Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Discerning a Vocation

Pope Francis: Wake up the World
On the Lifetime cable network, a six-week series titled “The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns” shows the discernments of five 20-something inquirers, as they are introduced to some of the realities of religious life.  

They are from various backgrounds: in the Bronx, Long Island, Illinois, California, and New Jersey.  One has a boyfriend, one was inspired by an actress-turned-nun, one sings, one has visions, the youngest is just out of college.

When they arrive at a large convent in Germantown, NY, they are greeted by their mentors: dozens of habited religious sisters providing a smiling group welcome.  

Then, each discerner is shown to a small room, and given a simple uniform.  Distinct preparation for “donning” the look of this community.  

Among challenges during the intense focus are leaving behind cellphones (a shock for the young folks: there were no cellphones when I joined the Franciscans); the rigors of particular apostolates (the second episode had care for the elderly and infirm, and the promo for next week shows urban service); and balancing time and energies for work, for community, for recreation, for prayer.

Those challenges are something each and every one of us is called to explore, as members of families and in our search for meaning in life.  What is God calling me to do?  What is my vision?  How do I balance ministry, community, recreation, prayer, to “keep my core.”

In the first episodes, the long-professed sisters share keen and kind observations about societal changes of those who enter, about the continual love of God, about how liturgies and prayer “help ground us and feeds our soul,” and about the challenges of being judgmental, of living with many different personalities, backgrounds, styles.  As the vocation director chuckled with her warm Irish humor, “I’m surprised there hasn’t been a murder.”  

The series reminds me of the searches of many people.  In my years as a college executive and professor, I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring and seeing the growth of thousands of teens and 20-somethings as they discern their callings: some to religious life, many more toward being the best laypersons they can be.  And these days, we have people who are lifelong learners, and they are open to a “call within a call” as Mother Teresa put it.  

Despite changes in society and in formation practices since I entered the Franciscans, there are still strong and varied threads in the tapestries of the Church, thanks to God’s mysterious blessings.  

Interested in real television?  “The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns” is on Tuesdays, 10 p.m. Eastern during Advent.  In this rare series, a subject may sometimes avoid cameras, to keep things personal.  You won’t find that on most of the celebrity reality shows.  The progressions will be fascinating: as discerners, postulants, novices, professed religious, or laypersons.

Interested in discerning a vocation?  See your local pastor or convent or friary.  And here’s the website for the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province:  

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