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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.

ycl-logo-270x200-montage

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

The Year of Consecrated Life: What Does it Mean to You?

In 2013, Pope Francis called for a Year of Consecrated Life to recognize the selfless work and inspiring lives of all men and women religious around the world. The Year of Consecrated Life began on the first Sunday of Advent in 2014 and ends on February 2, 2016, the World Day for Consecrated Life. Here at Catholic Sistas we have highlighted eleven men and women living the consecrated life through a series of interviews. I’ve been privileged to communicate with these fine men and women and learn more about their lives. I hope you, our dear readers, have also enjoyed reading their stories.

ycl-logo-270x200-montageThis month, instead of a new interview I thought we would revisit a few of our previous interviews. There was one question that each person answered that I found particularly interesting. In many ways, I didn’t expect to find a lot of common ground between my life as a working mom with three small kiddos and the lives of these celibate men and women religious. But in their answers to one particular question, I found a lot that I could take away and apply to my own life.

The question: What does it mean to you that Pope Francis has dedicated this year (November 30, 2014-February 2, 2016) as a Year of Consecrated Life?

There was universal excitement about this time set aside to remind the world of the importance of the consecrated life in spreading the Gospel message, as well as being a time of unity in praying for vocations to religious life. But what particularly struck me were the comments about focusing their lives on praying more or how they took time to remember for themselves why they do what they do. Some mentioned how important families are to the future of vocations. I read this and thought: I need to pray more, too; I need to be reminded of the importance of what I do every day, too; I am in a family. In all these ways, I realized that I too, have an important role in religious vocations, AND my life has many similarities (or it should, i.e., prayer!). Obviously I have no plans for entering into that life myself, that’s not God’s plan for me. But I can pray, I can support vocations, and I can encourage vocations.

Of the eleven interviews I’ve done, I pulled out the answers to the above question from a handful of them to give you a flavor of what I’m talking about. The words these incredible women use are much better than mine anyway.

(N.b. Some of these have been edited down, to get their full text check out the full interviews linked below. Also, there’s more from me at the end, so read to the end, please.)

Interview graphic

 

Sr. Georgette, SSC: “Consecrated Life is a special gift from God and although there are many expressions, I am particularly grateful for all the nuns in cloister around the world who dedicate their lives in perpetual prayer for the rest of us. To me they embody true feminine beauty and strength.”

Sr. Constance, Little Sisters of the Poor: “I have tried to embrace this Year as a call to live the present with more passion and greater love for Christ, by being more conscious of the profound meaning of my spousal relationship with him. Sometimes in the busyness of everyday, we are working hard for God and the good of others, but we can almost forget why we are doing it. So for me, first and foremost, I am trying to just be with and for Christ, as opposed to doing for Him. I’m finding new joy in knowing that God wants me for Himself before I do anything for Him, and to thank Him for all the many little blessings He sends my way each day that I otherwise tend not to pay attention to because I’m so busy. The most beautiful thing about consecrated life is just belonging to Christ as His bride, and living in the heart of that profound relationship with Him. We say to Jesus, ‘Set me as a seal on your heart; take me wherever you go, to bring your love to others!’”

Sr. Joseph Marie, OP: “It’s already been such a grace-filled year! Building a culture of vocations really is the work of the entire Church. Sadly, many young men and women are not asked, or [are] even actively discouraged from discerning a vocation to consecrated life. And those who are in consecrated life are often not supported in their vocations, or there’s simply a lack of awareness of how important these vocations are for the Church. We need each other and so to have this time to learn more about and support consecrated life in the Body of Christ is tremendous.”

Sr. Mary Rose, TOR: “We are grateful for Pope Francis’ effort to highlight the beauty and importance of the gift of Consecrated Life in the Church during this year and the special role of the family in aiding growth in holiness. The Pope’s initiative has helped Catholic families and individuals to become more aware of praying for and fostering religious vocation within their families, as well as to understand more deeply the family’s vital role in nurturing holiness, and seeking God’s will for our lives, which is to discover our truest self by God’s design.”

Sr. Maria Gemma, OP: “It has been a beautiful gift to reflect on the beauty of the gift of consecrated life and the special and vital role it fulfills in the heart of Holy Mother Church, to meditate on the immensity of the gift and nourish the mind, heart, and soul by taking time to reread and study the beautiful Church documents that have been given to us regarding religious life. Religious consecration is a tremendous privilege – to live a life lived completely for the Lord, witnessing to the world the life we will each live in the eternal bliss of heaven – and what an incredible gift it is to be able to live it here and now.”

Help Your Parish and Family celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life

If you’re still reading then you’re probably wanting to know how you can help support and encourage vocations in your own families or parishes. If not, you should be!! Here’s how: Go to this USCCB page where you will find suggestions for Prayers of the Faithful to be included at Mass the weekend of February 6-7. In addition, this page also contains a short bulletin blurb that parishes can use to let people know about the World Day for Consecrated Life. Make sure your parish knows to include this in their bulletin as well as the Prayers of the Faithful.

