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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

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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.

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Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

Where is the Mission Field?

Cincinnati 1Last week I went on a mission trip. I was able to travel with our youth group from Georgia to Cincinnati, OH to work with the Franciscans for the Poor. We stayed at the Tau House, a converted convent that is now used to house groups who wish to come and do mission work within the city.

Each day we broke into groups to work at various sites. There would be many to choose from- The sandwich window at Mercy St. John’s (providing a meal for those experiencing homelessness or those not able to feed themselves), the Ronald McDonald House, Stepping Stones (an organization dedicated to helping those with disabilities become more independent), People Working Cooperatively (an organization which helps low-income, elderly, and disabled residents have a better quality of life), POP Bridge Ministry (a place where those who are experiencing homelessness can go to be mentored), and New Life Furniture (a furniture bank for the needy).

We had a guest speaker one night come to talk to us about homelessness. Tommy would lay it out on the line for us and give us new perspective on what it is like to be homeless and how important it is to address a person experiencing homelessness instead of just passing him by like we don’t see him. He impressed upon us that just because a person doesn’t have a home it doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving of respect and kindness.

The week changed us all. There was not one person in our group that didn’t feel differently at the end of the week than they did at the beginning. Thought processes had changed and there seemed to be a better understanding of the dignity of all life. I dare say that our lives were touched even more by those we set out to help.

As we gathered one last time for prayer and discussion that last day, we talked about how we were changed and what we planned to do to continue the work we had started. This conversation made me think about where the mission field truly is. I was questioned once why we had to travel so far away when there were many in our own area that could use help. Sometimes it takes a monumental trip or experience to inspire us to do more. Once inspired we can easily see the work that needs to be done within our community.

So where is the mission field? Do you need to travel 500 miles as we did or travel around the world as many others do to find work that needs to be done?

The truth of the matter is that the mission field begins in our own homes, but it doesn’t end there. It is easy to make excuses as to why we can’t help out others. It is easy to be bogged down with our own problems and worries that we barely look up to see the man with the sign asking for help. It’s easy to allow the field work we do at home become the only work we do. However, we are called to do more.

michelle and wanda

The elderly neighbor who struggles to cut the grass- he’s part of your mission work. The woman at the store who looks to be overwhelmed by the screaming children she has in tow- she’s part of your mission work too. The man who sits quietly on the side of the road with a sign that says, “Will work for food”- yes, he’s part of your field work as well.

The mission field encompasses all that surrounds us. It is our duty and obligation to take care of one another.  Christ tells us specifically that we are to do so- even elevating this as the second greatest commandment- “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:38).

How can you go out into the mission field to bring Christ’s light and love to others? Here are some ideas to help you do so:

  • Volunteer your time at organizations that aim to better the lives of the people they serve. It may surprise you at how easy it is to become a volunteer.
  • Look in your own neighborhood to see if there is anyone in need of your help there.
  • When someone approaches you for money, if you are not comfortable giving any, at least address the person and let them know you will pray for them- and then do!
  • Have a stash of food gift cards that you can give to those you encounter who are in need of a meal.
  • Carry bottled waters in your car to distribute to those who may be thirsty and needing a drink.
  • Carry food packets or “blessing bags” filled with essential items (razor, socks, toothbrush, a juice box, and crackers) to give out when you see someone with a sign asking for help.
  • Have a list of contact numbers available to that you can easily refer someone to the right kind of care that is needed.

mother teresaMother Teresa once said, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”  Mission work does just that- it embraces the poor, the dirty, the undesirables of our society and the unwanted. It strives to make life better for those who experience difficulties in their lives. It does not judge, but simply reaches out to take the hand of a fellow human being and lift them up from the pit they have temporarily fallen into.

Today I challenge you to walk out into the mission field. Cast your worries aside and simply live to help others. When you do you will find that the mission field can be in your own home, at your church, as you drive down the street, or outside of the local Walmart. You don’t have to travel to take care of others. You simply must be willing to truly look at those who live in your own community and start there.

What other ways can you think of to live a missionary life?