By Jodi Magallanes
MISHAWAKA — Modern technology and increased fellowship and catechesis are among the tools that encourage today’s young women to consider the religious life, say two South Bend-area sisters.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, Heart of Mary Province, maintain a website that collects prayer requests and offers email correspondence with a vocation director, as well as opportunities to learn about vocations. Electronic means of communication with interested women have been around for all of the 12 years that Vocation Director Sister Lois DeLee has been involved in the apostolate, she said, and she welcomes their utility.
Sister DeLee also keeps the idea of a vocation in the minds of high school students and young adults by organizing religious retreats for them. She also coordinates visits to elementary schools, high schools and universities during which the sisters discuss religious life.
Accompanying the electronic avenue to vocation awareness with the opportunity to meet the sisters in person is important for young people, she believes — as is the support of priests who know the community and its charism. The women also participate in various vocation days and related events that are sponsored by the diocese.
Those efforts are yielding fruit. Every year for the past 12 years the congregation has been blessed with one or two new postulants. That isn’t any kind of a vocations explosion, Sister DeLee said, but it has made accommodations cozier at the convent and is populating their service missions.
“Even before the technology was available, it was the sisters’ apostolate work that people noticed. We work with joy. That’s the Franciscan spirit. It attracts people,” she said. “They meet our sisters in hospitals and workplaces. That’s how they get to know our order.
“In addition, the programs that are working at the parish level, like ARISE and Renew, when that influences a family and they are involved in the faith, then they’re more supportive when their son or daughters say they have an interest in religious life. All of these programs, they’re really a tool for overall evangelization,” Sister DeLee added.
Sister Margaret Mary “Margie” Lavonis of the Sisters of the Holy Cross agreed that example remains a powerful witness and encouragement for vocations.
Sister Lavonis is encouraged by steady interest in Sisters of the Holy Cross religious vocations. Presently, the order has 54 sisters in the stages of initial formation. Good websites have helped to spark interest among young women because so many young people are into technology.
“Many times it opens a door. However, personal contact is best. A problem is that sisters in many communities are doing ministries where there are not a lot of religious women,” she said. Because many young women in the U.S. are familiar with sisters only through caricatures on television, the movies or on a funny calendar, Sister Lavonis suspects that personally knowing a sister might encourage more and sincere interest in discerning a vocation.
Her congregation currently has one sister who hails from the U.S. — Sister Jessica Brock, a lawyer who began considering a vocation during her freshman year after responding to a new-student questionnaire about whether she’d be interested in discernment.
Sister Brock is a product of the digital age, and she thinks that using websites and social media to provide vocational information are indeed useful tools.
“In the United States, we’re sending less mail through the post. People are using the Internet to search for information and inform themselves. When looking for a college or job, we use the Internet to find out more about the organization and to help us make informed choices. I don’t think there is any reason that the same isn’t applicable to discerning religious life and choosing a community that fits,” she said.
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