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Saturday, 31 March 2012

Order, Order: Carmelites





Founder: The actual founder of the Carmelite order has been in debate for centuries. They trace their history back to the prophets Elias and Eliseus though some credit Saint Bertold as being the founder of the order. 

Date: 12th century

Charism: Generally contemplative/monastic, but there are apostolic/active Carmelite Missionaries too.

History: The debate about their founder aside, the Carmelites as we know them today began in the 12th century from a community of hermits near the supposed site of Elijah's cave. The Carmelites thus began as an eremitic order (hermits) but later evolved and became more mendicant although many communities still retain aspects of their eremitic origins. Carmelite life is often seen as a merger of eremitic and community life. Their rule was written by Saint Albert Avogadro to resolve disputes about how they should live as a community. The rule is known for being the shortest of the rules of consecrated life and is in part taken directly from the Rule of Saint Augustine. In the 13th century the Carmelites had migrated to Europe and were approved as a new order in 1274. The Carmelites have not been exempt from the troubles that have plagued religious communities but renewed interest in Carmelite spirituality (no doubt influenced by popular Carmelite saints) has led to a revival in the order and a return to their original spirit. Carmelites today are separated into Discalced Carmelites (OCD) and Carmelites of the Ancient Observance (O. Carm).

Notable Saints:
St. John of the Cross
St. Teresa of Avila
St Therese of Lisieux 
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
St Simon Stock
Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity
St Nuño of Saint Mary


Recommended: 
Catholic Encyclopaedia - The Carmelite Order
The Official Website of the Carmelite Order
Cenacle Catholic Books - Carmelite Literature

Friday, 30 March 2012

Community Spotlight: Prince of Peace Abbey, Oceanside CA



Order: Benedictine
Gender: Men
Charism: Contemplative/monastic
Eligibility: 20-45 years of age, active in parish live for two years at least (at least weekly Mass attendance), must spend one year in contact with the community
Formation:
min. six months postulancy, twelve months novitiate: evaluation by the chapter as to whether they should continue after six months and again at the twelve, thee years temporary vows: may be extended for one to six years.
Vows: stability, obedience, conversion of life
Practices: Divine Office, Adoration on Sundays, Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Vespers
History: Founded in 1958 by monks from another abbey in Indiana.

Recommended:
Books for Sale - the abbey has many old books for sale, often rare and hard to find, relating to prayer, the Divine Office, Liturgy, chant, etc.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Community Spotlight: Visitation Sisters, Tyringham MA




Order: Visitation
Gender: Women
Charism: Contemplative
Eligibility: 18-45 years of age,
Formation: 6 months - 1 year postulancy, two year novitiate, three years temporary vows: first two spent in the novitiate, last spent in the full community
Vows: poverty, chastity and obedience
Practices: Divine Office, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, music,
History: The community was originally founded in 1853 in Iowa as an offshoot from a community in France. At this time they had schools in order to support themselves. The community moved several times, first to New York and then to Delaware. In 1893 the generosity of benefactress allowed the community to close it's school and return to fully contemplative, cloistered life. In 1993 the community moved to Massachusetts and moved to the current monastery in 1995.

Recommended:
Sacred Heart Talks - every month one of the sisters gives a talk on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and you can read these at the link.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Blog Update

Some of you will have already seen but we have a brand new feature called Order, Order. These posts will serve as an introduction to various orders and give details of their founder, charism/apostolate, the history of the order, some notable saints from the order and some further recommended reading. It can be daunting with all those different orders and charisms out there so we hope by bringing you these posts you can expand your knowledge without being daunted by page after page of confusing information.

I'm also working on a new feature, tentatively named Saints Corner. As tends to be the case with me, it does what it says on the tin.

Anyway hope you're all having a blessed Lent!

God Bless
Emily Ann Francis

Reflection on life...

Have you ever actually wondered why things seem to work in a certain way? How seemingly everything eventually fits together in a way you would never expect it to? Well, I do. I wonder about things like this all the time. The thoughts at the back of my mind, deep inside the deepest depths of my heart, the desires, the calling that God is giving me, where God is leading me to. I always wonder where I will end up, and the uncertainty makes me scared and nervous, and sometimes even anxious, but at the same time I feel excitment knowing that whatever it is, there is some sort of plan set out, a path out there for me - something that is unique to only me, something that will be different from every other one of God's children. All the experiences I have had, travelling around, learning different languages, interacting with people, developing skills I can use in my life now and later have been an adventure. That's how I think of life being once I have had the opportunity to fulfil my dreams...part of which include being received into full communion with the Catholic Church - and yes, I'm still not Catholic yet, but soon, although not too soon, I will be. Patience will have my prayers answered again, and with this, I am sure, and I am certain.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Vocation Story: Sr M. Jennifer

This vocation story comes from Sr M. Jennifer from the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.

I had been exposed to only a few sisters in my early years, and although I liked them and enjoyed helping them, I never imagined becoming one myself. When I was about nine we were introduced to Schoenstatt, and the first sister I met was Sr. Marie. She invited my sister and I to come to camp in Sleepy Eye, MN, and soon I became a regular participant. I enjoyed being with the sisters, for they were always happy, and they knew how to make you feel at home. But still, my plan was to grow up, get married, and have lots of kids. I would never become a sister- or so I thought!

When I was fifteen, I was able to attend the Reception of five new sisters in Waukesha. I enjoyed it very much. Everything was so beautiful… and I believe at that occasion, the seed was planted - although I didn’t realize it yet.

The first time I actually gave it a thought was after my sixteenth birthday. On that occasion my parents gave me a chastity ring, which is a ring that symbolizes I will remain chaste until marriage – or forever! It was a very solemn moment as my father took the ring and placed it on my left hand. Needless to say, this made a deep impression on me, and I began to wonder ~ what if God is really calling me to be a sister? I had always prayed a simple vocation prayer everyday, asking for the grace to know what my vocation in life is, but it never occurred to me that maybe I was to be one of the few chosen for the consecrated life.

I had also always been encouraged to remain open, and even if there is the slightest inspiration in my heart to think of the consecrated life, I should not ignore it, but really pray about it and be open to God’s call. So I waited and prayed, keeping myself open to any sign from above. And this sign came during a vocation retreat I attended. It wasn’t anything extraordinary – just a song which I had heard for the first time called “The Summons.” While I listened to the words, it seemed as if Christ was speaking directly to me. “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name? Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same…?”

From the depths of my heart I knew I wanted to say ‘yes.’ And I cannot describe the great peace that filled my soul once I had said that very simple word. With that I knew I was called to be a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary. This decision was confirmed and strengthened a few weeks later as I participated in the girls’ youth pilgrimage to Schoenstatt and Rome. On August 10th I made my covenant of love in the Original Shrine, and I realized how much God had given me through Schoenstatt. It was his merciful love that had called me here, and I knew I could never repay him for everything he had given me. With this I decided to give my life for Schoenstatt. And of course, God is never outdone in generosity, for with every little gift we give him, he in turn lavishly bestows his abundant gifts and graces. To this I can testify!

Was it always easy? God needed to prove my love and faithfulness to him. Sometimes I would think – “Maybe this is all a dream… Marriage is also so beautiful… Wouldn’t it be fun to go to college…Can I really be a sister?” But in the end I am convinced that it was prayer that helped me through – my own prayers and those of others. And this thought always stuck with me: I heard my call in a moment of grace, so I can count on grace to help me remain faithful to it. And you can do the same! You can count on my prayers for you as you also discern your vocation... And please remember: the call one receives from God is the greatest treasure one can possess, and only that can make you truly happy!

Vocation Story: Sr Cecilia Maria, Passionist

From Classics to Catholic, Music to Monastic

helping with the children's choir at Grace Lutheran Church during high school


My vocation story begins a long time before I ever heard of the Passionists, and even long before I entered the Catholic Church. Baptized and raised as a Lutheran, I had a happy childhood full of love and adventure –thanks largely to my beautiful parents and sister. However, I have very few memories of churchgoing before I was age 13. In fact, at age 12 I remember denying that I believed in God, not so much because I couldn’t conceive of His existence, but because He meant nothing to me. I just didn’t care. However, the summer before I began eighth grade, my army-engineer father was stationed in Virginia, and our family began attending church again in our new town. From the very first moment I walked into Grace Lutheran Church,I who had been functionally a nonbeliever immediately knew that I was encountering something truer than anything I had ever seen before. God was there. I fell head over heels in love with Him and with the Christian liturgy that day, and it seems as if He has drawn me deeper ever since. Very early on, I developed a strong devotion to Holy Communion, which quickly became the center of my life and the highlight of every week. To receive the Body and Blood of Jesus seemed as necessary as breathing and as sublime as, well, heaven itself!
my father in dress uniform
and I during my senior year
in high school
Along with my falling in love with Christianity came an attraction to religious life as I knew it. The only exposure I had to nuns was through the movie The Sound of Music, but in it I saw and heard about a life completely dedicated to God, to his service, to His people; a life in which every breath one takes and every moment one lives is somehow consecrated to God. This captured my imagination, and I remember at about age 14, asking my mother and my pastor, “Why aren’t there Lutheran nuns? Because if there were, I could totally see myself doing that!” The thought got filed away in the back of my mind in a box labeled Catholic Things That Don’t Apply to Me (which is a dangerous box to have in the back of one’s mind!), and I continued through high school with a great and very secret desire to dedicate my life to God. The only avenue that I knew at the time was ordained ministry in the Lutheran Church, and so I secretly considered following that path.

performing in a Latin comedy with the
St. Olaf classics dept



In the fall of 2002 I arrived at the Lutheran St. Olaf College in Northfield MN, in order to study music and classics. For the first time in my life, I found myself among friends who openly discussed faith and religion, and it was an incredible experience to probe and explore the nature of truth among these young people who hailed from nearly every walk of Christianity and agnosticism. Through the “great books” program I enrolled in, I also was exposed to scripture studies and to the writings of the Church Fathers. The more I studied and discussed Catholic and Protestant theologies, the more I found that the Catholics were making sense. My Catholic friends were defending what I had simply assumed was my Christian faith as a Lutheran, particularly with regard to the Eucharist. The Catholics pronounced the Eucharistic doctrines that I had encountered in the liturgy but had not found in Lutheran theology; the Catholics maintained the simple and mysterious assertion that on the altar really is the Body of Christ whom we praise, adore, and receive into our own bodies. For me, this was a sine qua non – where the Eucharist was, the Church was, and where it wasn’t, I couldn’t be!

hiking with my father near our home in Bellingham, WA
That same year, I discovered the Rosary – a friend taught me to pray it in Latin – and Eucharistic Adoration at the local Catholic parish, and between the two of these devotions, things simply snowballed. By the end of my freshman year of college, I realized that not only was I considering becoming Catholic, but I was well on the way to doing so. At a certain point, I realized: “I’m going to be Catholic. Catholics have nuns. I could be a nun!” The box at the back of my mind had opened! For about two weeks, I searched the internet for various communities of nuns, but I soon realized that I needed to step back and address the larger issues first. After I figured out who God is and what the Church is and where I fit into all of it, then maybe I could tackle discernment.

first study in Rome, standing
outside the Passionist church,
Sts. John and Paul
Of course, a major part of that journey of “figuring out” was delving into Catholic teaching on ordination and on the vocation of Christian women. A friend pointed me to John Paul Mulieris Dignitatem, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women,” and his Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,“On Priestly Ordination,” and these documents had a profound influence on my understanding of my own identity in the Church. The seeds they planted in my heart have steadily grown and blossomed over the years since I first read them.

receiving a blessing from my sponser (now a priest) at his diaconate ordination
By the grace of God, I was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church on December 13, 2003. For about a year afterward, I concentrated on learning how to live as a Catholic; thoughts of vocation, while not forgotten, were put on hold as much as possible. By August, however, I could no longer ignore God’s increasingly insistent draw on my heart to enter into deeper union with Him; and one evening in my room, I promised before a crucifix that I would consecrate my life to Him, even though I had no idea how exactly He wanted me to do so. That marked the beginning of my years of “active vocational discernment.”


second study abroad,
outside of Assisi

My senior year in college presented me with the necessity of deciding my post-baccalaureate direction. I knew that, although I longed to find and enter a convent, I was a very young Catholic and spiritually unready to take that step. Turning my attention, therefore, to applying to degree programs in Scriptural Studies, I found that my heart became more and more confused as the process unfolded. I took my confusion to Eucharistic Adoration and asked for God’s help in knowing what to do. He used that hour to remind me of what I was about. In the midst of writing“why I want to come to your school” essays, I had forgotten the deepest desires of my heart: to exist always in adoration before Him, and to impart to the whole world the joy that I had received from Him, my very being becoming a channel of His love and grace. After reminding me of these desires, He made it clear that He wanted me to attend not the more prestigious schools to which I had been admitted for doctoral studies, but the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul MN, where He would prepare me to fulfill these desires.

with Msgr. Georg Gaenswein
during my graduate study in Rome
While earning a Masters of Arts in Catholic Studies at UST, I was able to live in an archdiocesan-run Women’s House of Discernment, which was a beautiful experience of living in community. The three of us shared a common prayer life – a Eucharistic chapel right in our home! – as well as common meals and a vibrant friendship. I was able to have a spiritual director for the first time, and my degree program gave me the opportunity to study in Rome for six months. Both in Rome and at UST, my studies and activities kept me in close contact with the seminarians and priests, which was a great grace for me.

