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“Work, then, my daughter in the field you see God calling you to work in, and don’t trouble or weary your spirit over what is said to you but carry on courageously. Fear and serve God selflessly, and then don’t be bothered by what people say except to have compassion for them.”
These are the words of St. Catherine of Siena to a young woman who was struggling with discerning her call. Tomorrow is Catherine’s Feast Day. She was born in the tumultuous time of 1347 when the plague was raging through Europe. She cared for the sick, poor, and prisoners. She became a well known preacher and reconciler whom many followed. She even advised Popes. She responded to her times.
Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP, in her book, Speaking with Authority: Catherine of Siena and the Voices of Women Today, explains how much Catherine has to say to those in discernment:
“…as Catherine’s letters to others make clear, our unique gifts, circumstances, and relationships, as well as the specific needs of others and the concrete situations in which we find ourselves, disclose more specifically the unique vocation to which each of us is called. Further, the dimensions of one’s vocation unfold and shift during the course of a lifetime….The plague victims, the poor of the city of Siena, and political prisoners [Catherine] came to know made a claim on her and helped shape her concrete response to the gospel.” (Pg. 28-29)
How do the elements of your life disclose your unique vocation?
This week we feature guest blogger, Sister Marilyn Barnett, OP.
Recently I was interviewed by a student attending Siena Heights University about my life as a Dominican Sister. As I responded to his questions, I was struck again by the joy that continues to fill my life for having responded “yes” to God’s call sixty years ago.
Whatever vocation one chooses is never risk free or without challenges.
My life as a woman religious has been grounded in the belief that, with God walking with me on the journey of my life, I would never have to be afraid. That realization has brought a deep peace and joy to me throughout my many years as a religious Sister.
I learned many years ago something that changed my whole understanding about life. It was that life is all about relationships – with God, with those with whom you have committed, and with the wider world – especially with those who have been relegated to the margins of society and church.
In religious life, the tools to develop these kinds of relationships are fundamental, and the ground out of which we commit our lives. The loving support of the community through their warm hospitality, gracious concern and depth of conversations about things that really matter, provided the milieu for me to develop. This, coupled with the many spiritual and educational opportunities that were provided, allowed me to grow in ways I never imagined.
Whenever one enters into a relationship, it requires taking a leap of faith. My entering into religious life was a leap of faith that landed me into the arms of a loving God, and from that place there is really nothing that cannot be done in God’s name.
If I had to do it again I would most certainly take that leap of faith.
It has proved that for me, religious life has been the best life ever.
With great joy we celebrated the Rite of First Profession of Marilín Llanes this past Sunday! During our vow ceremonies, the Sister always makes a “statement of intent,” putting her commitment in her own words. This statement reflects what Marilín has discerned in order to walk forward on this path of vowed life:
Intent Statement for Temporary Vows – April 10, 2016
It is my intent with all my heart and soul to enter into a deeper commitment with my loving God, and my dear Adrian Dominican Sisters.
I pray that I may be open to God’s grace and invite the Spirit to create in me a clear, open, strong, full and joy-filled heart.
I want to preach the living Word of God Creator with a persistent, insistent, and consistent voice that challenges systems that oppress, repress, and depress all of our natural life, and to be present in solidarity with the poor and suffering of people on the margins.
Blessed am I to be called and to have found the way back home to my beloved Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“My yes to God is always, now, and forever.” These are the words of our Sister Alma who just made final vows on April 3. I just returned from the Philippines where I was able to be present with our 38 sisters there and celebrate the final vows of both Sisters Alma and Salvacion.
These are two women who have recently been through a very intense discernment and came to be sure they wanted to give their whole lives. They said the formation years haven’t always been easy, and there are certainly ups and downs, but they both knew this was the right step. I could see their excitement as the ceremony approached and was witness to their deep joy that day.
As we chatted the night before the ceremony, they could both articulate clearly what the vows mean to them. Alma speaks of her commitment as a covenant with God and as a commitment to serve God and the people of God with joy.” Salvacion sees her vows as “a manifestation of God’s mercy and compassion.” They are her way "to love and serve selflessly now and forever." Both sisters live lives of direct service, deep prayer, and community.
How would you describe your “yes” to God?
Blessings of the Easter Season,
This week we feature guest blogger, Sister Ann Romayne Fallon, OP, Holy Rosary Chapter Assistant.
It will soon be 70 years since I said “Yes” to God and responded to his call to life as an Adrian Dominican Sister. Actually, I was blessed with an early awareness of where this journey might take me and why I gave it much consideration, especially during my secondary school years. Looking back, I know this call was initiated by these remarkable women who nurtured my desire to learn and an even greater desire to become a teacher. My love for school was strong and kept the dream alive.
Ultimately, it was the wonderful spirit of these sisters that opened the door for me and encouraged the process of discernment toward this exciting and life-changing possibility. I found myself mentally exploring what it would be like to be sent to unknown places whenever and wherever needed and, of course, not fully realizing the great challenges that would be required in order to serve God’s people in the footsteps of Dominic. But nothing daunts those who are ready to take on the world!
