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

Interview with Sr. Mary Rose, TOR: Year of Consecrated Life

Interview graphic

It is once again time to meet and get to know a consecrated religious for this Year of Consecrated Life that we are still in. Today’s interview is with Sr. Mary Rose Bratlien, T.O.R. She also got one of her fellow sisters in her community involved int he interview, so for a couple questions we’ll also get to meet Sr. Elizabeth Buessink, T.O.R., Vocations Coordinator. The questions are marked so you know who is answering which ones. This is another interesting and inspiring interview, and I love the pictures Sr. Mary Rose sent me. There is a peacefulness that comes out in the interview and in the pictures. I hope you feel it too as you read on below.

What is your name?

Sr. Mary Rose Bratlien, T.O.R., Mission Advancement Director

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

Sr. Mary Rose TOR
Sr. Mary Rose, T.O.R.

Franciscan Sisters, Third Order Regular (T.O.R.) of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother. Our charisms include daily contemplation of Christ’s crucified love, receiving His divine mercy, and with Mary our Mother, seeking to become vessels of Christ’s merciful love for others. We embrace the Franciscan values and lifestyle of poverty and minority within a supportive sisterhood, seeking to be humble handmaids of God our loving Father. We celebrate Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours daily, as well as daily Eucharistic adoration, where we intercede for the world so that all may be reconciled and brought into living communion with God now and forever in heaven.

How did you know God was calling you to this life? By Sr. Mary Rose Bratlien, T.O.R., Mission Advancement Director

I learned about our Community the year that it began in 1988, while I was a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio. Some of the community’s founding members were my college classmates. I observed them get started, and inquired about the community’s charisms and mission. They explained it was a blending of both the contemplative and active life, including significant time for Eucharistic Adoration, silent and contemplative prayer, as well as various works of evangelization and service to the poor, the elderly, on college campuses, and in parishes. It included frequent praise and worship and openness to all the charisms of the Holy Spirit, and would blend both the traditional and the charismatic dimensions of the church’s life, including wearing a religious garb or habit and liturgical prayer of the Divine Office in common. I knew this way of life would be a good fit for me, as God had been inspiring me to seek to live this way for several years prior. For several years already I felt an attraction to the spirituality of St. Francis and a desire to follow his example of radical love for God. I realized, like St. Francis did, that it can be a radical turning away from sin and selfishness to choose to embrace a life of chastity for the sake of the Kingdom of God, poverty in imitation of Christ, and to live simply without accumulating goods so that one’s main focus can be to use one’s time and resources to serve the poor and do spiritual and corporal works of mercy. I began to understand what a gift it is to be called by God to live in intimate union with Him as a religious sister, and that by obedience to a Franciscan Rule of Life, I would be able to safeguard a prayer life, and would have freedom from being ambushed by my own preferences, as well as to gain assurance of doing God’s will rather than my own.

Tell us a bit about what your day-to-day life is like. by Sr. Elizabeth Buessink, T.O.R., Vocations Coordinator

Sr. Elizabeth
Sr. Elizabeth, T.O.R.

Our daily routine includes prayer, work, and ministry. We rise at 5:00am and begin our day giving the Lord our “first fruits” in an hour of silent Eucharistic adoration followed by Morning Prayer from the Divine Office. Directly after our morning prayers we celebrate Mass as a community. Following Mass is time for extended prayer and silence as well as an informal breakfast. At 9am we begin our work or ministry. Some sisters will head to our ministries in the Downtown Steubenville area to work with the poor, others will head to their offices on campuses to work with the students, others will go to their offices at the Motherhouse to serve the community. At noon, we stop our work and ministry to gather for prayer which usually consists of a time of praise and worship with intercessions and a rosary or Station of the Cross, followed by lunch. After lunch we return to our various work assignments or ministries. We come back together at 5pm for our second Eucharistic Holy Hour of the day and Evening Prayer from the Divine Office and a Mercy Chaplet. After our evening time of prayer we eat dinner together. The evenings consist of a variety of things for us. Some evenings we have recreation together, other evenings we have share groups which is a time of sharing more deeply with a smaller group of sisters, sometimes we return to our work or ministries. We then gather at 8:30pm for Night Prayer and head off to bed just to get up and do it all again the next morning!