Discernment Household
Part of my involvement with the Discernment Household allowed me to help the Vocations Office lead a “Nun Run” for young women interested in learning about religious life. I was one of thirteen who piled into two cars and visited ten different convents in ten days in March of 2007, and our itinerary brought us here to St. Joseph Monastery. At the time, I had never heard of the Passionists, but in the two nights and one day we spent here, I instantly recognized my own heart in the Passionist charism. Not only did I find incarnated here the precise desires to which God had recalled me in that hour of Adoration, but since high school I had desired to pour myself out in adoration and thanksgiving at the foot of the Cross; the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary had long been my favorite; Our Lady of Sorrows had insisted on being my patroness in the Discernment Household; and my focus during that Lent had been on dwelling in the pierced side of Christ.

conducting choir practice at the
Church of the Assumption

After the Nun Run, I was fairly certain that I had a Passionist vocation, but I kept receiving both interior and exterior confirmations that it was not yet time to enter, that God had more work to do in me. So I finished my degree and in 2008 returned to the monastery for a live-in visit. Despite my wonderful and peaceful experience during those days, the Lord still told me to wait, and so I moved back to Washington State with the intention of entering the workforce. Almost miraculously, I was given a position as parish music director at the local Catholic Church, which was an entirely graced experience. Wholly unlooked for, it was for me a priceless opportunity to grow in holiness as a Catholic laywoman working in the very heart of parish life. I told God when I accepted the job that the vocational ball was in His court, and that I was not going to worry about the next step until He gave a clear signal. In Lent of 2009, during an 8-day Ignatian Retreat, He finally invited me to come follow Him to Calvary and I was able to begin my Aspirancy with the Passionists that August.


Sister Cecilia Maria of the Body of Christ
Novice

Order, Order: Salesians



Founder: St. John Bosco & St. Maria Mazzarello

Date: Late Nineteenth Century

Apostolate: Generally teaching, working with young people, but also taking care of older sisters. Salesian sisters also sometimes work in healthcare and other ministries too.

History: 
http://salesianmissions.org/about-us/history-salesians


Notable Saints: 


Recommended: 
Catholic Encycolpaedia - the Salesian Society
Salesians of Don Bosco - UK
Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco - UK
Salesians of Don Bosco - Canada
Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco - Canada
Salesians of Don Bosco Western Province - USA
Salesians of Don Bosco Eastern Province - USA
Salesian Sisters Western Province - USA
Salesian Sisters Eastern Province - USA

Monday, 26 March 2012

Community Spotlight: Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey, Lafayette



Order: Trappist
Gender: Men
Charism: Contemplative
Eligibility: Good physical and mental health
Formation: One year postulancy, two plus years noviciate,
Vows: stability, conversion of life, obedience
Practices: Rosary, Lectio Divina, Gregorian chant,
History: The community stems from another Trappist abbey in Rhode Island. When the Rhode Island community began to become overcrowded they decided to start a new community and 34 of the monks (the community then numbered 130) left to start this venture and the new community was officially founded in 1948. They again became overcrowded and in 1955 moved to Lafayette, OR, where they now remain.

Order, Order: Benedictines





Founder: Saint Benedict

Date: ca. 529

Charism: Monastic/contemplative

History:  The Benedictine Order is very unique among the contemplative orders. It is not, strictly speaking, an order in the same sense as say the Carmelites. Benedictine houses are united under the same Rule and same spiritual family but unlike other orders they do not have a system of centralised authority or a general superior. The Benedictine Order can be broken down into smaller families known as Congregations. Individual houses remain autonomous and are united in spirit rather than in authority.

Benedictine monasticism spread rapidly in the Western Church and although the order had it's share of scandals and failures there was not a widespread corruption and the order remained in constant reform and continued to grow. It is estimated that in the fourteenth century there were 37,000 Benedictine monasteries. The Reformation devastated the order, leaving Benedictine monasticism extinct in many countries. The French Revolution further damaged the order and by the beginning of the nineteenth century there were only fifty houses left. Benedictine life has since however seen a huge revival, now numbering almost seven hundred houses. [Info. from Catholic Encyclopaedia, see Recommended]

Notable Saints: 
Saint Benedict 
Saint Scholastica
Blessed Hildegard
Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Recommended: 
Catholic Encyclopaedia - the Benedictine Order
Order of Saint Benedict
The Rule of St Benedict Latin English

Community Spotlight: Salesian Sisters, International Provinces

This was originally posted by Kim but I would just like to say that this is our first Community Spotlight written by a member of the community! Thank you very much to Sr Colleen for her help!  - Emily




Order: Salesian
Gender: Women
Apostolate: Teaching - almost every one of our Sisters teaches for some time. We love kids, so youth ministry, camps, retreat work, missionary work, nursing, healthcare...teaching kids or caring for our elderly Sisters.
Eligibility: 18-35, average intelligence, good health
Formation: 1 year aspirancy, one year postulancy, two years novitiate. Six - Nine years temporary vows.
Vows: poverty, chastity, obedience (i.e. three evangelical counsels)
Practices: Daily Mass and Rosary, Morning and evening prayer, half hour spiritual reading and half hour meditation all in common, Angelus and Regina Caeli recited three times daily, as well as a brief entrustment to Our Lady and a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.


History: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salesian_Sisters_of_Don_Bosco
http://www.salesiansisterseast.org/History_and_Heritage.html

Recommended:

Our vocation video is here.
http://www.youtube.com/user/happynun

I would also recommend the latest video on the life of St. John Bosco - "Mission to Love"

Vocation Story: Sr Teresa & Sr Faustina (Carmelite)

This is two vocation stories that come from two then-novices with the Lafayette Carmelites.


Brittlyn (Sr. Teresa), at left and Kalyn (Sr. Faustina) rejoicing in the gift of Our Lady's habit.

Kalyn Meche met us when she was about ten years old. Her family was driving by the Monastery when she saw one of our extern Sisters in the yard. "Daddy, go back. I'd like to talk to that Sister!" From then on, there was a desire and love for Carmel that never left her. She kept in contact with us, made days of recollection at the Monastery, received encouragement and advice from her spiritual director, etc. After going through many trials and difficulties, Kalyn entered the Monastery on October 1, 2010 at the age of 18.

Her first months were not easy but she remained firm in her determination to be a Carmelite. On September 30, 2011 Kalyn received the Habit of Our Lady and became Sister Maria Faustina of Merciful Love. The date was significant for her in that it is the date of St. Therese's death and the birthday of Mother Theresa Margaret, our Foundress. Sister has always had a great devotion to St. Faustina and St. Therese. She loves their spirit of total abandonment and trust and endeavors to incorporate these childlike virtues in her own life. Her desire of many, many years has been fulfilled. "All I want now is to be a true Carmelite and a loving Bride of Jesus."

Brittlyn Sonnier, likewise 18 when she entered, came to know of us through one of the weekend Veritas Retreats. She had struggled against a vocation for a few months, but after the retreat and coming to see us, she knew that Jesus was calling her to Carmel. When asked what she expected to find in Carmel, her reply was: "I really don't know. All I know is that Jesus wants me there." The date of her entrance was set for October 15, 2010.

Brittlyn's mother was dying of cancer and her concern was whether or not she should enter as planned or would it be better to stay and help her father care for the other four younger children. Being a family of deep faith, her father told her to go to Carmel if she felt God calling her. Her brothers and twin sisters also encouraged her. She then asked her Mother, whom she was caring for in the hospital. True to her conviction of Brittlyn's vocation, Monique gave her eldest daughter her blessing and encouraged her in her desire to give herself entirely to Our Lord.

