How to Choose a Religious Community

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Community plays a critical role in your vocation call. Religious community parameters are crucial for you to live your vowed life fruitfully and meaningfully. God’s will can be magnified in you through these parameters. Thus, asking the right questions to reflect on, pray with, and to share with someone whom you trust is necessary in narrowing down which community is the right one for you.

When visiting a religious community, you may feel drawn to this community because of the way the Sisters pray or celebrate Eucharist. You may find a community that wears a habit more comfortable for you. However, there is more to consider when choosing a religious community.

Along the way, to follow God’s call, God may invite you to step out of your comfort zone and expand your horizon. Some communities you visit may both inspire and challenge you. This new discovery may disturb the way you have imaged religious life or of practicing your faith. Such experience may cause you to question your call or to be disappointed.   However, perhaps these differences are expanding your expectations and opening you to new possibilities.  Taking time in choosing a community with which to discern, calls for thoughtful reflection.

Below are just some suggested questions about community to consider:

  1. What are the ten top values of a healthy faith-community you value most? How do these values fit with the community you are looking at?
  2. What is the daily schedule of prayer, study, community, and ministry? How do you imagine living with this schedule for the rest of your life in a healthy way, not the one that is a burden?
  3. How do the sisters and the community live out their vows of obedience, celibacy, and poverty?
  4. How does the community live interdependently, intergenerationally, interculturally, and interracially? How do you see yourself living in such an environment?
  5. How does the community support its members for mission, on-going education and personal development, and healthy living?
  6. How much freedom and accountability do the members have? How are the voices of the members heard in the community?
  7. What are the mission and vision statements of the community, and how do the sisters live out these statements, day in and day out? How does your vision, dream, and gifts fit into these statements, making you feel you are a part of this community to share mission together?
  8. How do the members of the community respond to the signs of the time, including social justice issues, issues within the church, service to people in needs, care for creation, or creating a vision? How do these resonate with you?
  9. If possible, visit a community for a retreat, a mission program or a “live in” experience for a week or more. Then, reflect on that experience as you discern where you are called.
  10. Imagine you have decided on the best community to join. Live with that decision for a week. How do you feel about it?  What is God saying to you as you bring this decision to prayer?  How do you imagine yourself living in this community in ten years, twenty years, and the rest of your life?

Different communities fit different people. A community can provide good soil for you to live out your vocational call, to grow, and to bear good fruit. Yet, it is important to choose the community that seems to be the best fit for you. Surrendering to God’s will does not mean joining a community without having a serious discernment. Surrendering to God’s will means accepting the invitation to join a community in which you can share visions, dreams, gifts, and yet be transformed to become the best person God intended you to be. Choosing the right community for you takes time to discern.  Be courageous, trust God, and invite others into your discernment journey with you.  Reach out to a spiritual director, mentor or vocation director with whom to guide your discernment journey.

The adventure is just beginning.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Closed Doors

Blog by Rev. Ron Kurzawa

I have decided to put this in writing with the hope that it may help some in understanding something of what is stirring in our society these days.

The story is true.
The story is part of our history as a society and as Church.
I had this story very much in mind recently when participating in a public prayer service. The service was a response to the cries these days challenging us to deal with systemic racism. The service took place on the campus of Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan. Participating in this service were representatives of the various Felician sponsored ministries on this campus as well as St. Mary’s Hospital.
At the very onset of this time of prayer spokespersons stepped forth and declared whom they were standing with and for in this service.
I spoke.
My declaration stated that I was standing with and for all of those for whom the doors of our churches and even of our hearts had for too long been closed.
These were not just some nicely chosen words.
Much thought and prayer was placed into these words as I reflected on whom I wanted to publicly stand with or maybe rather on whom the Lord was calling me to stand with and for.
I know stories.
From my many years of ministry I have heard many stories, and sadly, I have heard too many stories about these closed doors.
These were the ones with whom and for whom I stood in prayer – those who experienced doors closed to them, doors that really should have been open wide.
With that background, I have decided to share one of these stories.
It is a story that goes back into the 1980’s.
That’s a long time ago but the story has stayed with me and is also one of the stories that has helped to form and shape me, I believe, for the better.
As I share this story, I also hope and pray that it may help to form, shape and enlighten you as well.
At the time that this story unfolded I was pastor of Precious Blood Parish in Detroit.
By then this was a small faith community, consisting of perhaps 250 or so households.
Everybody knew everybody.
And one fine Sunday, right there in the front pew, there was a definite newcomer.
She was an elderly Black woman, stately and noble in appearance, dressed to the nines in her finest Go-to-Church wear.
It would be impossible not to notice her presence.
I determined to find out more and to certainly welcome her to our community.
I expected that she would, after Mass, follow the crowd to the back of the building.
Because this was a significant sized building and because we did not need to fill it with pews right up to the back door, several rows of pews had been removed and a gathering space created. There, after Mass we had room to gather for coffee, cookies, donuts and all sorts of other goodies that folks would bring to share. When Sunday Mass was finished, all would march to the back and gather and socialize and live community.
But she did not join us.
This mystery lady from the front pew had gone out the side door.
But she was back again the following Sunday.
And this time I was sure she would catch on and join us in the back.
But again I was wrong.
Once again, she slipped out the side door.
A third week she returned yet again.
And this time I resolved that she was not going to get away.
As the procession began to exit down the center aisle, I slipped away and headed to that side door.
And I caught her and greeted her and welcomed her and we began a conversation, one that remains with me to this day and one that inspired my words at that prayer service.
I asked if she was new to the neighborhood.
“Oh no,” she replied, “I live right down the street, about half a block away. I’ve lived there for sixteen years.”
“But we’ve never seen you here before,” was my reply and question.
And then she explained.
Sixteen years ago she bought that house and moved into the neighborhood, locating deliberately within the shadow of the church. She loved her faith and wanted to live within walking distance of the church. She did not drive, relied on public transportation to get around. However, she would be able to walk to church whenever the Spirit moved her.
She was so happy to have found that home.
And the first Sunday after her move, she walked to the church.
She entered through the main doors, the great doors.
She was entering her church.
Only she had hardly taken two steps in when one of the ushers quickly moved toward her and stopped her.
“Excuse me,” he stated.
“Excuse me, but you are in the wrong church,” he explained to her.
“There is a separate church for your people,” he let her know.
You do not belong here.
Wrong church!
Doors closed.
For sixteen years she lived in the shadow of the church that she loved, the church that did not want her.
For her and for so many others whose stories are of doors closed, I stood in prayer.
Doors closed – that is what systemic racism is.
And it hurts God’s children.
Our sisters and brothers.
Meantime,
keep praying
and stay safe.
Posted in News, Weekly Word