In your own families, use the Prayers of the Faithful in your family prayers on February 2 (the actual World Day for Consecrated Life) and the weekend of February 6-7, when we’ll actually recognize it in our parishes. Or, use the Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life with your family to help conclude this year on February 2, 2016.

Thank you for supporting vocations and thank you for praying for vocations!

Question for our Readers: Do any of these women’s words speak to you in a profound way? Can you relate to one or more of these sisters in your own life?

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7 Quick Takes Consecrated Life Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Series Vocations Year of Consecrated Life

Interview with Sr. Maria Gemma, OP: Year of Consecrated Life

Interview graphic

Welcome to the 11th installment of our series for the Year of Consecrated Life. While I know everyone’s focus is starting to turn to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I hope we don’t forget that it is overlapping with the Year of Consecrated Life. This time around I’m happy to introduce Sr. Maria Gemma Martek, OP, from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I’m not going to say much more, because she has shared a lot about her life in this short interview. So keep reading to learn more about Sr. Maria Gemma and her amazing community. Enjoy!

Sr-Maria-GemmaWhat is your name?

Sister Maria Gemma, OP

What is the name of your order and what is your order’s particular charism?

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

Our community embraces the traditional Dominican charism of preaching and teaching the truths of our Faith and lives this charism in the spirit of the New Evangelization. Our apostolic outreach flows from a contemplative core, embodied in our vowed consecration with Mary as our model and nourished daily by the Holy Eucharist in Mass and a Eucharistic Holy Hour. We each make the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary {de Montfort formula}. Our primary apostolate is Catholic education. We operate the Spiritus Sanctus Academies in Ann Arbor, Michigan {private Catholic PK-8 schools committed to fostering excellence in human, spiritual and intellectual formation in a truly Catholic environment} and have Sisters serving as administrators and teachers in elementary and secondary schools in nine additional US dioceses and a house in Rome.  

We have also broadened our apostolic efforts in the spirit of the New Evangelization by developing and appearing on programs for EWTN ~ a catechetical children’s series called Truth in the Heart and Catechesis: Communion with Jesus Christ to provide groundwork and inspiration for those teaching the Faith. We yearly host three large vocation discernment retreats for young women and one non-discernment retreat for moms and other women in Ann Arbor. The Sisters also participate in giving retreats in other dioceses, conduct VBS-type summer catechesis programs in parishes and travel to give spiritual and vocation talks. We have Sisters helping with campus ministry during graduate studies at the Catholic University of America and have recorded two CDs over the past two years:  Mater Eucharistiae  {sacred music} and  The Rosary:  Meditations and Music. We also have developed Disciple of Christ- Education in Virtue™  ~ a Christian curriculum focusing on the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit structured around the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas to encourage students to embrace a life of happiness by striving for holiness.      

How did you know God was calling you to this life?

I took an interesting route into the convent via college, graduate school, and studies in Moscow, working in International Business for a company conducting business in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and resettling Russian refugees to Denver. I enjoyed lay life and packed it comfortably full with “good works,” striving to give Him glory with my daily witness. I had great friends, believed I was helping others with my work, and was very involved in my parish and other volunteer organizations. I began attending daily Mass and when our parish instituted perpetual Eucharistic adoration, I committed to a weekly holy hour ~ my “date night” with Jesus. I soon found myself frequently dropping into the adoration chapel on lunch hours or after work. I had always loved my faith, and looked forward to marriage and mothering a strong Catholic family. I prayed that the Lord would bless me with all the graces I would need to be a good wife and mother; He certainly answered my prayer, but not in the way I anticipated! I began to sense that maybe what I was comfortable giving the Lord was perhaps not everything He desired. I came to realize through much prayer and wise counsel from a holy priest that the Lord had created me to be His bride as a consecrated Religious Sister and a spiritual mother to many.

I learned about our community on the Internet and when I came to visit I sensed this was “home” ~ not in any ostensible dramatic sign, but with a quiet surety in my heart and soul. I entered our community in the Jubilee Year of 2000 and professed my first vows in 2003 and perpetual vows in 2008. I am eternally grateful for my religious vocation and for my beloved community of Sisters who edify, encourage and challenge me on my path to holiness as a member of the Dominican family.

Tell us a bit about what your day-to-day life is like.

Jam-packed with graces, prayer and activity!  People are surprised to hear that convent life is not boring or monotonous at all ~ in fact, I’m never sure when I get out of bed in the morning what surprises the Lord has in store. We do have a basic structure to our day (called an horarium), which is the daily framework of prayer and monastic traditions; however, there is always something happening that keeps us on our toes. Let me see if I can narrate a bit of the ordinary, as the extraordinary changes constantly.  

Dominican Sisters--Ann Arbor
Sisters at the University of Michigan Arboretum Peony Garden

On school days we rise at 5:00 am and are in the chapel at 5:30 am for our Eucharistic Holy Hour, meditation, and Morning Prayer chanted choir to choir, Dominican-style. We assist at Holy Mass, eat a quick breakfast, and the principals, teaching Sisters, and college student Sisters head off in carpools to their various schools by 7:20 am. The novitiate Sisters spend their days in formation classes and helping care for the convent, cooking, doing laundry, and spending additional periods devoted to prayer and study. They also have a period of active recreation in the afternoon during which they take walks and play active games like soccer, Frisbee, softball, basketball or floor hockey, depending on the weather. While we are all trained as teachers, it is necessary to have a few professed Sisters assigned to take care of administrative responsibilities.

