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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.

Categories
Allison Feast Days Sacred Scripture Saints

It’s His Feast Day ~ Read His Book!

jude2Jude, Judah, Judas, Thaddeus ~ this man was one of the Twelve, a New Testament author, and is the patron saint of desperate cases (given his unfortunate name-sharing with the infamous traitor). Tradition recounts that Jude gathered the Lord’s burial cloth and brought it to Turkey, then traveled to Armenia, whose Church Rite can be traced to the Saint. He continued moving and preaching and was eventually joined by Simon (who is also honored this feast day). They were both martyred in Persia. This man was a missionary from the get-go, asking Jesus during the Last Supper, “Why reveal Yourself just to us and not the whole world?” He was already thinking about “the whole world.” Jesus explained that all who love Him and are true to His Word will be loved by the Father and filled with the Spirit (John 14:22-3).

His short book of twenty-four verses is a warning to be watchful and wise in dealing with false teachers, whom he unexpectedly describes with passionate poetry in verses 12-13. His audience was thoroughly Jewish, for he expected them to be familiar with references Biblical (verses 5-7, 11), apocryphal (verses 9, 14-15), and apostolic (verses 17-18). He presented them with practical, real advice:

Fight (3),
Remember (17),
Learn ( 20),
Pray (20),
Wait (21),
Convince (22),
Save and snatch (23).

And he blessed them with an oft-memorized, inspiring benediction:

“Now to Him Who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of His glory with rejoicing; to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen”

Breathe that in. Now, where’s the fight?
Dear Saint Jude, pray for us!

jude1

Apologetics notes:

1.) Jude refers to himself as a servant of Jesus and brother of James, a well-known church leader in Jerusalem. They are kin to Jesus. Here is an excellent explanation of the familial language.

2.) Although the book was listed in the Muratorian fragment of the second century as acceptable for reading, it continued being disputed for 200 years until the Carthage councils included it in the final canon. This is the New Testament we all know and love, including our separated brethren.

3.) Verse 23 calls on believers to “save some,” proving that people do co-operate with God in salvation. This does not lessen God’s power and glory; He does the saving (and healing and forgiving and prayer-listening, etc). We work with Him. Consider also Colossians 1:24, James 5:16, and John 20:23.

Categories
Colleen Domestic Church Evangelization Marriage Motherhood Parenting Vocations

How to Change the World (Without Becoming a Missionary to Africa)

18-year-old Katie went on a mission trip to Uganda to minister to the poor there. Five years later, she has made Uganda her permanent residence. She runs a ministry that provides medical care and feeds 1200 children a day, which allows them to attend school rather than working in the fields or begging. She established a program for the women of the community to encourage them to support their families in their quest to become self-sustaining. Katie herself has adopted orphans from her village, and is now the 23-year-old mother of 13 little girls. As I listened to her talk about her ministry and her 13 daughters, my heart was filled with respect and amazement at this beautiful young woman, so devoted to her mission.

Hearing about others who have sacrificed their entire lives to minister to others is heartwarming and humbling. There is a true need in our world for faithful souls to give food and hope to the poor, and to bring Christ to them. They are doing spectacular and heroic work, and giving up so many comforts! God has placed a special call on their hearts, and they resonate with joy as they describe their struggles. Listening to their stories is, more than anything else, inspiring. It ignites a fire in our hearts; WE want to do these things too – more than anything else, we want to go out and make a difference in the world!

As mothers of small children, college students, working professionals, there can be a strong temptation to feel inferior, or to think that whatever we are doing now is holding us back from greater service to others. We feel as though we should be like Mother Teresa, dedicating our lives to others. Caring for the sick, comforting abandoned children, digging a well for a village that has no water supply. And yet, here we sit, in our temperature-controlled houses with our full refrigerators, taking care of our children and working unfulfilling jobs, and feel guilty for not doing all these other, so much more important things.

But what we are doing IS important. What you are doing is important, and it is changing the world.

We are all missionaries – we all have a mission from God that He has specifically planned for us. We are all called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and be a blessing to others. But not all of us are called to do it in Uganda or India. We are called to minister, first, to those in our own home. We may not be able to preach the Gospel to the orphans in Africa, but we must preach the Gospel to our own children. To cook dinner for our family. To wash the dishes, night after night. To snuggle our sick baby and change his diapers. To do a puzzle with our preschooler; to take him to church and introduce him to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. To hug our teenagers; to look into their eyes and converse with them. To smile and greet our husband when he walks in the door. To call our mother; to write a letter to our grandmother.

