Online vocational materials and resources are so important and useful today. Actually, if it weren’t for such things, I wouldn’t be writing this article today. Back in 2013, I came across a website called Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia which had a list of religious institutes across the country. While searching through that list, I saw the name, “Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth”. Something in that name drew me, so I went to check out the congregation’s website…and the rest is history!
In this time of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown, connecting and discerning online has become more important. We’ve seen amazing work being done by many different people and groups.
On 10 October, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Missionaries of God’s Love Sisters and the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary responded to the invitation of Sr Paula Volchek, (Vocations Director of the Sisters of the Holy Family) to meet with nine young women from around Australia and New Zealand for an online discernment retreat.
At the beginning of our retreat, I offered a short talk about prayer, sharing the prayers that have been important to me throughout my discernment. We used words like “friendship”, “relationship”, and “connection” to describe prayer, and recognised that there’s no one way of praying and no essential prayer for discernment.
Sr Paula CSFN shared a brief video on the life of Blessed Frances Siedliska, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and spoke a bit about who Blessed Frances is for her, saying that she is inspired by Blessed Frances’ simplicity, openness and courage.
Sisters Therese, Katherine and Julie MGL spoke about the spirit, focus and mission of the Missionaries of God’s Love, and gave us five “hot tips” for discernment: pray, contact religious institutes, notice the signs of your heart, be active in your discernment, and share your journey with a spiritual director.
Then Sr Luka ISSM showed us a beautiful video in which Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary from all around the world spoke about their congregation and what they love.
After a short break, it was time for Q&A! This was opened by Sr Grace CSFN encouraging our participants to ask all the questions they had, even “Do the MGLs wear brown pyjamas?”, or “Do you have to have a boyfriend before becoming a sister?”
Our participants were interested in hearing how the sisters manage being separated from their families. The sisters shared, in different ways, that while it can be very hard to be separated from their families, they also feel at home with their communities and within their congregations.
Each of the sisters also shared one “best thing” about being a sister. Each had different responses, from being able to help others, to becoming the truest version of themselves, to living with others who share their same mission, spirit and charism.
Our retreat concluded with common prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, during which time we offered prayers for one another and for those in our hearts, and remembered all young people who are discerning their vocations. We also talked about our future plans to get together for a coffee once we can all meet in reality!
Maybe you are discerning your vocation right now and aren’t sure where God is leading you. Maybe you are finding it difficult to connect with congregations or institutes or to take the next step. Know that on our retreat we prayed for you, and will continue to pray for you as you navigate your journey.
We invite you to reach out to us:
Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth: http://csfn.org.au/
MGL Sisters: https://www.mglsisters.org/
Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary: https://schoenstatt.org.au/
Sr Sophie Boffa is a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth and a chaplain to Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals.