A man at my parish once asked me what I thought was the reason for the lack of vocations. There really is no one answer but I thought at the time that perhaps it was the question of relevance. In a world where anyone can be anything/ go anywhere, and ministry in the Church is not limited to a few, where the values and traditions of the Church are often viewed as old-fashioned or unrelatable, can people still find a reason to seek out the consecrate life?
In our ministries at St. Mary Church in Winneconne and Omro, Sr. Pam and I find more reason than ever, perhaps, for men and women to seek out a singular relationship with Jesus Christ and to encounter others out of that relationship. More than ever before, it is not about setting ourselves apart or above but, rather, joining in and walking with those we meet. As Christ himself joined his disciples on their journey to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), so do we join others on their journey.
Our day to day lives in the past months have been filled with various activities in which we meet others in such a normal way. We have prepared meals for the local “Community supper” along with the rest of our staff. Sr. Pam participated in the usual contest against the priests at our parish picnic.
We have planned and held two “Meals with the Sisters” that parishioners won at our parish picnic this summer.
We participated in the local Walk For Life. I have joined ProCLAYM, a group whose mission is to promote and support professional growth among those in religious education in the diocese. This year, I have also joined Sr. Julie Ann (the FSCC’s vocation directress) in meeting with young women who are discerning, traveling to the Motherhouse and Platteville as well as Marquette and Madison! Sr. Pam will attend the diocesan Leadership Convocation at the end of the month, the focus being on the promotion of the family. We listened to Dr.Brian Smith, theology professor at Ripon College, speak about Pope Francis’ vision for the Church.
We will also hold an event discussing the slavery of Human Trafficking in our area this week. Sr. Pam ministers to families at funerals. I attend the occasional school football and volleyball games. So many things that are just ordinary.
And yet these things hold the power of presence. We are regular people doing regular things and yet we have the distinct opportunity to be signs, to exist amongst God’s people and make His presence, His compassion, and His mercy known to them. In an individualized culture, our vows give us an opportunity to be examples of connection and communion in Christ-centered relationships. Where there is a frenzied pace and constant noise, we can model the importance of solitude and a contemplative stance to life. Where materialism reigns, we can strive to be a reminder of what it means to love God above all things, to be in the world but not of the world. And in the face of modern busyness, the consecrated life allows us to be available for others and to the Other. The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, lived authentically, are (among many things) a testament that God is alive and well and that He speaks to hearts of many; they are a beacon of hope and a sign of promise.
Many people have written about this (and much more could be said) but it is in the context of our respective ministries that Sr. Pam and I daily discover the continued need for religious life and the power of the message that it speaks. So, is the consecrated life relevant today? If you ask us, the answer is absolutely yes!!