This is indeed the niche God has chosen for her. She has imbibed the spirit of Our Holy Mother from the start and has her deep spirit of prayer and generosity. On October 15, 2011 Brittlyn received the Habit and became Sister Teresa of Jesus.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Vocation Story: Sister Faustina

This vocation story comes from Sr Faustina from the Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis.

When I was 36 years old, I was working as an LPN in a nursing home, had my own house, my own car, my friends. I thought my life was "all set!" I went to Mass daily after work, was active in Pro-Life activities...

I thought to myself, "What more is there in life?!" Well, GOD was preparing to answer that question in a way I never expected. In December of 1998, I went to confession just before Christmas at a penance service. I confessed to a priest I didn't know. He asked me, "have you ever thought about being a sister?" I was really shocked and didn't really know what to say. I prayed about it, and decided to let go of it.

Six months later, I was praying with a group of Pro-Life friends at an abortion clinic-there was a priest with us that I again, didn't know! After the prayer service, he turned and asked me, "Have you ever thought about being a sister?" By this time, I knew GOD was really pursuing me. All I could do was PRAY with all my heart to really know the WILL of GOD! After a few months of "on my own prayer time" I realized that I really needed some help to discern this call. I called the priest I met at the prayer vigil at the abortion clinic and asked for spiritual direction, which Father very generously gave. I still spent a lot of time in prayer, especially in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

I filled out a "vocations discernment" postcard with information on my occupation, age, etc. Within a couple of weeks, I started receiving brochures on communities from all over the country. The first one I received was from the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of East Peoria. I called the vocations director and asked two specific questions. First, "Do you wear a religious habit?" Secondly, "Are you obedient to the Holy Father?" When sister answered "YES" to both questions, I knew I had to come and see. Of course, I was very enthused about their apostolate-Healthcare!!!

On my first visit, I sat and talked with the vocations director and was impressed by her joy and love for Christ in her religious life. I had one main challenge in mind, however. I didn't know how to tell my family about this vocation discernment. I was a Catholic convert from age 11 and the only Catholic in my family. Sister encouraged me to tell my family as soon as possible so that dialogue could begin and some of the stress from this announcement could be resolved early in the discernment process. After a great deal of prayer, I told my family of my vocation discernment. It was difficult at first, but as time went on, they realized that I was seriously considering this. They didn't understand, but eventually they said, "If this truly makes you happy, we want what you want!" Then, the next challenge was to get my house ready for sale. Much work had to be done to "fix it up!" I needed to learn how to budget my money more wisely and say "NO!" to some of the things in life that I thought were so "necessary." As my house repairs were being completed, I realized that GOD was teaching me to save money and truly strive toward a truly worthwhile goal! These two challenges helped me to let go of the attachments in life and really begin to "Seek GOD!" Of course, I still love my family--and they love me! And, as for the house, I can say that I enjoyed my time in the house, but I think GOD allowed me to have it in the first place to enable me to give HIM something that was truly "All Mine!" out of LOVE for HIM!!!!

I am so grateful for this opportunity to SEEK Christ and Love HIM in this community. One passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew comes to mind, "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all he has and buys it." Mt 13:45-46. I came into this community on August 11, 2002 and my life has been all the better for it. THANKS BE TO GOD!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Vocation Stories: Brother Hieu Pham (Trappist)

This vocation story comes from Brother Hieu Pham at the Abbey of New Clairvaux.

I am Brother Hieu Pham in Vina, California. I was born and grew up in a large family in central Viet Nam, the fourth of seven children.

I believe God had a big influence on my call as a monk. When I was five, I went to live with my grandmother, who helped the parish priest at his house; I also helped her and the pastor. At the time I had no idea what a vocation was -- or a monk or even a seminarian. It was then I learned a little bit about discipline, life and ministry to the Church under the care of a pastor. After two years I went back home to live with my parents until I finished High School. In my senior year, my pastor encouraged me to be a religious as a monk or seminarian. After I graduated, I decided to join one of the Cistercian communities of the Common Observance, but I realized that I did not really feel called to it. So I went back home to help my parents. In 1999, I went to study music in the Catholic Music School of Sai gon for a year. Midyear 2000, I went back to my hometown and served my parish for two years. In August 2002, I entered the Common Observance community at Chau son Abbey in Viet Nam. That time I felt God was calling me because I felt happy and at peace living there.

After living in Chau son Abbey for two years as a postulant, our Abbot Dom Francis asked me if I was interested in going to New Clairvaux Abbey, a Trappist Monastery in the United States. I had 6 months to pray and discern God’s will for me. After deciding it was the right thing to do, I sensed a growing conviction and I decided to go. I came to the US on February 20, 2005 and have been living at New Clairvaux Abbey for six years now.

Many people, including friends and relatives have asked me why I chose to live the contemplative life. They have told me that I would probably prefer living as an active religious rather than the contemplative life. Fortunately my family has respected my choice and supported my decision. I know they miss me especially during family gatherings and major celebrations. In my culture, there is a tradition that when there is a big event, such as the Lunar New Year, every family member comes back home and gathers together, even when they live far away.

So here I am at New Clairvaux. Even though I have had many struggles and difficulties with language, culture, and so on… more and more I find peace and joy in my commitment to God and to my brothers at the community of Vina. With God’s help, I hope to be faithful to my vocation.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Community Spotlight: Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles



Order: Benedictine
Gender: Women
Charism: Contemplative
Eligibility: 
Formation: Several months postulancy (variable), two year novitiate, first vows for one year and renewed annually for five years before perpetual profession
Vows: Obedience, conversion of life, stability
Practices: Extraordinary Form Mass, Latin Divine Office, Lectio Divina,
History: The community was founded in 1995 under the name of the Oblates of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. In 2006 they were invited to move to a new diocese and there became a Public Association of the Faithful and became the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. More can be found here.

Recommended: 

Shop: The sisters have a shop selling CDs, vestments and other items. 

Newsletter: Follow the link to subscribe to their newsletter. 

Reflection on Solemn Profession

This is a reflection from the website of St Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde. On the 6th January 2012 the community were blessed with a young sister making her solemn profession. In honour of this, they posted up on their website a reflection written by another sister a few years earlier.

From the Solemn Profession of Sr Elizabeth (6th January 2012)

Prudentes virgines... 'Wise virgins, trim your lamps: behold the Bridegroom comes; go forth to meet him.' The sacristan had provided a long and fat candle, which was doubtless wise as I was gripping it so tightly that if it had been any slimmer it would have snapped in half. The most terrifying part of the profession ceremony is the beginning, when one is summoned to the sanctuary and walks up the choir, candle in hand, singing
Et nunc sequor: 'Now with all my heart I follow you; it is you I revere, and your face I long to see. O Lord, do not disappoint me; deal with me gently and according to the greatness of your mercy.' This prayer of the three young men in the fiery furnace (Dan 3.41-42) is in itself an act of self-offering and of trust; since the Daniel story contains the theme of passing from death to new life, the prayer also introduces the paschal and baptismal dimension of profession. Accounts of the rite in the seventh century describe the nun carrying a candle in each hand; perhaps too much wax had spilt on too many habits over the centuries so that the number was reduced to just one.

