By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published October 31, 2019
ATLANTA—In his message for the 2019 World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis said, “Every vocation is a summons not to stand on the shore, nets in hand, but to follow Jesus on the path he has marked out for us, for our own happiness and for the good of those around us.”
On Nov. 3-9, dioceses across the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week. During this time, dioceses lead the effort in parishes and schools to “uphold and encourage the fostering of vocations among the faithful and to pray for those currently discerning a call to marriage, ordained ministry or consecrated life,” according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
During this year’s Vocation Awareness Week, the church in north and central Georgia prays for all in religious life, especially women religious.
Currently, there are more than 20 religious institutions of women represented in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. They are sisters, members of societies of apostolic life and of secular institutes. A society of apostolic life includes Catholic men and women who live together fraternally for a specific purpose. A secular institute consists of consecrated persons who live in the world, versus in community.
Responding to God’s call
The church defines vocation as a call from God to serve in religious life, marriage, single life or the priesthood. Discernment is a decision-making process that helps a person know God’s will for their life.
“Assisted by divine grace, each person is invited by the Lord to receive the gift of a specific vocation whereby they manifest God’s love in a particular way to the outside world,” states the USCCB.
Sister Mary Michaela, a sister who serves at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home in Atlanta, was not considering religious life originally, but felt her calling in her 40s.
Celebrating her tenth year with the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne this year, Sister Mary said she feels honored to be called by the Lord.
Sister Faustina Therese, a religious sister from Atlanta and member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia—the Nashville Dominicans—knows God initiated her call to religious life.
“It’s an invitation from the Lord,” said Sister Faustina Therese, a former Holy Trinity Church parishioner.
“A vocation to religious life is a response to God’s call,” said Sister Sophia Marie Peralta of the Sisters of Christian Charity. “It is something very personal and intimate as it is God’s invitation to love and to serve him and his church in a particular way,” she said.
God can call people at various ages and stages of their lives. “God has a specific plan for each person,” said Sister Faustina.
When God calls you, do not be discouraged or worry what others may say, said Sister Sophia Marie. “If God is calling you, don’t let your fears, excuses get in the way of exploring the call,” she said.
Sisters and community
Sister Faustina believes there is a beauty in community life.
“Each person in the community is like a gift to you,” she said.
Sister Faustina entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in 2017 and made her first profession of vows in August. Their apostolate focuses on educating youth, with sisters from the order serving in schools and missions in the United States and around the world. A day in Sister Faustina’s order consists of meditation, prayer, silence and fellowship with other sisters.
Sister Faustina is a graduate of Regina Caeli Academy in Atlanta and is now studying for a bachelor’s in history at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee.
Operated by the Hawthorne Dominicans, the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home provides palliative care for those with incurable cancer. Sister Mary said she feels God’s love through the people he surrounds her with and whom she cares for.
“You are so close to him,” she said of the work.
The works of the Sisters of Christian Charity, the order of Sister Sophia Marie, include education, healthcare and various kinds of social work.
“Being in community with my sisters, sharing our love for Christ and the holy Eucharist—it’s a blessing to pray together and share meals, joys and challenges, all the aspects of being part of a family,” said Sister Sophia Marie.
The sister made her final vows on Aug. 15. Members of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, where she worshipped locally, were present for the ceremony.
She now lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she serves as a campus minister for Allentown Central Catholic High School. This is Sister Sophia Marie’s second year in the position.
How to discern
For those considering religious life, many orders host “Come and See” or retreat weekends where you can visit the sisters and ask questions. After committing to an order, you will continue to spend time with the community and profess final vows.
“The Lord wants to be there for each one of us,” said Sister Faustina. “It’s a call to be with him in a specific way.”
Sister Mary encourages spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, having a good spiritual director and to persevere through the process.
Eucharistic adoration, silence and deepening your prayer life are encouraged during the discernment process, said Sister Sophia Marie.
“The discernment journey is a time of grace, purification and self-discovery that will help you identify the deepest desires of your heart,” she said.