What advice would you give to someone considering a consecrated religious life? by Sr. Elizabeth Buessink, T.O.R., Vocations Coordinator

To include in your daily routine some time for prayer and silence. It is in those times when we are not “busy” praying a rosary or journaling that we are able to rest in the Lord’s love and hear His voice most clearly. Lectio Divina is a great way to immerse yourself in Scripture and sit with the Word, letting it penetrate the heart. Silence in prayer and in daily life is very important because it is in those moments that you will come to discover the deepest desires of your heart. Those desires will always be connected to your vocation and call in life. Another piece of advice is to research communities and visit them. Much can be gained from visiting a religious community, praying with them, eating with them, recreating and working with them. And a final piece of advice is to relax! God is not out to make you do something you do not want to do nor is He out to hide your vocation from you. Trust in His perfect timing!

Franciscan Sisters, Third Order Regular (TOR) of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother
Franciscan Sisters, Third Order Regular (TOR) of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother

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? By Sr. Mary Rose Bratlien, T.O.R., Mission Advancement Director

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.

What is your favorite thing to do during your down time/recreation time?  By Sr. Mary Rose Bratlien, T.O.R., Mission Advancement Director

For recreation, I enjoy spending time with my Sisters playing various games or doing activities together such as enjoying the beauty of nature or tending to the animals on our ‘farm’ property. I also love being alone with God, playing and writing music, and learning new praise music in order to praise our awesome God.

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

Find out more about the sisters on their website: Franciscan Sisters, Third Order Regular, of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, and on Facebook.

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Interview with Sr. Joseph Marie, OP: Year of Consecrated Life

Interview graphic

Welcome once again to another post in our series for the Year of Consecrated Life. I have really enjoyed putting these posts together and getting the opportunity to communicate with a wide variety of women living in consecrated life. For the first time, with this post, we have an interview with a nun living in a cloistered convent. I think Sr. Joseph Marie is also our first Dominican. I enjoyed reading through her story and I hope you do too. Please keep reading to learn more about Sr. Joseph and the Dominican nuns of Menlo Park, CA.

Sister Joseph MarieWhat is your name?

Sister Joseph Marie of the Child Jesus, O.P.

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

We are a community of cloistered nuns of the Order of Preachers. The nuns of the Order of Preachers came into being 800 years ago when our Holy Father Dominic gathered women converts to the Catholic faith in the monastery of Blessed Mary of Prouille (France). These women, free for God alone, he associated with his “holy preaching” by their prayer and penance. St. Dominic entrusted the nuns, as part of the same Order, to the fraternal concern of his sons, and we remain so to this day.

Our community at Corpus Christi Monastery in Menlo Park, California was founded on May 29, 1921, when eight nuns from our founding monastery in Bronx, New York, left to begin a new foundation on the West Coast. Rev. A.L. McMahon, O.P., Provincial of the Western Dominican Province, desired to bring to the San Francisco area a contemplative monastery whose purpose would be to honor and promote devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  

The friars, sisters and laity of the Dominican Order are “to preach the name of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world;” the nuns are to seek, ponder and call upon him in solitude so that the word proceeding from the mouth of God may not return to him empty, but may accomplish those things for which it was sent.

We live out this charism by remaining faithful to the Magisterium of the Church and observing Papal enclosure. The celebration of the Eucharist and Divine Office is central to our daily life, as well as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In addition to liturgical and private prayer, community and study round out the pillars of our life.  

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

I had reached a point in my life when I realized I’d achieved so much and was truly living the American dream: a strong faith life, loving family, relationship and friends, education and a promising career, yet I still felt unfulfilled and yearned for something beyond my comprehension. I started looking at religious life and contacted a national vocations office that helped connect people to religious communities. They gave me the names of several communities in California and I was drawn to Corpus Christi Monastery by their horarium, the common life, the silence, study, government and adoration that is part of the daily life.