The profession ceremony has two parts, first, monastic profession itself, and then the rite of consecration. For the monastic profession we follow what St Benedict prescribes in chapter 58 of the Rule. The bishop, representing the Church, asks the nun if she promises to fix her stability in this community, if she will undertake the conversion of her life according to the Rule of St Benedict and if she will make profession of obedience. To each of these questions she answers Promitto, 'I promise.' She then reads out the chart on which she has already written her vows. The chart is vellum and adorned with the monastery's crest. Once I had written them, the Wednesday before the ceremony, I prayed fervently for the bishop, for if he had fallen ill and had to cancel, I would have had to write the chart out all over again.

After signing the chart and placing it on the altar one seals the offering of oneself by singing the Suscipe: 'Uphold me, O Lord, according to your word, and I shall live, and let me not be disappointed in my hope' (Ps 118[119].116). After this the newly professed nun kneels before the bishop to receive the monastic cowl, the capacious, broad-sleeved overgarment which is worn over the habit for Vigils, Lauds, Mass and Vespers and on other solemn occasions. Meanwhile the community sings the Regnum mundi, 'The kingdom of the world and all earthly allurements I have renounced for the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ whom I have seen, whom I have loved, in whom I have believed, whom I have chosen as my love.' This and the other antiphons used in the rite are from the Acts of St Agnes which, while composed probably in the fifth century, two hundred years after her martyrdom, express the single-minded dedication to Christ of which she was exemplar.

This concludes the vows part of the ceremony. For every Christian, the most important vows of his life are his baptismal vows. To make monastic vows is to say: This is the way I shall live out and hope to bring to perfection the vows of my baptism. That is why the profession ceremony follows the pattern of the baptismal rite, with the questioning by the bishop, 'Do you promise...?'just as at baptism the candidate is asked, 'Do you believe...?'; the reading of the profession chart corresponds to the saying of the Creed; and the clothing in the cowl corresponds both to baptism's white garment and, because of its shape, to the signing with the sign of the cross.

The second part of the ceremony is the Rite of Consecration. If profession expresses what we do for God, consecration is about what God does to us. The language becomes more spousal since the consecrated woman more clearly embodies the relationship between Christ and his Bride, the Church. The first reference to a special rite of consecration is St Ambrose's account of Pope Liberius' consecration of his sister on Christmas Day in 352 or 353. The nun prostrates while the Litany of Saints is sung. All who have made monastic profession agree that this is the most relaxing part of the ceremony: there is nothing to do but surrender oneself. There is a standard list of saints but others may be added: I made sure that my parents' patrons were included and others which are important to me. At the end of the Litany one kneels before the Bishop for the solemn prayer of consecration. The consecratory prayer which we use is first cited in the Leonine Sacramentary (first quarter of the seventh century) but phrases in it suggest that St Leo may have written it or known it. As the prayer states, God's first blessing is on marriage, but he has nevertheless granted that there should be some who, without being married themselves, desire the mystery of which marriage is a sign.1 The prayer concludes: 'In love may she revere you; in love may she serve you. Be her honour, her joy, and her will; in sorrow be her consolation; in doubt, her counsel; in injury, her defence; in tribulation, her patience; in poverty, her riches; in fasting, her food; in sickness, her healing. In you may she possess all things, whom she has chosen above all things.'

The newly-consecrated nun now comes forward to receive the veil, ring and book. The Bishop gives her the black veil saying, 'Receive the sacred veil which will mark you as one who has left the world and has truly and humbly and with all the love of your heart submitted herself eternally as a spouse to Christ Jesus: may he defend you from all evil and lead you to life eternal'. The nun then rises and sings Posuit signum, 'He has placed a sign upon my face that I may receive no lover but him.' She then kneels while the Bishop gives her a gold ring, saying, 'Receive the ring of faith, the seal of the Holy Spirit, that you may be called the spouse of God, and, if you serve him with fidelity, may receive an eternal crown.' All our rings are engraved with one's monastic name and 'Jesus'. The antiphon sung on receiving the ring is Ipsi sum desponsata, 'I am espoused to him whom the angels serve; before his beauty the sun and moon stand in wonder.' Finally one kneels before the Bishop to be presented with the book of the Divine Office with the words, 'Receive this book, so that, putting nothing before the work of God, you may day and night sing the praises of God our creator in the Church.' To sing God's praises in the Divine Office, to have the whole day arranged so that this takes first place, to be daily fed and nourished by the psalms with all their passion and grandeur, to follow the round of the liturgical year and the unfolding of the mystery of salvation with all its richness and glory, is the principal privilege and joy of the Benedictine nun. We come to the monastery to seek God, but we do this not in a void but in the words of the psalms with which Christ himself prayed and in the framework developed by the Church's two thousand years of reflection on what Christ did and is still doing.

The final antiphon which the newly-consecrated nun sings sums up her joy at the union with Christ represented by the veil and ring, and the task of singing the Divine Office: Ecce quod concupivi, "Behold, what I longed for, I now see; what I hoped for, I now possess; I am united in heaven to him whom on earth I have loved with all my heart." The other privilege of the nun is to have someone to obey, so that she can live in the same dynamic of obedience in which Christ lived, whose food was to do the will of the Father. So the last act of the rite is to go to Mother Abbess and ìmake one's obedience by placing one's joined hands between hers and receiving the kiss of peace. Then one goes to the community, who are one's fellow soldiers, friends and truly one's sisters, and receives the kiss of peace from each one. During this kiss of peace an antiphon and psalm are sung: my choice was the antiphon Simile est, "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, gave all that he had and bought it," and Psalm 33(34), "I will bless the Lord at all times."

Mass then continued; all nervousness had long disappeared and the whole day was one of joy and gratitude. On our profession anniversaries we sing the Suscipe again surrounded by our community. The profession day is only the beginning of the privilege and joy of being a Benedictine nun.

1 "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her...that she might be holy and without blemish... This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church" (Eph 5.25, 27, 32).



Thursday, 22 March 2012

Blog Update

If the blog looks a little funky then it's just because I'm playing around with the layout a bit, trying to see if I can't make it a little bit easier to navigate. When you try and change things sometimes it goes a little crazy so please bear with me and I'll have it all spruced up in no time.

Update to an update: I think I've got it okay now. My aim was to make the sidebars and the pages easier to navigate, the pages tabs were getting cluttered and the sidebar was so long it was crazy. The pages links and some of the 'functional' stuff have been moved to a new left sidebar so there you can find the the pages, labels, follow by email, search, followers and the blog archive. The 'contact us' on the sidebar has been moved to its own new page. The right sidebar is now the contributors, me and Kim's own blogs and then pictures of saints who founded various religious orders.

I hope you like the slightly modified look and if you have any feedback on it, positive or negative, feel free to let us know.

