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1/4/2011 3:05:00 PM
Sisters look to sow the seeds of spirituality and vocations
Catholic Sentinel photo by Gerry Lewin
The Benedictine Sisters pray at Our Lady of Angels Monastery in Mount Angel.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Gerry Lewin
The Benedictine Sisters pray at Our Lady of Angels Monastery in Mount Angel.

A member of the only Catholic women’s religious community founded in Oregon, Sister Alison Green made a trek to Seaside this fall, seeking to plant some seeds. For this Sister of St. Mary of Oregon, the seeds were spiritual and vocational.

Sister Alison and a team of other Sisters from Oregon were attending the Archdiocese of Portland Youth Conference, peopled by hundreds of teens serious about their faith.

“I was there for work, but this often involved play,” Sister Alison reported on her blog, www.ssmo.org/news/?p=780.  

While the 29-year-old Sister was watching some youths dance, one of the teens pulled her by the wrist until she joined in. She also took part in a vocation mix and match game — she and other Sisters and clergy stood in front of the audience while a fact about one of them was read aloud. Contestants had to match the fact to the right person. It did not always go so well for the puzzled guessers.   

“Even though some contestants did better than others, all were invited to collect a prize at our booth afterwards,” Sister Alison says by way of making a spiritual point. “In this respect, our philosophy toward this game is like our philosophy toward discerning a vocation because talent and ability are not requirements for a vocation, but willingness to participate is. God does not call the equipped; God equips the called.”

Sister Alison, who made her first vows in August and who is obtaining a teaching degree, tells her own vocation story, hoping it might help others discern their calls.

She grew up Catholic and moved to Oregon from California in 2005. She pursued college, jobs, even a few good men. But she found nothing to which she could devote her life.  

She sought advice from God and within the year wound up living in Beaverton where she met the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon and began formation in the community.  

“I feel restored and more whole now,” she wrote on her blog after professing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. “My heart rests in the certainty of feeling loved and wanting to share that love with everyone else.”

Vocations are on the mind of Benedictine Sister Marietta Schindler, too. She’s from Queen of Angels Monastery in Mount Angel.  

Sister Marietta joined 350 other vocation directors from all across the country in Cleveland, for the National Religious Vocation Convocation. The theme of the meeting was “Casting the Net in a Global Church and World.”

“Speakers discussed the new language and the new technology we need to use if we are to reach this younger generation, which is so digital in their social networking,”  Sister Marietta said on a monastery blog. “This new digital age influences young people’s imaginations, relationships and values, so to reach them we need to use sound, images and animations in our websites, YouTubes, blogs, and tweets.”

According to a new study on religious life today, women and men are looking for community life, community prayer and ministry to the poor. Sister Marietta says the Benedictine Sisters’ life is focused precisely on those things.

“We have to invite young people to come and experience our community prayer and life,” she says. “Then we ask them if they are willing to change and grow to be witnesses to our church and the needs of the poor. Then we and they will be steeped as gospel witnesses.”

The Queen of Angels community continues to offer four “Come and See Weekends” during the year for interested women, as well as the week-long “Monastic Experience,” which is usually held in July.

Other regular vocation activities are aimed at a younger audience. Sister Marietta offers two “Camp with the Angels” sessions for girls in grades 6-12, and, with other vocation directors, visits all the Catholic high schools and many of the college campuses in the state.

While the number of entrants to this and other monastic communities is still relatively small compared to the post World War II era, progress is definitely being made. The decade of 1990-2000 yielded just one profession for the Benedictine Sisters. In the 10 years since, a dozen women have become postulants, and five of those have gone on to make their perpetual profession in the community.

“This is most encouraging for all of us,” Sister Marietta says. “We need to continue reaching out for new members.”

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