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Extending God’s love, care and goodness into the world

January 07, 2015 | posted by Sister Joyce Detzel, CDP

Topics: Vocations

Extending God’s love, care and goodness into the world

As crisp fall mornings meld into the quiet beauty of the Advent season God asks the age-old question, “I am doing something new. Can you not see it?” The upcoming Year of Consecrated Life sets aside time for renewal and appreciation for Consecrated Life and invites the next generations of Catholics to give their hearts completely to Christ as religious brothers, priests or sisters. As vocation director for the Congregation of Divine Providence (CDP) in San Antonio, it is easy to see the new life that abounds on our convent grounds and enthusiastically respond, “Yes Lord, we do — and it is utterly amazing!”

In 1866 two courageous immigrant sisters crossed the ocean at a bishop’s request. Their humble promise to pour out their lives to open new schools and educate immigrants on the frontier resulted in a great harvest of over 1,400 women who have traveled to San Antonio to respond to God’s call to become Sisters of Divine Providence. The same “yes!” resounds in the lives of Sister Misty, Sister Kate and Hermana Maricruz, who recently made their first vows. It echoes in the hearts of our pre-novice Megan and our affiliates, Christina, Melissa and Ana Lourdes. Seeds reside in students and others discerning a vocation with us.

Someone recently said “Your job must be tough. Nobody wants to be a sister today.” Tell that to the women in our 2014 Summer Experience vocation program … or the 32 sisters who helped with the programming during this three months live-in and extended community experience! It puzzles those attending our With All My Heart Retreat and Convent Curious events. Even faithful, well-meaning Catholics may persist in the belief despite a recent CARA study that shows over 1,700 men and women in initial formation today. Young people DO want to know more about religious life. God’s call is still a precious gift to be discovered and treasured. The winds of change ushering in the Year of the Consecrated Life signal a newfound openness to discern a calling to religious life especially among young women in their 20s.

Religious communities must face the challenge of how to reach potential discerners when the vocation field is as vast as the world. Our congregation’s response to God’s “I am doing something new” means blogs, videos, texting and social media letters rather than brochures, e-mails, telephone calls and convent visits are now primary points of initial contact. On Jan. 21, 2015, A Nun’s Life Ministry will have a live streaming podcast from Our Lady of the Lake Convent. The podcast, chatroom and virtual Motherhouse Road Trip will expand our vocation outreach beyond traditional boundaries. Pilgrimages, mission trips, young adult associate groups, retreats, adoration, dinners and spiritual growth opportunities then grow the relationship started between the women and our congregation.

We were recently selected as one of five U.S. colleges/universities founded by women religious invited to participate in SisterStory, the second phase project of a $3.3 million grant obtained by St. Katherine’s University in Minnesota. (The Conrad G. Hilton Foundation supported the first phase roll out of “National Catholic Sisters Week” last March.) Six Our Lady of the Lake University students were paired with six of Sisters of Divine Providence. The students demystified religious life, debunked stereotypes and shared their 20-something impressions of Sisters of Divine Providence via in-depth conversations, blogs and other forms of social media. A video-taped final interview of each sister will become part of a national digital repository that can be accessed by women interested in religious life.

God continues to call. Women still love and follow Christ. God creates a vocation; we do our best to wisely use resources to prepare fertile soil and invite. Advent calls us to ponder the mystery of the new life growing within our congregation and in the church. It is a sacred privilege to watch the seeds of God’s love mature women into Sisters of Providence who extend God’s love, care and goodness into the world. In the end, our response to God’s “Can you not see it?” is only limited by our imagination and the creativity of the spirit who makes all things new.

Sister Joyce Detzel is a vocation director for the Congregation of Divine Providence in San Antonio. As a convert to Catholicism, attorney, mother, artist, educator, administrator and campus minister, she knew the call to love God with your whole heart comes in different ways at different times in life.