Vocation lessons from Cla-Clare!

(l-r)Cla-Clare, Sister Clare, and her mother Susie at Sister Clare’s First Vows celebration.

My Grandmother Clare Hornsby passed away recently and I would be remiss if I didn’t share some life lessons I learned from her on the topic of finding and nourishing your vocation. She lived 95 full years of life, not without hardship and trials and tribulations, but also with vigor, faith, and love to be able to face what life threw at her.  We lovingly called her “Cla-Clare” which is “Clare” twice because she did not want to be called Grandma or any synonym for grandma! So the rest of the article she will be addressed as “Cla-Clare”.

First a little background is that Cla-Clare served as a lawyer for 70 years in the state of Mississippi. She was married for fifty years before my grandfather Warren past away. She had three children, whom she lovingly called “her Freddy, her Susie, and her Bo”! She had 9 grandchildren who always knew of her love and support, and many nephews and nieces who also knew how much she loved and supported them. She was a vital piece of the community and stayed active doing what she could for the betterment of it.

Cla-Clare loved the law and was able to practice for 70 years because she sustained and nourished this vocation in her life. Most importantly she was able to become a lawyer because her parents never told her she ‘could not’, in fact they told her otherwise. This is the first lesson: how are we supporting and promoting children to reach their full potentials?  Are we personally and systemically helping them to develop and become their true selves? Or are we blocking this development in any way?

Cla-Clare had many sayings or little life tips she always shared and one of them was “the Law is a jealous mistress, you woo her well or you lose her.” She was passionate about her job. As we all know the law is ever-evolving and changing and is not stagnant. She kept learning and growing in her knowledge and becoming stronger in practice. Her nickname was “the barracuda” in court because she knew how to get her clients what they needed and would not settle for less. This did not happen overnight. It was an ongoing process. Cla-Clare loved my grandfather Warren very much and they had a loving and supportive relationship. Being a wife and mother was also part of her vocation. She would do those things that kept these relationships with her husband and children going. The second lesson is: nourish your vocation. Do those things which help you to grow and enhance you. Be with people who nourish your vocation. Be mindful enough to know who these people are in your life and what actions you take or choices you make help nourish you.

The third lesson is have a strong faith and spiritual life that sustains you. Cla-Clare had a faith life that sustained her. She had a relationship with God, Jesus and Mary. Her sense of humility and justice flowed from her faith. She trusted God and even when she waivered she knew God never did. This lesson is a personal one in the sense that each person’s relationship to the Divine is unique. Be mindful of your own relationship with divine and know what works for you and how you want to enrich or grow in it. There is no one “cookie-cutter” shape or mold that is the specific way for everyone to have a relationship with God.

Last but not least, Cla-Clare would always ask me “Do you love it?” when speaking of my vocation to Religious life. She would always ask others, “Do you love him/her?” when speaking to them on their marriage. She knew deep down this was the key ingredient, the glue that holds life together. She loved God, her family and friends, and her career. This love was evident in everything she did and it was catching. Where is your love coming from and going? How is love evident in your life? Is it love in the truest form? The answers to these questions are personal but they will help reveal and sustain your vocation.

I’m grateful to have had Cla-Clare in my life! I’m grateful to share a little bit about her with you today! When she was here Cla-Clare always said, “I’m sitting on top of the world, Darling” when anyone asked her how she was doing. Now we’re all saying she really is sitting on top of the World! So I hope to keep growing in all the ways Cla-Clare taught me and she is with me in a different way now. But nevertheless with me.

Blessings on the journey fellow pilgrim! ~Sister Clare

Be All You Can Be

I’m a Sister of St. Joseph.

I’m a lawyer.

I live in an ecovillage.

How cool is that?!?!

I often have the opportunity to talk with other sisters from the younger and middle-aged group of sisters. There are not a lot of us, but I love having conversations that help nurture the amazing life among us in this middle-time.

One sister recently reflected that as sisters, we are able to do many things and experience many things. We are able to maximize our potential personally, reaching goals that might not otherwise be possible. We are able to maximize our spiritual potential with a lifetime dedicated to the spiritual journey. And we are able to maximize our potential for service.

Religious life is a gift to those of us living it, when we are able to move in this direction. It is also a gift to the wider community with whom we are able to share our gifts, our wisdom and our service.

So the phrase “be all you can be” has taken on fresh meaning for me as a way to describe religious life. It is not a selfish phrase, but a celebration of God’s call and invitation to fullness of life and to sharing the abundance with those we serve.

I am full of gratitude for this wild and wonderful gift that is religious life.


The Inspiration of Now

“We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire. Dreams and prophecies together. The remembrance of how our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage prophetically to carry on those dreams.  This attitude will make us fruitful. Most importantly, it will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival.”  This text from Pope Francis’ homily on the World Day for Consecrated Life is a call to courageous remembering to guide future-oriented action.

On retreat over Martin Luther King weekend with seventeen other sisters in our twenties and thirties, one sister shared a question posed to her community:  “What was the best time in your community’s history?  What was the most inspirational time?  Why are the answers to these two questions different?”  While many of the sisters, in answer to the first question, automatically thought of the decades with huge entering classes, droves of sisters, and massive institutions, they typically then thought of, perhaps, the story of their founding, a time when the community took a risk on a new mission, or something comparable as the answer to the second.  Inspiration does not require numbers.  Prophetic work on behalf of the Gospel does not require numbers.

In our society we too often get stuck in deficit-based rather than asset-based thinking.  We see smaller numbers as a deficit, not as a very real asset.  While it is true that our congregations cannot be run with the same leadership model, structures, and institutions they were once able to maintain, I am excited about the relational, nimble, collaborative model that is being birthed.  It’s not something that will happen, it’s something that is happening now.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, selfie, outdoor and natureOne example is Giving Voice (G.V.).  Giving Voice is an organization for sisters under fifty from across the United States.  It maintains a core leadership team comprised of five finally professed, young sisters with staggered, three-year terms.  All of these sisters are in full-time ministry or are full-time students.  Our work is done via monthly Zoom meetings and one annual face-to-face weekend with e-mail and shared Google documents doing the trick in between.  In addition to the core team, other young, G.V. sisters are discerned and invited to lead things like the annual retreat, biannual national summer conference, and other committees as needed.  Everyone takes a turn and never have I been disappointed with an event or outcome.  I would name deep listening and shared leadership as two deeply seeded values of the organization.  We believe strongly that, “There is a leader in every chair,” and we consistently call each other to that reality.

This leadership model is how our vocation team functions and is comparable to other designs young sisters are developing across the country.

Pope Francis calls us, in the same Day of Consecrated Life homily on the Presentation to, “…go back to the Gospel passage and once more contemplate that scene. Surely, the song of Simeon and Anna was not the fruit of self-absorption or an analysis and review of their personal situation. It did not ring out because they were caught up in themselves and were worried that something bad might happen to them. Their song was born of hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age. That hope was rewarded when they encountered Jesus. When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing of his dreams. Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality.  Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where he belongs, in the midst of his people.”

So, whether you are discerning religious life and concerned about the rhetoric that “religious life is dying”, or whether you have been in religious life for many years, Pope Francis and I challenge you to asset-based thinking, to possibilities, to hope, to the joy of encountering Jesus and into the inspiration the Spirit is birthing among us.

–S. Sarah