God Bless
Emily Ann Francis

Blog Update

In addition to the previous labels, I've begun adding labels for the different religious orders. Previously there were only 'Vocation Stories', 'Community Spotlight' or 'Blog Updates' labels, as well as 'The Story So Far' for both me and Kim. Not all religious orders have labels as of yet but those will come in as they are featured on the blog. As with the pages on communities, the main orders will have labels of their own and then the rest go into 'Other Religious'. It's not to be discriminating against smaller orders, it's just logistically so much easier for us to control that way - if we had a label for every single one then it would just get way too out of hand.

On the sidebar to the right we have a section with all the labels so you can just click on one of them and it will take you to all the posts with that label. All Vocation Stories and Community Spotlights will now be given a label so you can find everything we have relating to a given order.

God Bless
Emily Ann Francis

Vocation Story: Sr Johanna

This vocation story comes from Sr Johanna at Turvey Abbey

Make me know the way I should walk: to you I lift up my soul (Psalm 142). I prayed with the Psalmist for God’s guidance over many years, but even from my childhood, God was already guiding my heart and sending people into my life to lead me toward and prepare me for becoming a nun.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, USA, I was baptized Catholic but raised Lutheran, going to church with my Aunt Ann and being introduced to the Bible by my Sunday School teachers. Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Catechism classes were some of the highlights of my childhood, when spending time with Jesus was the main event. In junior high school, aged about 11 or 12, a new, young priest—Fr Douglas—arrived at my father’s parish. He stirred my interest in Catholicism and through him I discovered the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Sioux City, Iowa. By correspondence, they became my teachers in the Catholic faith and the monastic tradition. Their prioress, Mother Therese, introduced me to her great patron saint—Therese of the Child Jesus—who became my patron saint when I was confirmed in the Catholic Church on my 17th birthday (which just happened to be Holy Saturday that year).

I began studying English at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, but left after my first year to try my vocation at Sioux City, but found, to my sorrow, that I wasn’t suited to Carmel. I left after a few months but gained a formation in Carmelite monasticism that has influenced my spiritual life ever since. I finished my BA at DePaul then worked in publishing for a few years and did my MA and PhD in English Literature at the University of Birmingham. While I enjoyed my work and my studies, I knew there was unfinished business regarding my being a nun. I always stayed in touch with the Carmelites and they remained a quiet, prayerful presence in my life.

In Birmingham, I started attending retreats with the Benedictine monks at Belmont Abbey and Douai Abbey. As I finished my PhD, I knew the time had come to make another attempt at monastic life. I asked Fr Gervase at Douai for guidance and he confidently directed me to Turvey. I entered the Priory of Our Lady of Peace in September 2003 and now I ‘lift up my soul’ along with a whole community of Sisters through whom God continues to speak and to guide me.

Behind the scenes of my journey are the many other friends who have supported me along the way—some for a short while, just the length of a course or retreat, and others for many years. I have truly encountered Christ in each of them and it is now my privilege and pleasure to support them through prayer. I also remember in prayer the men and women who are searching for their vocations and ask God to speak to their hearts and send them guides as good as the ones he sent me.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Story So Far: Emily

I've now added a new page with my vocation story. I've tried to keep it short but like any vocation story there's a lot to say! It will of course change and develop over time but I will keep you updated as to any changes. If you want to know more, do check out my personal blog Emily Ann's Corner which is like a journal of my discernment.

God Bless
Emily Ann Francis

Perpetual Profession: Sr Louise PDDM


"Wasted love?" My journey towards Perpetual Profession


Anointing at Bethany by Marko Ivan Rupnik
“Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, the house was filled with the scent of the ointment” (John 12: 3)

The excitement within begins to build for myself, my religious sisters, family and friends as we draw nearer to the 19th of June 2011. On that day in my home parish of St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Athlone, I will profess my ‘yes’ forever as a religious sister! On my vocational journey, it closes one chapter which began back in 1998 when I came for a live-in discernment in the community in Dublin whilst it opens another of a love which has been maturing, tried and tested and which peaks in Perpetual Profession and then continues to mature on life’s journey!

The particular Gospel passage which has accompanied me during this past year of preparation for this solemn moment and which also will has been used for the liturgy of the rite of Profession is a passage from John’s Gospel where a woman anoints the feet of Jesus with precious ointment (John 12:1-8). The story of Jesus’ feet anointed with tears and perfume by a sinful woman is a love story, pure and simple. Not some cheap romance or TV soap love but one of complete and oblivious donation! When I look at my life at this moment and see this biblical woman’s gesture, I feel Jesus is saying to me: “Louise, are you ready to do the same? To be this self-emptying gift of prayer and joyful love, unafraid of stares or conflict from an often incomprehensive society? Are you willing to be balm for the brokenness and hurt of today’s humanity?” With his grace, I can answer with a heart-filled: “Yes!” With a public consecration, a sign of commitment to the whole Church, I will profess vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in community forever. I show my readiness to consecrate everything I am and have to God because He first consecrated me, firstly through the gift of baptism and then by bringing it to maturation in the call to religious life as a Disciple of the Divine Master. It is a call not to hold back what I can be and give but to continuously offer acts of selflessness in justice, creativity and compassion for my brothers and sisters.

For those around her, the gesture by the woman in the Gospel was a ‘waste’! The same echo often resounds when it comes to religious life: Is it not a waste of a life? For me, it’s not! it is a life spent not on myself, but for others, a life dedicated out of love alone. For some, our prayer is a waste, for others going to Mass is foolishness, but for the ones who truly love Jesus it’s giving Him everything because He deserves it. Love knows no bounds.

My journey so far has brought me immense happiness and satisfaction alongside times of sadness and challenges. It has allowed me to live and minister in four different countries in various communities with different apostolic services, live with sisters from all over the world, solidify bonds of communion and friendship through a common mission and spirituality at the service of the Eucharist, the Priesthood and the Liturgy. In accordance with our specific charism, in daily adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to represent the needs of the Church and humanity and pray in reparation for the sins committed by the media, this is also where I find my strength and in turn the mission I carry out assumes its meaning. I discerned that the best way for me to live out my vocation to love is by this life of continual prayer and union with God as a Disciple of the Divine Master. Having met the sisters, I was struck by their authenticity which was reflected in the deep joy and peace they exteriorly radiated with a mission which is shaped by prayer and liturgy, community, ministry and hospitality especially to priests. This was the magnet which attracted me to become part of this reality when I found it vibrantly resonating within my own heart as a teenager.

It’s not always easy to embrace the challenges which religious consecration presents but during these years I have come to understand that I can give without loving, but I cannot love without giving. Drawing strength from Jesus present in the Eucharist, when my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart. I can find a quiet assurance, an inner peace, in the core of my being that can face the doubts, the loneliness, and the anxiety. It is there that He meets me where I am and as I am, making this concrete existence the place where He lives and dwells.