Over the next two years, I would visit and experience an indescribable peace, but then return to my life in the world and my discernment would be pushed to the back burner. But Jesus kept calling me back and finally I couldn’t resist Him any longer. Discerning a religious vocation is a lot like dating is to marriage – you may not have all the answers and you may have some nervousness and questions but you finally reached a point when you and the community know enough and you both just have to take that step of faith and follow your heart.

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

Our life is ordered to preserving the continual remembrance of God for His greater glory and the salvation of souls. A cloistered nun’s spouse is none other than Christ himself; her children are the downtrodden and the afflicted throughout the world she carries in her heart and prayers throughout the day. Our day begins before sunrise. In Dominican tradition, we have already spent some time in personal vigil prayer, each sister choosing to either pray after Compline the night before or to rise and pray before the Office. By 5:30 a.m., the entire community has gathered in the choir to pray Matins and Lauds.

Dominican sisters Menlo classAs Dominicans, we also set aside a portion of our day for study. We study not to simply acquire knowledge, but to know better the One we love; Dominican study is a form of prayer. The celebration of the liturgy – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the seven hours of the Divine Office – is the heart of our whole life and the primary source of our unity. The summit of our day is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is followed by a time of thanksgiving and Terce (Midmorning prayer).  

The remainder of the day is filled with the ebb and flow of the Divine Office, personal prayer and various work assignments and classes for the novitiate. Work tasks around the monastery vary greatly and it’s beautiful to see how each sister is able to put their talents, knowledge, and strengths at the service of the community, sometimes in unique and unexpected ways! Each sister also keeps at least one hour of adoration during the day.  

The bell for Vespers (Evening prayer) rings at 5:00 p.m., followed by lectio divina, supper and recreation. The day draws to a close with Compline, the favorite hour for many Dominicans; there are many miracles and graces associated with it in our history and the processions while chanting the Salve Regina (in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of our Order) and the O Lumen (in honor of Our Holy Father Dominic) are very special to us.  

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

First, it’s not as complicated as you might think. All vocations start with an invitation by God, rooted in our baptism, to grow in holiness in a particular way of life and to live the mission of the Church – that is, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to others. So whether you ultimately discern God is calling you to married life, religious life, or some other life of service, such as dedicated single life, your first steps should be the same and aimed at growing to be the person God created you to be in Him.

Pray daily to Jesus and our Blessed Mother. Receive the Sacraments frequently. Avoid sin and grow in virtue. Consult a good, well-informed spiritual director. Consider and pray to God about the reasons you feel drawn to one particular vocation or another. Do not wait for heaven to dispatch an angel to reveal to you God’s will! He is answering your prayers by the movements of your heart. As Bl. Hyacinthe-Marie Cormier, O.P., advised a postulant: Tell yourself very seriously: What would I wish I had done at the hour of my death, on the day of my judgment? Right now, do what you need to do so that later you will have accomplished it. It is a question of a happy or an unhappy eternity…

About Contemplative Vocations: Just as God calls whom He wills, there is no particular type of person He calls to the contemplative life. The cloisters of monasteries are filled with introverts and extroverts, artists and accountants, those who never went to college and those who hold Ph.D.’s. If you find yourself wanting to spend more and more time with God in silence, have increasing feeling of something missing from your life despite success and relationships you have, or wanting to “do more” in love for others, you may have a calling to monastic life.

Dominican Sisters MenloWhat 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’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 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.

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

Depending on the day, I might be found reading, walking, gardening, playing sports, playing the piano or guitar, or in our art studio working on a project.

