How Do You Read the Signs of the Times?

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

Throughout the church’s history, since religious life emerged as a viable life option for the faithful, there have been questions about whether it will survive or if it has a future. These questions have been raised by many, sometimes with curiosity and wonder, other times with concern and worry about where the next harvest of laborers will come from. Before I stepped into religious life 23 years ago, I wondered about the state of religious life then and what it might look like in the future.

Those who have been living in religious life know in their heart and by their faith that there is a mystical component to saying “Yes” to this life.  God calls and we respond affirmatively, not knowing what the future holds.  We live this life based on faith, trust, and prayer that God will lead us and show us the way through even the darkest times. Our history as religious gives us strength and examples for the journey because of the pioneering spirit and passion of those who came before us.

For those discerning a call to live in religious life today, these two questions about the present and future status of religious life may be stumbling blocks to considering this life.  Most sisters are older; fewer new or younger members are entering. Young women may or may not find a sister their age in the community that they are interested in joining. These factors may contribute to a young woman postponing or pursuing another path in life.

Faced with such uncertainty, we are confronted with asking again if religious life is ending, or is it evolving into something new? I believe that religious life has a future, even though it will be lived differently from what we know today. This is based on my lived experience of religious life and looking back on our 200-year history as Dominican Sisters in the United States. It is a history of pioneering women of the past who forged a future for religious life. And today, there are religious women who are shaping the future of religious life. To learn more about our past and hopes for the future as religious sisters, listen to a presentation by Sr. Joan Scanlon, OP on Pioneering Women of the Past, Innovators Shaping the Future.

What I admire about religious sisters from the past is the way they lived out the four pillars of Dominican life, prayer, community, study, and ministry. One by one, these sisters carried out God’s mission with faith, wisdom and consistency. These pioneering women met the challenges of their time and embraced the beauty of religious life and praised God for their call. They responded to the needs of their time with trust, faith, confidence, and passion. They moved beyond their comfort zone and the status quo for God’s mission. They shaped and paved the way for a future to unfold for years to come. They truly lived and preached the Gospel of peace.

Looking at the pioneering spirit of women religious from the past helps today’s women religious to focus on responding to today’s needs, to be grounded in the Gospel’s teachings, to trust in God and the call within. Today, women who are joining religious life are deeply aware of the challenges facing religious communities, and at the same time, feel impelled by the love of God to live a consecrated life.

With a great passion for the mission, today’s women religious are opening new doors of collaboration and connection, both within their own congregations and across other congregations. There are more opportunities to use our individual and group gifts, talents, and wisdom.  Also, more connections are possible with peers across the country and globally, inviting more opportunities to embark on missions together.

We may be living in transitional times, but religious life is not coming to an end. Instead, religious life has gradually shifted to a new way of prophetic living in mission.  In my community of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, our prophetic mission is noted in our prologue and direction statements and guides our mission work, which I invite you to read and reflect on here.

What are the signs of the times that God may be calling you to respond to? Do you desire to connect with God profoundly and live a life fulfilling God’s mission?  If you want to explore these and other questions further, contact us and together, we can discern your prophetic calling.  Visit our website also to learn more about our community.  You may also want to join us for a Winter Mission for Peace event, January 13-15, 2023, which we are offering via Zoom and in person at three different locations.  Click here for more event information and to register.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

4 responses to “How Do You Read the Signs of the Times?

  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful and very meaningful reflection on religious life. Your clarity is uplifting.

  2. Good reflection, Mai Dung. These are questions we are all asking. At the same time, we believe that, yes, religious life is evolving and we are all still part of that evolution. That’s exciting! Thanks.

  3. Dear Mai-Dung,
    Thank you for your beautiful invitation to vowed religious life. You address the challenges we face in a time of dramatic change, faith in the present, and hopes for the future. Reading the signs of the times we can be assured that the Spirit is truly doing something new!
    Blessings, Connie

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