By Sr. Jessi Beck, PBVM
Being asked this question can jump-start or affirm someone’s vocation discernment journey. I was asked this question by my principal while I was student teaching and also by the Presentation sisters who served in campus ministry during college. At the time, it made me nervous and I quickly answered, “No.” However, simply being asked the question helped me to actually consider religious life. Now, I can’t imagine anything else for my life. I find joy and fulfillment in my vocation as a Sister of the Presentation.
I’m not alone. The majority (78 percent) of women and men religious professing perpetual vows in 2018 reported that someone encouraged them to consider a vocation to religious life prior to entering. (Source: CARA/USCCB 2018 Profession Class Report). So that brings me to my next question, have you ever asked anyone if they have considered life as a religious brother, sister or priest?
Who might you ask? Prayer, community and service are three of the essential components of religious life. Looking through these lenses might help you identify women and men you know in your family, parish or daily encounters who have these qualities for religious life.
Perhaps you notice a young person who has a gift for proclaiming the word of God as a lector, leading worship through the choir, or a commitment to attending Mass or an adoration hour. It could be someone seeking to know God more closely through a Bible study or faith-sharing group. Maybe it’s someone you know who has a deep spirituality and has a tangible sense of connectedness to God. Ask them.
A desire to be of service comes in small and large actions like staying until the end of a parish event to clean up or a career focused on helping others. Individuals going on a mission trip, taking part in a volunteer program for a year, spending time at the local food pantry, or publicly advocating for social justice causes also demonstrate a commitment to service. Ask them.
A dedication to community comes in many forms. Maybe you notice someone who is at their best when working in a group or a person who usually makes an effort to include those who are on the margins. Community is also formed person to person. They could be someone whose relationships are at the core of who they are and others feel a sense of belonging when they are with them. Ask them.
Regarding the call to religious life, Pope Francis encourages us to “cast out the nets” in God’s name with complete confidence. We can dare, as we should, to tell each young person to ask whether this is the path that they are meant to follow (Christus Vivit, 274).
Or maybe as you read this, you realized you find some connections to prayer, service and community. Perhaps, it is my turn to ask you this question, have you ever thought of being a religious brother, priest or sister?
Sister Jessi Beck is the vocation director for the Sisters of the Presentation of Dubuque. She also teaches at Our Lady of Tepeyac in Chicago and serves on the core team for Giving Voice, a national network of younger women religious.