 

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Interview with Sr. Patricia Cushing, SJW: Year of Consecrated Life

Interview graphicI was thrilled when I heard from Sister Patricia that she was going to participate in this interview series for the Year of Consecrated Life. I don’t know Sr. Patricia personally, but I have met several of the other sisters in her order.I happen to live very close to the nursing facility they operate in Versailles, KY and try to get out there whenever I can to visit one of the residents that I know. So I have interacted with some of the sisters from the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker Community from Walton, KY and every single one has been joyful and spiritual. I have no doubt that Sr. Patricia is as well. And her interview and the pictures she sent me certainly are evident of a joyful and spiritual soul. I enjoyed reading her answers and I thought her answer to the question regarding advise for anyone considering a vocation was wonderful. Great advise for any vocation really. Read on to learn more about Sr. Patricia and her lovely community of sisters.

Sr. Patricia Jean Cushing, SJW
Sr. Patricia Jean Cushing, SJW

What is your name?

My name is Sister Patricia Jean Cushing, SJW.  

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

We are the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker. Our community was founded in 1974 after several years of turmoil in the Church due to differences in interpretation of the Vatican II documents regarding religious life. Our foundress, Mother Ellen, along with 18 Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, truly lived the Gospel Values when, for the second time, they left everything “for the sake of Christ.”

Our co-founder, Bishop Ackerman, Bishop of Covington, Kentucky at the time, welcomed them into his diocese with open arms in 1973. The Sisters believed and wanted to remain true to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church. They wanted a scheduled prayer life most of all, periods of silence throughout the day, a local superior, factual poverty, ecclesial apostolates, and to wear a religious habit. The Sisters were approved by the Holy See on May 1, 1974.

Here we are seven months into the year 2015 after 40 grace-filled years and, although Mother Ellen and all the Sisters (except one) who helped found our community have departed this life for their eternal reward, we are still generously receiving God’s manifold graces. “Who could have possibly foreseen the formation of a new community in the Church!” said a Sister of Charity of Nazareth recently, “A different charism, but the same Lord!”

Our Sisters work in the apostolates of education and nursing. We have a school, St. Joseph Academy which educates 3 year olds through 8th grade, and an 82 bed, 3 level care, nursing home in Versailles, Kentucky. The interaction between the young and the wise allows us ample opportunities to spread the Gospel.  

We follow the rule of St. Vincent de Paul and our charism is upholding the teachings of the Magisterium through the witness of our lives in simplicity, self-sacrifice, and charity.

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

I was taught by the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison, Kansas in elementary school. I remember my second grade teacher telling us that when we receive Holy Communion, since this is the most intimate time with Jesus, we were to ask Him what He wanted us to be when we grew up. At the early age of second grade I wanted to be a sister and asked if that was what He wanted me to be. In high school, I was taught by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, and I attended a Jesuit college for two years before entering the convent so I grew up with priests and religious sisters all my life and was inspired by their lives.

In 1972, our pastor took the Sodality out of state to visit a community of sisters and ‘live the life of a nun’ for about a week. In 1976, we went to the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia and there met a group of sisters who in turn invited our group up the following year. But as Providence would have it, Msgr. had lost the information. So being the president at the time called all the girls in the Sodality and asked them if they had a blue postcard from a community in Kentucky in their stash of fliers. No, was the unanimous response.

Sr. Patricia (the 2nd oldest of 8, with her younger brother, Fr. Matthew, the baby of the family.
Sr. Patricia (the 2nd oldest of 8) with her younger brother, Fr. Matthew, the baby of the family.

My mom and dad took the Twin Catholic newspaper in the home along with the diocesan paper and being adventurous I wrote to three communities that I found from Kentucky and California for we did know that much about them.

The only response I received was from a community in Kentucky who told me that they had not been to the Eucharistic Congress but that we were certainly invited to visit them. And so that is what we did the following year. We visited the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker. In 1978, I returned for a two week visit by myself and was received into the community on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15, 1978.

I still have Mother Ellen’s letter to me from long ago. Her first sentence was, “I believe that this is more Providential than coincidental!”

After being around religious women all my life as I said, I found myself not entering any of those communities but coming to a community that had just received approval from Rome four years earlier. God has a plan for each person and He takes you by the hand and patiently walks you to where He wants you to be.