We must also reach out to our community. For some of us, that means volunteering in the food kitchen – getting to intimately know and serve the poor in our town. For others, even that is out of reach at this time; for them, it may mean simply donating canned goods to the food pantry. Buying an extra package of diapers for the crisis pregnancy center with the already-stretched grocery budget. Praying the rosary outside the abortion clinic. Bringing dinner to a new mother. Visiting residents in a nursing home. Being a listening ear and a compassionate shoulder to cry on for a coworker. Smiling warmly at a stranger in the grocery store. All very small acts of kindness, little ways to grow in charity – but if we all seek to do these little acts of grace, they will have a profound impact upon our little corner of the world. We can cheerfully spread the peace of Christ to our neighbor, and love him. And that is what God is calling us to do, right now.

We often think of courageous Mother Teresa’s great works of charity towards the poor and wish we could imitate them, and yet we sometimes forget sweet St. Therese, who lived much of her life locked away in a cloister, hidden from the troubles of the world, and yet who said, “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.” Great graces can spring from our humble deeds.

That passion that we so admire in those who have dedicated their lives to helping the less fortunate? Let us mirror that same passion in our own lives. Let us realize that while we may be called in a different way, we are all called to have a deep love for Christ and to express our love through our deeds. We, too, are called to change the world. It may not mean traveling to a foreign country; it may mean staying right where we are, and pouring ourselves wholeheartedly into our humble vocation. This is what God is calling us to do. Let us answer the call generously!

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” ~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Categories
Apologetics Evangelization Faith Formation FOCUS Guest Posts

A Call to Mission

Howdy, Catholic Sistas readers. Lauren Garcia, here, a FOCUS Missionary at the University of Texas-Austin. I’m so happy to be contributing to this lovely blog. Finding community is essential in the life of a Christian and to use the Internet as a means to that is awesome. I look forward to sharing stories from campus, bringing to light issues young women face and pouring out my love for our most beautiful Faith. But today, I want to talk to you about FOCUS and why I am where I am.

FOCUS is the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. Over 13 years ago, Curtis Martin founded the organization in response to the New Evangelization, a call for all of us to fulfill the Great Commission in all walks of life. We choose to serve on college campuses because it’s the place where students are most influenced, where they will make decisions that will effect the rest of their lives, where our future leaders, parents, teachers are receiving formation and information that will change the world, for better or worse. We hope and pray for the better. If I had to say what we do in a few words, I’d give you our motto, “Launching college students into lifelong Catholic mission.” But what does that mean? And what exactly does it look like?

It’s simple, really. I share love. I share life. I strive to preach the Gospel with my life and invite students into that fullness of life our Lord calls us to. If they’re convicted by the love of Jesus to share it with others while they’re in college and for the rest of their lives, I’ve done my job. Or at least, I’ve let God use me as an instrument to help ignite that conviction.

While I was a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I immediately got involved with FOCUS and started leading my own study by my sophomore year. I was formed well, taught about evangelization and sought opportunities to share my faith with my peers. But I don’t think I realized the real burden to “make disciples of all nations” until my senior year, when I was deciding among various graduate schools and serving as a FOCUS missionary. I knew I could start Bible studies and invest in women while in graduate school, so why do I have to be a missionary? So many things about being a missionary scared me: fundraising my whole salary, being sent somewhere I didn’t want to go, giving my whole life and setting back all my plans. And those things I was scared of just gave God the opportunity to ask, “Do you really trust me? Do you really want to make me known?” The answer to both had to be yes.

And here I am, after only a year of serving on FOCUS staff, starting a brand new program at the University of Texas. As a Texas native, I have been praying for FOCUS to go to UT ever since I knew what FOCUS was. And God blessed us this year with the opportunity to come to this influential campus and change lives! Praise Him.

Want to learn more or get involved?

Here’s my personal blog.
Here’s the FOCUS Web site and my fund page.
And here’s why we call ourselves missionaries.

**Lauren Garcia is a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at the University of Texas at Austin. A 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Lauren is a native of College Station, Texas. She loves reading, music and coffee. Visit her personal blog here.**