Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Heather Triggs, the guidance counselor at Holy Redeemer School, initially professed the three vows of consecrated life in November. Triggs, center, is photographed with Atlanta priests, from left, Father Michael Bremer, Father Tim Hepburn, Father Luke Ballman, with Father Don Heet of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, and Father Jack Knight of Atlanta.

Johns Creek

Counselor hopes consecration brings God into the midst of daily life

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 21, 2022

JOHNS CREEK—Heather Triggs, with her head covered by a white veil, restated her intentions to live as a consecrated woman, achieving a 20-year faith journey. 

She recited her vows in front of friends and family at a Mass Saturday, Jan. 15, at St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek. Six archdiocesan priests attended the Mass. 

Some 60 people filled the pews at the parish, many she has known the past two decades from her work and volunteering within the Atlanta Archdiocese, from youth ministry and Holy Spirit Church to Life Teen and the archdiocesan vocations office. 

“It was such a privilege to be in front of so many family and friends. To bring what the Lord has invited me to—consecration in him as his spouse—back into my own community within the context of a Mass was such a joyful gift to receive and to share,” she wrote in an email. 

She initially professed the three vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in November at a retreat center in Connecticut, but this Mass gave her Atlanta friends a chance to be with her. 

Triggs, who is 51, is the oldest of six children. She grew up in the Diocese of Savannah in Warner Robins. It was at her childhood parish—Sacred Heart Church—her faith took root. 

Participating in the life of the parish was a given, she said. Her parents befriended many religious sisters and priests.  

Triggs first felt a desire for religious life as a teen, but put that aside and pursued a career in counseling. She remained linked to the church, volunteering in youth ministry at Carrollton’s  Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church as she carved a career in public mental health with children and adolescents. Today, she is the guidance counselor at Holy Redeemer School. She volunteers on the Life Teen core group at St. Brigid Church where she worships. Triggs  also serves on the Vocations Board, where she interviews potential candidates for the Archdiocese of Atlanta seminarian formation program.

Heather Triggs, center, signs her vows of consecrated life, after professing them at a Connecticut retreat center. She initially professed the vows of chastity, obedience and poverty in November. Atlanta friends later attended a Mass of Thanksgiving where she renewed the vows.

In 2001, “the deep desire to be consecrated returned and never went away,” she said. But the desire was to remain in the archdiocese and it didn’t seem to be the right fit for Triggs to pursue religious life in a convent in another state.

 “I really felt the Lord was calling me to be in the church here in Atlanta,” she said.

An encounter about five years ago between an archdiocesan priest and the directress of a community in North America brought her to the St. Francis de Sales Secular Institute, a small global community of women. 

“I had not heard of secular institutes, a way to answer the Lord’s call and invitation to consecrated life, but in the world,” she said.

The vocation of secular institutes is briefly mentioned in “Perfectae Caritatis” from the Vatican Council II. The document called them “a true and full profession of the evangelical counsels in the world.” 

“This profession is recognized by the church and consecrates to God men and women, lay and clerical, who live in the world. Hence they should make a total dedication of themselves to God in perfect charity their chief aim,” according to the council. Its members are to be “truly a leaven in the world for the strengthening and growth of the body of Christ.” 

The St. Francis de Sales Secular Institute was founded in 1944 in Vienna, Austria, home of its international headquarters. In 1964 the community was given the status of secular institute. The DeSales Secular Institute has members in six countries: Austria, Germany, Namibia, Brazil, Ecuador and the United States.

According to its website, its “founding members desired to live ‘a more profoundly spiritual life’ and to do ‘missionary work in the factories, schools and offices where they were working.’” The mission is to “carry out the New Evangelization in the secular world, bringing the joy and love of Jesus Christ to those who don’t know him.” 

For Triggs, prayers and study took four years before her profession of vows. She is one of about 50 women who belong to the institute around the world, with a handful in the United States and Canada. They get together online weekly for community time and commit to a one-week retreat every year. She prays the Liturgy of the Hours, morning, evening and night.

Looking ahead, Triggs said she will continue to serve God as a reminder to other believers. “In the midst of the school day, there’s tests to study for and there’s the stress and anxiety of all of that, but maybe, hopefully, my presence also brings the Lord into the midst of all of that,” she said.