I am going to answer a wondering that many of you have raised: “What does a young woman who is considering a religious vocation do to decide?”
That’s a good question. And it’s not something you should necessarily know the answer to. Unfortunately, there are not many religious sisters visible in the world today. However, most religious communities do offer ways for you to get to know them better.
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When our community was founded, for instance, we began vocation-discernment retreats for people like you who are trying to ask, “God, how can I know?”
These retreats are incredible. Each year, we offer three: November, February, and April. While all of the retreat information is on our website, SistersofMary.org, I want to walk you through one to give you a better sense of the experience.
Bringing young women together from all over the world, these vocation-discernment retreats are only 24-hours, and run from Saturday to Sunday afternoon. They’re held at our school, Spiritus Sanctus Academy in Ann Arbor.
You fly into the Detroit airport sometime on Friday (where we pick you up). Those who live closer will opt to drive to us directly on Saturday. Either way, your experience begins at the Motherhouse. Immediately, you are immersed in a virtuous, strong, fast-growing, and solid religious community.
The fast-paced retreats are packed with information. We provide so much inspiration that at the end you say, “Oh my goodness. We did so much. I can’t believe it was just 24 hours.” You begin to say, “Could this be my life? Could I see myself living a religious life?” And later on, you might say, “Could it be Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother the Eucharist?”
Part of what we help you understand is that, when we make our vows to God, we literally bring our entire selves to him with a tremendous joy, saying, “I only know the present moment, but I promise I will be with you for all of the future because you are faithful.” He gets it. He knows it. He knew it probably before you even thought it. So, the beauty of a religious consecration is such a freeing thing.
However, I do not think the world understands this type of commitment; the world is afraid of it, and I’m seeing that in young people today. They ask, “How can I make a commitment like that?” Perhaps they have not seen a commitment in the two people they love the most—their own parents. Perhaps they have not seen commitment in other people they look up to, and perhaps they have been let down by them at some point. Perhaps their peers don’t have commitment in their own lives. And perhaps they say, “I wonder how I am to have that ability to say, to a future spouse or to Christ himself, I will be with you. I will be united to you most intimately for the rest of my earthly existence.” How can they do that?
This is where we encourage you to step out of our secular society and realize that, by baptism, you have the graces that raise us above the mundane world we live in. Above the newspaper stories. Above the radio programs. Above the websites and other things that are always showing us negativity and even threatening us.
We strive to show you that, by God’s grace, every one of us should be good. If we’re not good, we’re the anomaly — not the other way around. We were made for goodness. We were made with hearts that desire to give themselves away completely.
These are the questions you take before the Eucharist at our vocational retreats. In all of the many retreats that we have had, the young women have gone off to make a wide variety of vocational decisions. Even if the weekend doesn’t end with you narrowing down your choices to a particular one, it still serves as an opportunity to say, “I never knew this about myself. I’m on the right path. I’m going to go and find out.”
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP is a Foundress and Vocations Director for the Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her podcast “And The Truth Shall Set You Free” can be downloaded every Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST from iTunes. The podcast can be seen on YouTube at GoLEDigital.