Coming into religious life was an act of faith and love, both on my part and God’s part. To be a religious, today more than ever, is a risk, a huge leap of faith and love but it is a risk worth taking but it also of love-given and received! People often ask me: “Are you sure?” One hundred percent surety doesn’t enter into the equation here but what I am sure of is that God has a unique plan for me. He is with me and He will not leave me. Without a deep sense of being held in this extravagant love, it would be hard to trust, face various decisions or let go of my safety nets which I had woven in order to keep God’s plans out and mine in! I am sure that, like the woman in the Gospel, that only when we stop measuring our relationship and response to God’s call in negative quantitative value, in what has to be ‘given up, that we truly start living qualitatively and receive the immensity of grace which He wants to pour onto our vulnerable love.

(this article appeared in the Irish Catholic for Vocations Sunday, 2011).

Vocation Story: Foundress of Tyburn Convent (OSB)

Mother Mary of St. Peter, MARIE ADELE GARNIER was born in 1838 in Burgundy France, where she lived with her family - father,
three sisters and one brother. For many years she taught as a governess and was greatly loved and esteemed by both parents and children. From her youth she felt deeply the love of Christ touching her heart, drawing her to surrender herself totally to him, especially through the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Holy Mass was the SUN of her life. Hence her devotion to the Eucharistic Christ became the centre of her spiritual life.

Marie-Adele loved Christ with such ardent love that she wasdrawn to establish Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in order to express fully her desire to offer the Sacred Heart of Jesus an unceasing homage of love and reparation.

Thus, the Eucharist, the Sacrament and Sacrifice of the love of Christ, and the Sacred Heart, symbol of the love human and divine of Christ for his Father and for all humanity, could never be separated in the soul of Marie Adele. Hence Marie Adele sought to live this eucharistic life as a solitary at Montmartre in Paris. Her health failed and she was obliged to abandon this way of life. Several years later the Sacred Heart of Jesus called her to establish a religious family consecrated to the worship and praise of the Holy Trinity through liturgical prayer and eucharistic adoration in the contemplative life. She founded her Congregation - the ADORERS OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS, OF MONTMARTRE, in 1898 at Montmartre, Paris, with the cordial approbation of Cardinal Richard, Archbishop of Paris.

The aim of her Congregation - to glorify the Most Blessed Trinity, finds practical expression as follows :
i) the daily participation in the Holy Mass;
ii) the choral celebration of the Divine Office;
iii) the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Monstrance;
iv) daily prayer for the Holy Father, the Church, the country & for the entire human family.

Mother Marie Adele Garnier established this form of contemplative life within the monastic tradition of the Church under the Rule of St. Benedict.

In 1901 the young community fled to England on account of the laws of France against religious Orders. The Foundress settled her new community at TYBURN in London, at the famous site of the martyrdom of more than 100 Catholic Reformation Martyrs. This monastery is now the Mother House of her Congregation which has monasteries in England Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and in Peru, Ecuador and in Colombia.

Mother Marie Adele Garnier died at Tyburn in the year 1924 renowned for holiness and virtue She is honoured and remembered especially for her heroic love of God and neighbour, her spirit of prayer, divine contemplation, rich mystical and spiritual doctrine, humility, obedience, patience, simplicity & purity of heart, and above all for her spirit of total "self-abandon" to the Holy Will of God, which she declared to be her unique good.

"The Father is seeking ADORERS in spirit and in truth" John 4:23

Mother Marie Adele Garnier is famed for favours regarding babies, families, property, financial matters, priests and spiritual needs. If you receive, as a response to your prayer. any material or spiritual favour through the intercession of Mother Marie Adele Garnier, (Mother Mary of St Peter). Kindly inform any of the monasteries of her Congregation.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Vocation Story: Br Paul, Trappist

This vocation story comes from Br Paul at the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lafayette, OR.

During my first year of college, I had so much drifted away from the church, for various reasons, that I soon stopped considering myself Catholic. However, early into my sophomore year, while studying abroad, I had a sort of spiritual crisis. Having lost my moorings in Catholicism, I no longer had a stable metaphysical ground on which to stand. I wondered what it would mean if God didn’t exist and how I could go on living if there were no ultimate foundation of meaning and value.

These questions initiated a search which led me to discover, first, meditation of a non-discursive Zen type, and secondly, mysticism. From the little reading I’d done on mysticism, I derived the hope that it might offer a path towards the experiential knowledge of Ultimate Reality, the Absolute. It was Zen Buddhism that most appealed to me, for it seemed to make available to its practitioners an awareness of life as a wondrous unity. However, Jesus still remained in my mind and heart, if not as God, at least as my model of goodness and love. Also, the more I discovered of Christian mysticism, the more it attracted me in a way that Buddhism did not, that is, on the level of the heart and of the desire for love-union with a personal God.

Before I graduated, I was able to discern that my heart belonged to Jesus, and I subsequently understood that if I did not adore him as God, I would be giving him less than his due. By degrees, I made my way back to full identification with my Catholic heritage as well. Before, I had half-seriously considered joining a Zen monastery to pursue enlightenment. Now, as a Christian, I was drawn to a life of radical devotion to the Lord, maybe in a Christian monastery. A priest friend, who was a mentor to me, saw me as a contemplative spirit and recommended that I spend time at a Benedictine abbey of his acquaintance. So, after graduation from college, one of the first things I did was to spend two weeks at this abbey, getting to know the community and the place. It was a good place for prayer, and I met some very good people there, but I was ill at ease with the atmosphere of affluence I encountered as well as with the apostolate of parish and boys prep school that they maintain. I left there both attracted to what I had experienced of the monastic life and at the same repelled.

Afterwards, I spent a couple of years living in lay Christian communities and doing service work with poor and marginalized people, in the course of which I continued to explore active and contemplative vocations. At one point, a friend of mine came back from a vacation to Oregon and brought me a pamphlet. His father had been a novice at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey back in the fifties, so he decided to check out his dad’s old haunt. It was from there that he had picked up this pamphlet advertising the Monastic Life Retreat, a month-long retreat during which one lives with the monks and follows their way of life. I was intrigued! I knew a little about the Trappists from my reading of Merton, and although I didn’t really think I was called to such a cloistered life, I was attracted to the idea of spending a month there to deepen my relationship with God in prayer.

Hence, in November 1995, I did the Monastic Life Retreat at Guadalupe. Even before I got to the place, I found myself quivering with an unexpected excitement of anticipation. Though that month in the rains of Western Oregon was hardly ecstatic and had plenty of ups and downs, it made a deep impression on me. It also made it impossible to move forward with the plan I had made to enter the aforementioned Benedictine house—what I’d discovered at Guadalupe seemed more authentic to me by comparison.

Nevertheless, I still didn’t believe I had a Trappist vocation and I really didn’t know what to do with myself. After several depressing months of doing a little work where I could find it, looking at other religious communities, and generally feeling very stuck, I decided my best option was to return to Guadalupe for the three-month Observership and see how that would go. Again, it was a good interval during which I became more enamored of the brothers and the place, but I was still not ready. There were too many options out there for me to be able to reduce them now to just one, and I could plunge in where I felt so uncertain.

