Personal invitation best to attract religious vocation

| Susan Klemond | March 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Dominican Sister Perpetua Stang talks to first-grade student Ella Rammer at St. Croix Catholic School in Stillwater. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Communities offer many opportunities to get involved with their members

While the Internet plays an increasing role in connecting religious orders with potential members, representatives of several area communities are developing programs that offer men and women a personal human introduction to their life and charisms.

“You can’t fall in love with someone you’ve never met,” said Benedictine Bro­ther Paul-Vincent Niebauer, vocation director at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville.

While some religious communities find opportunities to involve college students in their life and work because of their association with local campuses, all are attracting men and women through a variety of programs, retreats and even just by mingling at youth events.

One way the Benedictine Sisters of Pontifical Jurisdiction build relationships with young women at the College of St. Benedict is through their Benedictine Friends program, in which freshmen are matched with a sister for one-on-one and group meetings, said Benedictine Sister Lois Wedl, vocation director at the community based in St. Joseph.

Along with telling their stories on their website,, the sisters also offer retreats at St. Ben’s and speak about vocations at area high schools, she said. The community will offer women considering religious life the opportunity to live with the sisters during the Easter Triduum, April 5 through April 8.

Close encounters

One of the main ways young Minnesota women are drawn to the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, a Nashville Tenn.-based order, is by seeing how four of its sisters are living out their life with joy in Stillwater, said Dominican Sister Perpetua Stang a first-grade teacher at St. Croix Catholic School in Stillwater.

The sisters offer retreats and days of recollection, such as the one they’re hosting on March 17 at their convent in Stillwater. They also meet young people at youth events and while attending summer college courses, she said.

Women join the sisters for prayer at their convent. They also can visit their website,, to learn more about the teaching order, Sister Perpetua said.

In St. Paul, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet offer young adult spirituality that involves women in the community’s life and mission through the Celeste’s Dream program, said St. Joseph Sister Jill Underdahl, vocation director. Many programs are offered at the Sisters of St. Joseph campus, which is connected to St. Catherine University.

A café group meets the first Tuesday evening of the month (check for time and location), and a community garden makes working outdoors a spiritual experience. The sisters also lead high school and adult retreats, and conversation circles.

In June, the community will host a world ecological renewal summit for high school youth. Many of the women who are drawn to the community are concerned about the sufferings of people and of the earth, Sister Jill said.

Today, nearly all inquiries about vocations with the Benedictine monks at St. John’s Abbey come through the Internet, Brother Niebauer said. Both the order’s website,, and programming are necessary and both are revamped regularly.

St. John’s University students get to know about the community through campus programs, he said. Through St. John’s Benedictine Volunteer Corps, in which young men spend a year at one of the international order’s monasteries, they learn about the monastic life and in some cases have decided to join, he said.

Fifteen men are currently in formation at the abbey.

St. John’s Abbey will offer a Triduum live-in retreat for men April 5 through 8.

Religious contacts

Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict
Sister Lois Wedl
(320) 363-7100

Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia
Sister Perpetua
(615) 256-0147

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet
Sister Jill Underdahl
(651) 696-2873

Benedictine Monks, St. John’s Abbey
Brother Paul-Vincent Niebauer
(320) 363-2011


Category: Jubilees