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

Putting in some manual labor for the community.
Putting in some manual labor for the community.

Our constitutions state: “Prayer is our life -the irreplaceable means by which we come to a better understanding of our dignity as daughters of the Church and spouses of Christ.” Our daily prayer therefore includes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, 1/2 hour meditation, 1/2 hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, community rosary, and 2 hours of spiritual reading weekly.

If you are a school sister, prayer is essential before the days activities so self-rising between 4:30 – 5:00 a.m. is quite normal. Community morning prayer is 6:30 a.m. so a sister has plenty of time for a Holy Hour and breakfast before leaving for school. Daily Holy Mass is with the school children at 8:00 a.m. For those not in the teaching apostolate, lunch, followed by day-time prayer, is around 11:30 a.m.  

The school sisters return to the Motherhouse around 4:00. The community gathers for evening prayer and rosary at 4:30. This is followed by our supper. At 7:00 five of the seven days of the week we gather for recreation. Cards, board games, or even corn hole are played together. Some sisters quilt or crochet.

Night Prayer follows recreation and then the sisters can retire to their rooms for study, preparation for the next days lessons or retire.

The Sisters at our nursing home follow the same prayer schedule and community activities but at different times due to their care of the elderly in the home.  

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

Ask, trust, stop, listen, and respond

The Sisters sharing the joy of their vocation.
The Sisters sharing the joy of their vocation.

Ask what makes you come alive; Trust the opportunities life and God are offering through the events and people He is sending into your life; Stop and be quite at intervals in your daily life; Listen, shut off your technology so you can hear your heart. Finally, Respond. The last command of Jesus to His disciples is Go! So go and see! Visit communities. Talk with them, smell the smells of the convent, listen to the sisters silence, pray with the sisters, volunteer with the sisters.    

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?

What a great blessing for the Church!

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

I like to quilt and play Chinese checkers.

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Interview with Sr. Marie-Aimée, OCD: Year of Consecrated Life

Interview graphic

Today we continue our series in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life with a sister from the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. How fitting that June is also the month dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Again, totally not planned on my part, isn’t God amazing! I hope you read on and enjoy getting to know Sr. Marie-Aimée. I certainly did!

What is your name?

Sister Marie-Aimée of the Heavenly Father, O.C.D.

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

Our community is the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. Most Carmelite nuns are cloistered, they serve the Church in and through a life of contemplative prayer. As active Carmelite Sisters, our charism unites the spirit of Carmel, the life of contemplation, to the active apostolate. Our sisters promote a deeper spiritual life among God’s people through education, healthcare, and retreats.

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

Sister_Marie-Aimee_OCD2I remember asking many sisters this question when I was discerning my vocation. It seemed like most of them came to a point where they “just knew.” It was not a very satisfying answer as I was hoping for something a little more concrete, a little more certain. The reality is that God’s calling unfolds in the context of our relationship with Him and by “knowing” we really mean “experiencing” His call.

Growing up, my family only attended Mass on Christmas and Easter because we had to if we wanted dinner at Grandma’s house. I am convinced that this Irish Catholic grandmother prayed my parents back into the Church. We started attending Mass when I was a teenager and as much as I hated giving up one of my “sleep in” mornings, I had to admit that I getting to know God and realizing how much He loved me was worth it. As I learned about Catholicism, my love for God and our faith grew.

After my first year of college in Los Angeles, I transferred to Franciscan University of Steubenville because I realized that if I was going to spend money to study, I wanted to study God. As a Southern California native I was not excited about the idea of going to Ohio. Don’t get me wrong, Ohio is a very lovely place but it is cold. Very cold. Grey sky. Leafless trees. For months during this thing they call Winter. But I had looked and looked for any other school that offered a degree in Catholic Theology and had not found any, so to Ohio I went.

Within a couple of weeks I met our Sisters who were attending classes at the University. I had spent my whole life living within 15 minutes of one of our convents in Long Beach, California, and driving past it almost every day of high school never knowing it was there. I met the Carmelite Sisters half a continent away!

