus singing those words to me via the radio. Over the years, several teachers and significant adults said to me: “You should think about being a nun.” God extended His desire for me to follow Him through them as well. The encouragement I received from my parents and family members was also a great support.
The key to accepting my vocation was the realization that, for me, the best way to be truly happy would be to share with others the many blessings I had received, the most significant being the gift of faith.
Tell us a bit about what your day-to-day life is like.
My day begins with an hour of contemplation and praying the Breviary. I attend morning Mass with my Sisters in our convent or in a local parish church. After breakfast, I head to the Catechetical Center where I serve together with another one of our Sisters, and spend the day meeting with catechists and volunteers, planning programs and activities, conducting formation courses for various groups, creating catechetical resources, giving workshops and teaching our faith in a variety of situations.
At the end of the day, I return home and have dinner with the other members of my local community. We take turns cooking, so once a week I also have the joy of preparing and serving a delicious meal for my Sisters. After dinner and saying together the Evening Prayer of the Church, there is time for spiritual reading and quiet reflection to end the day.
Saturdays are spent doing a variety of things that support our life in common. These include performing some household chores, going grocery shopping, running errands, visiting benefactors, attending weddings, or joining in prayer with those who are sick or suffering the loss of a loved one. In our life, no two days are alike. We have a general schedule that insures that we have time for all the spiritual practices that foster our Consecrated Religious Life, however, God orchestrates each day, so there are always new opportunities and unexpected events that challenge me as well as surprise me with boundless joy and amazement as I see the plan of God unfold with each incoming phone call, visitor at the door, person I meet at the market, or student I encounter in the classroom.
We honor Sunday as the Day of the Lord by joining our local parish family for the celebration of the Eucharist, the high point of our day. Here in Taiwan, Sunday is also our Community Day. (Different local communities designate different days for this, depending on our apostolic schedule). Spread across the various Sundays of any given month, we have community meetings, shared prayer, occasional outings, celebrate one another’s Feast days (Patron Saint’s day), engage in Skype visits with our Sisters in other parts of the world, and also visit, call, or write family members and friends.
What advice would you give to someone considering a consecrated religious life?
For any young person considering or struggling to accept a call from God to enter the seminary or a religious order, my advice to you is to visit a Marian Church in your area. Spend some quiet time there and listen to your heart. You will know what God wants you to do. Don’t be afraid to take that first and necessary “leap of faith,” as Mary did. After all, it is due to her initial yes to God that we each have the possibility of making Christ’s presence more visible in our world today.
What does it mean to you that Pope Francis has dedicated this year (Nov. 30, 2014-February 2, 2016) as a Year of Consecrated Life?
Pope Francis’ designation of this year to Consecrated Religious Life is a personal invitation for me to live my vocation with even greater generosity and wholeheartedness. It means a great deal that during this time of reflection, the entire Church is united in prayer, in rejoicing and in gratitude for the manifold ways Consecrated persons witness to the gospel, bring light and goodness to others, and radiate the love of the Heart of Christ to the world.
What is your favorite thing to do during your down time/recreation time?
I enjoy recreation time with our Sisters, going on outings as a local community, riding bikes or taking a nature walk in the mountains or at the beach, playing games together and making greeting cards and handmade gifts for our family members, community friends and benefactors.
For more information, please visit Sacred Heart Sisters.