I presently serve as the local superior for the Motherhouse and fulfill other administrative duties for the community, so I spend a good portion of my workday in my office. At noon all those home gather in the chapel to chant Midday Prayer and then have lunch. After school the Sisters all reconvene to chant Vespers and the Holy Rosary, then process to dinner in our monastic refectory. We typically eat our meals in silence, listening to a Sister read from Scripture and a spiritual book. On solemnities and on Sisters’ feast days we talk at the table ~ conversations are lively! We spend time each evening in community recreation, chatting and sharing the stories of the day, playing board games or cards, knitting or embroidering; essentially relaxing and enjoying family time with one another. We also periodically engage in community study periods. We end our day in the chapel to pray Compline, followed by a Dominican-style procession to Our Lady’s altar while chanting the ancient version of the Salve Regina, giving her everything from the day, beseeching her to watch over the Dominican order and to entrust the souls of all who will die that night into her hands. Following Compline the Sisters are free to study, prepare for their classes, or spend time in personal prayer. Lights are out at 10:00 pm.  

What advice would you give to someone considering a consecrated religious life?

Listen to the Lord, ask Him what His will is for your life, open your heart wide and make sure you are ready for the answer, because it might just surprise you! Ask our Blessed Mother to wrap you in her mantle and guide you ~ she will only ever lead us to Jesus and His Holy Will. God works mysteriously and differently with each soul to make His amazing invitation known. His voice is often soft, though, so spending time in quiet prayer and meditating on sacred scripture will help you to hear Him. This is good advice for everyone, though!    

If you feel like He might be calling you to consecrated life, just pondering it isn’t enough ~ eventually you have to act on the inspiration by either making contact with communities, attending vocation discernment retreats {ours are well-attended by women from all over the country and beyond}, visiting a community you’re attracted to, and perhaps taking the leap of faith and entering the community to give religious life a try.  

When a woman truly wants to know what the Lord’s will is for her life and gives it her all, the Lord is never outdone in generosity and will let her know. The Church as a wise mother gives young women considering religious consecration who enter a religious community a precious gift: the time of novitiate. In this time she gradually deepens her response to Him, learns about the life and the community, and, only after an extended time of formation, study, and prayer, makes vows. The young woman is free to leave if she discerns that religious consecrated life is not her vocation before vows, or at the expiration of temporary vows. The young men and women I’ve known who have entered seminary or religious life and departed after discerning it was not the vocation God had created them for have been immensely grateful for the opportunity to live the life, receive the formation and have the graces to know that God’s amazing plan for their life was elsewhere.  

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?

It has been a beautiful gift to reflect on the beauty of the gift of consecrated life and the special and vital role it fulfills in the heart of Holy Mother Church, to meditate on the immensity of the gift and nourish the mind, heart, and soul by taking time to reread and study the beautiful Church documents that have been given to us regarding religious life. Religious consecration is a tremendous privilege – to live a life lived completely for the Lord, witnessing to the world the life we will each live in the eternal bliss of heaven – and what an incredible gift it is to be able to live it here and now.  

Domicans chapel in Ann Arbor
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist at prayer in our beautiful chapel.

What is your favorite thing to do during your down time/recreation time?

When you enter religious life, you gain a whole big family, and families love to spend time together. We enjoy playing games (favorites are Scrabble, Ticket to Ride, Scattergories, Taboo, Chronology & Pictionary), taking walks, bike riding, cooking, baking, watching movies, laughing, sharing stories, and enjoying one another’s company chatting. I enjoy watching football occasionally when we have a chance. On quiet retreat days I relax by spending extra time in the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament, being outside, knitting, reading and solving word or logic puzzles. I love to read, write letters to family and friends, and study for fun – especially history, political science, geography and word study. I was given a Russian version of the Catechism and the Bible, and I love reading it to keep my Russian language sharp. My special area of interest is the persecuted Church under Soviet Communism in Russia. I helped a woman translate a book into English about a group of Dominican Sisters in Moscow who ended up in the GULag system between 1923 and the mid 1950s.

Thanks for asking me to tell you a little more about myself and my wonderful community.  Please pray for us and for religious men and women, and for more workers for the Lord’s vineyard.  God bless you and keep you this Advent and always!

Ways to contact the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist:

Our Website:  www.sistersofmary.org

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/dsmme

Disciple of Christ- Education in Virtue™    https://educationinvirtue.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/EDUinVIRTUE

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

Interview with Sr. Mary Beth Kozlowski, SDSH: Year of Consecrated Life

Interview graphic

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

Sister Mary Beth KCharism: 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.

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Sr. Mary Beth with some of her sisters in Taiwan.

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.