“National Vocation Awareness Week, celebrated November 3-9, 2019, is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations. NVAW began in 1976. Beginning in 2014, NVAW was moved to the first full week of November. Each day during this week, take time to ask yourself, “What is it that I plan to do with my one wild and precious life?” [adapted from The Summer Day by Mary Oliver] “
Years ago, having finished college just a few months before, I tentatively stepped across the threshold into a large motherhouse complex. I stepped into a new world that has shaped me and colored my approach to life, to spirituality, to ministry, and to so many other things. I came with hopes and dreams, and with not a few misconceptions about the world that I was entering. In the early years of religious life, I learn about prayer from many early morning hours spent in chapel, from sisters who shared that experience with me, and from classes on prayer and spirituality. Several other young women entered with me and together, we navigated our first weeks and months of convent life, we built relationships and found our way in this strange new world we had all been drawn to by God and by our youthful notions of vocation. We took our places in the community’s ministries, according to our skills and interests, and from the start, we learned to integrate community, spirituality, and mission.
Several decades have passed since I first entered religious life. I have changed, religious life has changed around me and with me, the church has changed around us and with us, and the world has changed and continues to change. I have had amazing opportunities, studying and working in many places across the United States and beyond. I have worked with sisters and brothers from many religious communities, and in the course of our work together, we shared our maturing hopes and dreams for society, for justice, for the church, for our own communities, and for religious life itself.
As religious life evolves our congregations are smaller and our various networks will become more important. We will need different skills and we will be less institutional and closer to those we serve. Some years ago, I wrote Religious Life at the Crossroads to explore these currents in religious life. Orbis has just released my second book on this theme: Beyond the Crossroads: Religious Life in the 21st Century in which I continue this exploration.
I begin by drawing some lines of reflection from Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Sí on life in our common home on planet earth. I find the encyclical to be a parable of religious life. We are facing unprecedented challenges that could undermine the very future of religious life itself, as well as the future of individual communities and congregations. The challenge we face is multifaceted, with the decline in numbers being the most visible evidence. Many ask why people are joining religious life today in significantly smaller numbers. There are many reasons, the changing role of the laity, the changing understanding of religious life, the changing face of the church in society, the changing role of women in society and in the church, the changing nature of marriage and the family, and emerging needs of migrants, trafficking, and the environment.
In our rapidly changing global society, the identity of religious life is also shifting. Rapid social change strains the capacity of communities to respond, even as they tend to the urgent calls of mission and their own internal need to care for aging sisters and brothers. In this context, ongoing dialogue about the meaning of religious life can help us to pivot to a more authentic response in our lives and in our mission. In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, we are inviting co-creators who will join us to re-imagine religious life even as together we network in new ways and with new partners.
In the shifting sands of society, church and religious life, we need new images to help us to understand the changes that are occurring and how we might best position ourselves as individuals and as communities to do the great work to which we are called. We can understand it as a shift from institution to ecosystem, requiring a shift in our identity and in our way of doing community, spirituality, and mission. The overlapping circles of community will help to provide the resilience we need to nurture this evolutionary process.
My new book engages the public conversation about the evolution of religious life as we move beyond the crossroads into the heart of the twenty-first century. To order – click here.
I will also be giving an online presentation that will explore these currents religious life in the 21st century. Register here.
God has never been less than I imagined, and always more than I bargained for. Every day I am invited, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart,” and I might add close not your mind to what science reveals and faith teaches. All is connected; all is already one. My role is to wake up, to become conscious, to ask for an awareness that will impel me to actions beyond my comfort zone. Today, I am grateful to this inviting God who longs for me to be love to the Amazon as well as Notre Dame…. Read whole post
My name is Ceara Curry, and I am a St. Joseph Worker 2018-2019 in St. Paul, volunteering at Cretin-Derham Hall High School. I am also a recent graduate of Nazareth College in Rochester, NY and grew up in North Syracuse, NY.
In choosing the St. Joseph Worker Program and spending my year volunteering in Campus Ministry at Cretin-Derham Hall (CDH) High School, I am reminded every single day why I have made the right decision. Working with the staff and students at CDH, I feel so welcomed. Living and learning with my fellow St. Joseph Workers, I feel so loved. Being part of the wider CSJ Community, I feel so inspired. I am where I am meant to be.
Although I may have dealt with homesickness more than I ever thought I would and that I am deeply longing to be with my communities at home, I know that I have found yet another community that I can call home here in the Twin Cities. As I have learned throughout the years, God has a beautiful, mysterious way of making sure that I am taken care of wherever I am and that I have great potential to thrive and be my best self, always. I am eager now more than ever to move forward and take the next steps in my life. I am so happy and excited and blessed to be where I am. I find joy and delight living within this “both/and” paradox. I am where I am meant to be.
I encourage all of us as we make our way through this Advent season – this time of waiting and watching, this time of hope and new beginnings, this time of anticipation and surrender – to enter into the flow, to continue to open ourselves up to see: What are the signs that I am on the right path, the path that God has so graciously paved for me? I have found that once you open up your eyes and start noticing, once you open up your heart to gratitude for being right where you are…I am going to bet that you’re likely to see that God has been winking at you all along. I really do have faith that you and I are right where we are meant to be.
We are over-the-top with joy to welcome Sister Kristina DeNeve into the CSJ community. She officially entered the novitiate on July 3, 2019. We congratulate Kristina and pray for her as she grows in her vocation of loving God and neighbor.
Here’s a great article from Sr. Tracy Kemme, reflecting on the future for religious life. Realistic and hopeful!
Global sisterhood. Vibrant collaboration. Unity in diversity for Jesus’ mission.
These were the phrases that stayed with me as I listened to a panel of sister-peers in March. The event was Profundo Encuentro, a national discernment retreat for Hispanic young adult women, at which I was a guest. The question was, “How do you envision the future of religious life?”
Our local group of vocation directors met for a few days of input, networking, engagement and planning. Our speaker via video, Dr. Hofsman Ospino, shared rich insights into the place of culture in vocational discernment, and more broadly, its place in community, in church and in society.
Historically, people of color have not received the same opportunities and access that has been afforded to white people. This is true in the wider society and this is something that we are working to dismantle. We do this first of all by becoming aware of our privilege and by taking on new habits of mind and heart. We also do that by seeing and deconstructing societal norms and barriers to people of color. We have a lot of work to do.
In our days together, we focused inward on our church and on our religious communities. How can we be more ‘sister’ to our sister of color? One of our sisters of color shared her hopes: more than strategies or quick-fixes, she hopes that we can come into more and more authentic encounter. She hopes that we can truly dialogue with each other and share our community, our spirituality and our struggles for justice.
CSSJ – Into the Future is a collaborative of Sisters of St Joseph who were born in or after 1952, vowed members of the CSSJ congregations in the United States and Canada. We will gather from across the US this August in Kansas City.
We have been gathering in various configurations for a number of years. Back in the 1990s, many newer sisters felt the need to gather, to build relationships, to support one another and to support one another in religious life and mission. These circles of collaboration are a distinct facet of religious life today that has emerged in recent decades. These circles of collaboration provide spaces for the newer generations of sisters to build support networks, engage in joint projects and nurture emerging energies. Alongside the leadership conferences, vocation, and formation conferences, there are networks that the newer generations of religious have established.
In August, we will gather with other Sisters of St. Joseph. We also gather with sisters from other communities to celebrate and to nurture the great hope that we share amid all the challenges we face as communities, as a church community, and in the wider society.