Words (and names) Matter

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

Dan Snyder is a man of strong opinions and an inflexible resolve to stand his ground when things are not going his way.  For many years Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, has made it clear that he does not intend to change the name of his team, telling USA Today in 2013, “We’ll never change the name! …It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.”

Enter Fed Ex, Nike and Pepsi.  Shareholders in these corporations recently voted to withdraw support for the Washington Redskins if a name change does not happen.  Now CEOs are scrambling to “get on the right side of history.”  In 1998, Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx, paid $205 million for naming rights for the stadium.  Without a name change, Fed Ex will withdraw financial support.  Nike has removed Redskins’ athletic attire from its e-commerce web site, and Pepsi will withdraw its financial support.  Now Smith is saying “The word “Redskins” remains a dehumanizing word, characterizing people by skin color and as a racial slur, with hateful connotations.”  Really?  For many years activists and Native Americans have called for change.

The corporate heads of Fed Ex, Nike and Pepsi did not have an Epiphany, nor did Dan Snyder.  There have been many “Come to Jesus” virtual conversations.   It appears that money matters more than principle.

Now that culturally respectful language is front and center in the sports world, it’s time for a “sweep” to show respect for all people of color, of rejecting racist stereotypes.  Now the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins need to make a decision to whether to continue using racist mascot names or embrace respect for all cultures, races, and nationalities.  How would it feel to read, “Chicago Caucasians 14 – Washington Redskins 7 in the sports section?  Words matter.  Words hurt and words heal.  Can those with power move on from decisions based on money to decisions based on principle?

This conversation about names needs to happen in colleges, high schools, pro and semi-pro teams.  In 2013, 2,129 teams in these schools had Native American names, with 13 choosing “savages” as their team name.

What impact has demeaning sports mascot language had on Native Americans?  Michael Haney, Seminole activist, told the Chicago Tribune, “As long as white America feels that Native Americans are not quite human, that we can be construed as mascots, caricatures or cartoon figures, then they will never deal with the issues of education and economic development for our people.”

This is a time for revolution of cultural values, attitudes and norms.  And this is not a spectator sport.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Peace and Justice Updates – 7.7.2020

Speak Out Against the Death Penalty

Billy Wardlow committed a robbery and murder in 1993, when he was just 18. He has always expressed remorse, and he maintains that there was never a plan to kill anyone, but that during the robbery Mr. Cole resisted and the gun went off.

Mr. Wardlow is scheduled to die for that crime today. Please Click here to read Wardlow’s petition asking the US Supreme Court to take his case, and call Texas Governor Abbott at 512-463-2000 to ask for mercy for Billy Wardlow.

– – –

As we shared in last week’s Justice Updates, there are three Federal Executions scheduled next week. Please use this link to sign a petition supporting a ban on federal executions, click here to sign a letter to the Administration, and click here to send a petition to the Administration and the Justice Department asking for an end to the death penalty. 

Click here to learn more about the death penalty in America.

“Assault Weapons Ban in the Americas” Webinar

Our weak gun laws are killing our children, our friends, our families, and our neighbors.

Please join Dr. Stephen Hargarten from the Office of Global Health, Medical College of Wisconsin & Network for the Prevention of Gun Violence in the Americas, Kyleanne Hunter from Brady, Po Murray from Newtown Action Alliance, Eve Levenson from March For Our Lives, Manuel Oliver from Change the Ref, Phillip Alpers from Sydney School of Public Health, & Eugenio Weigend from Center for American Progress to discuss the efforts to #BanWeaponsOfWar.

July 9, 2020 1:00-2:30PM EST

Register in advance for this webinar: https://bit.ly/AWBWebinar

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

WILL WE MOVE THE NEEDLE TOWARD JUSTICE?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

We have been here before.

I’m hoping this time will be different.

I’m hoping this time we can be honest.

I’m hoping this time we can confront the ugliness of who we are as a nation.

I’m hoping this time America is willing to acknowledge the lies it tells itself about race.

I’m hoping this time the cries of the oppressed will be heard.

I’m hoping this time we can get rid of the idea that white lives matter more than others.

I’m hoping this time we will embody and practice justice.

I’m hoping this time America will change.

Countless people have risked everything to persuade our country to live up to its stated ideals. They marched. They were surveilled by the government. They were beaten with batons and bullwhips. They were tear-gassed. They were blasted with fire hoses. They were attacked by dogs. They were lynched. They were murdered.

We have been here before.

If we fail this time, what will history say about us?

Posted in Associate Blog, News