Good Zeal

Vocation Awareness

The Holy Spirit is certainly very active these days. We receive multiple requests daily looking for information about our community and for help with vocation discernment. That’s great! What we have learned from these requests, however, is that most inquirers have lack a basic understanding about vowed religious life in general. It has become common to receive requests from women who believe they are called to religious life but at the same time are not Catholic, are married and/or have dependent children.  What is revealed in this dynamic is a general lack of cultural awareness about religious life.  As a part of Vocation Awareness Week, perhaps we can offer some assistance with increasing cultural awareness about religious vocations.

Long gone are the days when Sisters primarily taught in Catholic schools and most Catholic children attended schools run or staffed by Sisters. While these children of yesteryear, like those portrayed in movies such as “The Trouble with Angels,” did not have a true understanding about of the lives of the Sisters who taught them, they knew far more than the youth today. So much social change has happened over the last fifty to sixty years that young people almost never personally encounter a vowed religious Sister or Brother and are left to their own imaginings or to secular stereotypes to fill in the gaps. It is not uncommon for women with no faith formation to inquire about a vocation to religious life. Those who work in vocation discernment can no longer assume that young people receive or have received some level of religious education at home.  This most-likely is one of the causes of what some have come to call “the vocation crisis” in the Catholic Church, referring to the sharp decline in the number of people joining religious communities in the global West.

God is working in the lives of all the women mentioned above because they are truly seeking, but the role of vocation directors is not spend years assisting them with discerning how God is acting in their daily lives.  Vocation directors assist those who are already on a path of intimate relationship with God in Christ to discern whether vowed religious life is the trajectory along which God is calling them in deepening that relationship.  Most young people of today need mentors in their lives who will model faithful Catholic life for them, friends who will mirror back to them how God is trustworthy and present in the smallest details of daily life. Then, over time, they may be ready to consider whether God is calling them to marriage and family life, a single life of service in the world, or even a life-long commitment to serving God in a religious community.

Here are the minimum essential prerequisites to consider becoming a member of a vowed religious community in the Catholic Church:
• Be a practicing Catholic, i.e. attend Sunday Mass weekly
• In the case of a convert to Catholicism, two years of life as a practicing Catholic
• Be never married or divorced with an annulment
• Have no dependent children, i.e. under the age of 18

For more information, follow the link here to the vocation home page of the website.

By Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, OSB

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