With the support of faith-filled parents who swallowed their fears and allowed their oldest/recent high school graduate the freedom to follow her heart. As a result I have made a commitment to this incredible mystery that calls the heart to discipleship and the discovery of the difference between the “wisdom of the world” and the “wisdom of God.” And I have never looked back!
Religious life has granted me countless blessings and provided many opportunities to deepen my spiritual life, to live and enjoy the gift of community, and to be granted ministerial assignments that touched the lives of thousands of young people and helped them to recognize their mission to make our world a better place for others. A challenge that continues to be mine as well.
Several years ago, I was at a meeting that had several different religious traditions represented. People were invited to conduct a prayer service that would help the others learn about that faith. A Catholic Deacon decided to do a foot washing service.
I can still remember the silence, the sense of holiness, and the tears gently running down the cheeks of those who had never experienced this ritual before – they saw this man slowly pore water over their feet, cup the water and use it to bathe them, softly dry their feet, and end by giving a kiss to each foot.
This gesture requires trust and vulnerability on the part of the recipient and generosity and care on the part of the giver. We think of Pope Francis washing the feet of inmates. I recall a friend who used to wash feet at a homeless shelter. It is an intimate moment. It shows in a visceral way how Christ asks us to love one another – both in the giving and in the receiving.
In a way, the paths we choose, in our relationships and in our ministries, are a response to the question: “Whose feet will you wash?” What is your life’s response to this question?
There is a beautiful prayer called the “Breastplate of St. Patrick.” In honor of his feast day, I invite you to listen to a beautifully sung version of it here.
The lyrics are below. Take some time to let the words wash over you. Picture the images. When you get to the part about Christ, you might even try movement to match the words. That is a way of praying with your body.
After you have prayed, ponder by what power you arise. “I arise today through…”
I arise today through the strength of heaven
Light of sun, radiance of moon
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock
I arise today through God's strength to pilot me
God's eye to look before me
God's wisdom to guide me
God's way to lie before me
God's shield to protect me
From all who shall wish me ill
Afar and a-near
Alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel, merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul
Christ with me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ in me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me
I arise today
“I didn’t realize it was so beautiful here!” “Wow – you have so much going on; I had no idea!” Those were just a couple of the comments we heard last night as we held “An Evening with the Adrian Dominican Sisters,” and invited the local community to spend time with us, tour the motherhouse, and visit displays of the many activities in which we are involved. It was a great event.
Even in our small city, where we have had sisters since 1884, there are people who don’t know much about us. As human beings we need to connect, to meet face to face at times, to really encounter each other in the flesh, in order to really meet each other. We just get a better sense of people and their reality when we show up. That’s why Jesus said to his first followers, “Come and see.” He could have only talked and talked to them, but it was in journeying with him that they truly came to know him and his mission.
If you have a sense that you may be called to religious life, after you have done the e-mails and the calls and it still seems to draw you, but you are not sure, the next step is to “come and see.” Almost all communities of sisters, brothers and priests have this option. The next Adrian Dominican Sisters’ “Come and See” is April 15-17. Click here for more information.
What is God inviting you to “come and see” in your life?
Would you like to attend a nine day meeting with 200 people during which you have to discuss, come to agreement, and make decisions that affect your life for the next six years and beyond? Not only that, you want to do it in a spirit of prayer and with a desire to follow God’s will. On top of it, the people you are with aren’t simply colleagues, but the very people you have committed to share you life with.
We just did it. We just had a General Chapter, which is pretty much what I describe above. And we are still here, possibly more united, having taken time for silence, for prayer, for deep listening, for heartfelt discussion, for putting the common good ahead of our individual agendas, and for fun and laughter. That’s how you discern God’s will with 200 people. You have to invest yourself and let go at the same time. You have to listen for the voice of God in your sister, in small groups, in large groups, and in the words of prayer and scripture. You have to care deeply and let go in freedom.
A gathering like this is an act of trust in God and in your sisters.
Have you lived an experience of this type of large group discernment and trust?
Sometimes we think we’ve figured out a future direction, that we’ve discerned something, but than the other people involved don’t come to the same conclusion. It’s rather unsettling and can be very confusing. You can decide that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, but if they decide they don’t want to be with you, you obviously can’t force a relationship! This is true for a friendship, a job, and even a religious congregation. Discernment is a two way process – we do all we can to be faithful to God’s desire for our life, and then we hold it lightly. We need to leave God, the other person, and even ourselves free.
We are coming up to a General Chapter, a meeting held every six years in which we make decisions about our future direction and elect new leaders. We have been actively engaged in discerning for almost two years. No doubt many of us sisters will arrive with a strong sense of where we need to go in the future. And no doubt these ideas will not all be the same. We now will be called to discern together, to hold lightly the ideas that we bring and to hear the voice of God in the other.
Discernment is always bigger than “me and God.” What are the other voices you need to attend to in your own discernment?
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Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP
Sister Katherine Frazier, OP
Sister Maribeth Howell, OP
Sister Mary Jones, OP
Adrian Dominican Sisters
1257 East Siena Heights Drive
Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
View our video series called Commitment & Joy to learn about the gifts of vowed life.