Personal invitation prevails in reaching out to women

| Julie Pfitzinger | January 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

For the vocation directors at three local religious communities, the practice of reaching out to women who are discerning the call to religious life has not changed much in recent years.

While all three actively use the Internet as a way to let interested young people learn a bit more about their religious orders, it is the personal invitation, the quiet conversation or the chance to participate in prayer or the daily life of the community that is likely to make the greatest impression.

St. Paul’s Monastery

Benedictine Sister Marie Fujan is  the vocation director at St. Paul’s Monastery in St. Paul.

For young women today who are in a period of discernment about entering religious life with the Benedictine Sisters, the ancient practice of “lectio divina” — or “holy reading” — is just as much a part of their discernment process as it has been for so many sisters who have gone before them.

“Scripture is so important. The Gospel is not encouraged in society, but with the breaking open of the word, the possibilities are endless,” Sister Marie said. “We have been enlightened in seeing that the women who are discerning a vocation are attracted to the Gospel.”

The sisters at St. Paul’s Monastery welcome guests to spend time in prayer (the Taize Prayer sessions held on the third Friday of each month continue to grow in popularity, according to Sister Marie) or attend retreats, offering them a chance to experience the Benedictine community firsthand.

“We need to be who we are as Benedictines, following not just the rule of Benedict, but the spirit of the Gospel,” she said. “It always encourages me that our sisters are willing to welcome others and to share who we are as Benedictines with them.”

Sister Marie, who said she has been vocation director “on and off for most of my life, it seems” said that even she has to remind herself about an important part of encouraging vocations: “The vocations of the women we meet who are in discernment come only from God,” she said.

Sisters of St. Joseph

Sister Jill Underdahl is vocation director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates in St. Paul.

In her role, Sister Jill said she spends a significant amount of time talking to young women not only about the mission of the CSJs, but about their particular spiritual needs in order to help them discover “a place of intersection that is authentic” when it comes to discernment about the religious life.

One area that Sister Jill referred to as “a true place of engagement” for many young women is a community garden, a component of a program called Celeste’s Dream, developed by the CSJs to focus on the spirituality of young adults.

The garden, located on the CSJ campus in St. Paul, has given participants that “have expressed great concern about the future of the planet,” the opportunity to learn about organic gardening practices, get to know other young adults with a common interest, and share their harvest, she said.

Most of the young women who meet with Sister Jill to discuss vocations are between the ages of 20 and 35, some have finished college or graduate school and some may have even embarked upon a career.

“They tell me they are searching for meaning in their lives. They are searching for a connection with others who feel the same way,” she said. “They want to align themselves with communities that fit with the values they have and, above all, they have a love for God and neighbor and want to do what they can to spread the mission of the Gospel.”

Franciscan Sisters of St. Paul

Sister Mary Louise Dolezal, vocation director for the Franciscan Sisters of St. Paul, calls the sisters “a small community with a big mission.”

Part of a large international community of Franciscan sisters, this local community of prayer also sponsors two social ministries located at the Sibley Manor Apartments in St. Paul: Clare’s Closet, which provides clothing and household items, and the Francis Basket Food Shelf.

“People get to know us through our ministries,” she said. “We are a listening ear in times that are difficult.”

As a community of prayer, the sisters pray for an hour each day and dedicate the first Sunday of each month exclusively to prayer.

It is this life of prayer that Sister  Mary Louise believes is attractive to many young women today.

“There are so many out there looking for that kind of connection,” she said.

Learn about religious

Young women are invited to attend “Visiting Women’s Communities of Faith” on Saturday, Feb. 26, a day devoted to meeting the sisters in four local communities, praying with them and learning about the charisms of the different religious communities: the Benedictines, the Franciscan Poor Clares, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

For more information about this event, Celeste’s Dream and other programs of the CSJ community, visit

To learn more about St. Paul’s Monastery, including Taize Prayer and retreat opportunities, visit

For information about the Franciscan Sisters of St. Paul, visit

In addition, a “Come and See” weekend for women ages 18 to 45  will be held from 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11, to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb 12, with the Visitation Sisters at 1527 Fremont Ave. N., Minneapolis. For information, e-mail

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Category: Vocations