Initially, I introduced myself because I knew the Sisters were from California and I was very homesick for anything Californian. They invited me to pray with them at their evening holy hour to which I replied, “I’m not discerning.” Laughing, they said, you don’t have to be discerning to pray with us. At the time I was really thirsting for prayer in community (the Divine Office just isn’t the same on your own) and quiet time with the Lord so I ended up joining them quite frequently throughout the school year. At the end of the year, they invited me to a Come and See Retreat, to which I replied, “as long as you know I’m not discerning.” God must have laughed!

During college, as I spent more time with Him in prayer, at Mass, in adoration, I got to know the Lord better and recognize His voice in my heart more easily. At some point during my senior year of college, I realized that I had fallen in love with Jesus, He had captured my heart, and I couldn’t give my heart to anyone else as long as He had it in His keeping. And I “just knew” that this was His invitation to follow Him more closely and belong to Him completely. After graduation from Franciscan, I worked for a year with our sisters at that elementary school in Long Beach that I had driven past every day of high school before applying for Candidacy. I subsequently entered our community in  2004 and made my perpetual profession of vows in 2013.

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

Our day starts with the ringing of a bell at 4:55 a.m. and a sister singing “Praised be Jesus Christ and His Virgin Mother, Come to prayers sisters, come to praise the Lord.” I love it that the first thing we hear in the morning is the praise of Jesus and Mary.

We gather at 5:25 in the Chapel to pray the Divine Office, meditation, and participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass together. After Mass we eat breakfast.

During the day we work in our various apostolates. For most of my religious life, I have been a junior high teacher but for the last couple of years I have been serving in our Office of Mission Advancement, working on our websites, social media, and print projects. In keeping with our Carmelite charism, we keep silence during the day (except for the communication necessary to the apostolate we are in) cultivating that interior awareness of God Who is constantly present within us.

We pray the examen  at noon and have a holy hour together in the evening with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, rosary, meditation, and Evening Prayer from the Divine Office. We eat all our meals together, with spiritual reading (or listening to a spiritual talk) at breakfast/dinner and recreation at lunch. Being in recreation means that we are speaking rather than in silence.

We also have recreation in the evening. Sometimes we take a walk, play a game, do crafts, or just talk, enjoying one another’s company. Following recreation, we pray Night Prayer together. We end the day by kneeling in the sanctuary of our Chapel, extending our arms, and praying “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You” together nine times before beginning Grand Silence, which is a deeper silence allowing us to cultivate intimacy with our Spouse. So the last words we speak each day are words of trust in Him. The goal of each day in Carmel is a deeper relationship with Jesus.

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

If someone is having difficulty discerning if God is calling or not, I think there are a few things that can help. First, get a spiritual director. Talk to a priest or a sister. Most communities have a Vocation Directress who helps people who are discerning and calling to speak with her does not mean you have to join. Most of us need help when it comes to being objective about ourselves and what is going on within our heart. Second, pray EVERYDAY. Go to Mass as often as you can, get to a perpetual adoration chapel and spend time with Jesus. Spend time just sitting with Him. It is a lot easier to recognize His voice if you spend time everyday listening to Him. Lastly, if God is calling, say YES! This life is challenging and demands everything you’ve got, and it is totally worth it. He is worth it.

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?

I am so grateful for this gift from our Holy Father. Saint John Paul II said, “To carry out the Church’s mission all the rich variety of consecrated vocations are vitally necessary. Christians cannot accept with passivity and indifference the decline in vocations. Vocations are the future of the Church.” This year is a clarion call to Religious and Laity alike, to Wake Up the World to the beauty of Consecrated Life and its mission in the Church.

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

Before I entered, I used to backpack and I still love to hike. Sometimes we have the opportunity to hike together in the local mountains here in Southern California, and yes, we do  wear our habits when we hike. On a more regular basis, I enjoy doing anything outdoors, spending time with my sisters, playing the piano, and I am an avid reader.