At length, I was engaged in a very promising discernment with the Dominicans. I was attracted both to the charism of teaching and preaching and to the quality of most of the friars I had met. At the end of a vocation retreat, the friars passed out forms of application for candidacy, and I was about ready to sign up. But then, I said to myself: “If I do this, I will spend the rest of my life talking about God. But if I went to Guadalupe, I would spend the rest of my life listening to God.” And I realized, smiling inside, that the latter option was more truly “me,” corresponding to my heart’s desire. Although it would have been easy to do so, I didn’t sign up with the Friars Preachers.

Yet I wanted a little more confirmation of this intuition before I tried to commit to Guadalupe’s strictly contemplative monastic life. I went on a four day retreat at a Trappistine monastery near the place where I was living at that time. Those were four days of the most intense silence I’d ever known, almost too much for me. Towards the end, I came back from a walk to the guest lodgings where a couple of dogs started barking at me. The sister who was cleaning the guest rooms—the same one who had checked me in—came out to shoosh them, and we chatted a bit. After asking a number of questions about her monastic life, I told her about the time I’d spent at Guadalupe and that I was thinking of going back there. Then she said something like: “Oh, that’s funny. ‘Cause, you know, I’m not God or anything, but when I first saw you at the desk, something in my mind said ‘monk.’ ” (What made this remark all the more striking was the fact that, what with my shaggy curly hair, goatee, shorts, and well-worn T-shirt, I really didn’t look like any monk I’d seen.)

Well, that was all the confirmation I needed. I wrote to Abbot Peter asking him if I could begin postulancy, the first year of initial formation. He responded affirmatively. I entered in August 1997, and Guadalupe is my home now and, God willing, until the day I die.

The Story So Far: Kim

I have just added the page with my Vocation Story. Feel free to read it, comment, and ask me any questions. It is a bit long, so you may wish to read it in sections. It is mostly structured in blocks of a year or a period of time.

Asking for your prayers, while assuring you of mine,
Kim

Monday, 19 March 2012

Blog Update

The blog has been up for almost a month now and it's grown incredibly in that time. I've just added a new page which brings the total up to nine, plus the main blog page. Here is a quick run-down of the blog pages and their progress:

About: This is a small section explaining a little bit about the blog and our ambitions here.

Contact Us: This page just has our contact details should you wish to get in touch.

Vocations Resources: This page is still pretty small, I need to do some more work on this. There are some links to both UK and US sites on vocations, I will be adding more as I find them. There are also a few links to reflections and retreats on the religious life.


Religious Communities - Australia & New Zealand: This is still somewhat under construction, I've added the main religious orders but am only halfway through the rest.


Religious Communities - Canada: I've done as much as I can here, though obviously as always please comment with any I've missed. Also, if you speak French there are a few I can't find the information for due to my mediocre French abilities so if you can help I would really appreciate it.


Religious Communities - International: These are the links to the international websites for various orders and communities. There aren't many there as of yet but I will try and expand it soon.


Religious Communities - UK & Ireland: I'm still working on some of the communities in Ireland. 


Religious Communities - USA: There are some orders I need to look into more, but otherwise this list is pretty extensive. 


Communities for Lay People: Pretty much does what it says on the tin, lay organisations associated with religious orders, oblates, third orders, etc. All countries are listed here so locations are not given any more specifically than the country but I will update this later. This list is pretty short at the moment so bear with us.

God Bless
Emily Ann Francis

Vocation Story of a Salesian Sister: Sr Colleen Clair FMA

If it’s ok, I’d like to tell you a little about myself and my call…just so you can know where I’m coming from.
My parents had 16 children…I’m the 14th. Since they had 16 children, I thought I could do more. At age 5, I remember telling my mother I was going to have 17 children. Later, that number changed to 21. At some point in my teens, I realized I would only be able to find one man who would allow me to have all the children I could ever want. His name is Jesus. I often said to myself that physically, I would never be able to bear all the children I want to have. I felt my heart was too big. That was not a statement of grandeur, but of a deep feeling.
In high school, I finally met the Salesian Sisters. I loved their joy, their sense of humor, their ability to make faith real, and to BE real. I loved to see them play volleyball with us, and just hang out. Love for God for the Salesian is not relegated to prayer life that is multiplied, but infuses the heart of life and our very breathing.
Salesians, in fact, until the last few years, found most of their vocations among their students. I think this is a testament to the quality of the presence of the Sisters among the young, and the power of the witness of their lives in community and for God.
So, I inevitably began to think about religious life. But who wants to be a nun today? That’s not cool! That’s not fun! So I got busy about NOT being a nun. I dated a few guys throughout high school, and every time I would come home, I really can’t explain this part, but there was an emptiness, like I wanted to say, “That’s all?”.
By Senior year, I realized that I would have to make a decision, and after a roller coaster of yes/no, I decided that I would have to give religious life a go, and here’s what made up my mind: I went to babysit for a couple. The woman was 34. They had two boys, nice kids, and fun to be with. The lady asked me once, “So, what are you going to do after high school?” I already had a standard answer to this question, and so I provided it. I said, “Well, I’m not sure, I guess I’ll just go to college and study to be a nurse, or something.” She couldn’t believe it. She kept saying, “What? You’re gonna be a nurse? You should work with kids! My kids love when you babysit; they count down the days until you come!” So I told her – and I will never konw why I told HER – I never told anyone this huge secret, but I said, “Well…I know it’s funny, but I have these great nuns at my school, and sometimes I think of joining them, but I’m not sure.” (Little did she know that the next thing she said would make up my mind~!) So she said, “Hey, that’s funny. I used to have great Sisters at my schoo, and I used to think the same thing, and sometimes, I STILL WONDER IF THAT’S WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE.” So, needless to say, I did NOT want to wind up 34 and having missed the boat on a vocation…I entered that year!
And it was excellent. That little something that was always unsatisfied and unsettled wound up being still and happy, and my heart was full, as it still is very much today.
I have taught for most of my religious life. Kids spend most of their day in school, and Salesians are all about kids, so… I taught everything from Kindergarten to High School…loving the work with the munchkins the most. After school hours were always full with teaching drums, guitar, calligraphy, twirling, drama clubs, arts and crafts, videography, crochet, basketball, and all sorts of other activities. For the most part, the Sisters take their skills and share them with the young during the afterschool hours…
Our “family spirit” is a spirit of joy. I hope it’s contagious enough for you to catch it, as I did!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Community Spotlight: Poor Clares, Arundel (England)



Order: Poor Clares
Gender: Women
Charism: Contemplative
Eligibility: Must be over 18 and have completed secondary education and spent a few years in further training or work experience.
Formation: Minimum of one year postulancy, two year novitiate, three years temporary vows, final vows
Vows: Chastity, poverty and obedience
Practices: Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday, the Divine Office,
History: The community was founded in 1886 as a stem from a Poor Clare community in Notting Hill. For a more detailed history please see here

Recommended: 

In 1990 the sisters decided to form a foundation in Kenya and in 1992 three sisters left Arundel to begin a new community. There are now ten sisters: three from Arundel, two solemnly professed Kenyan members, a sister in temporary vows, two postulants and two aspirants. For more information you can visit here