"As humans it is our nature to find patterns in all we do, from viewing pictures, to identifying social norms, to everyday routines. It is easy to get lost in repetition, to forget how blessed and precious every breath of every moment of every day is, we bury ourselves. In such repetition we lose gratification for life, and the immense quality of our God given gifts. St. Stephens has taught me that each and every one of us is well endowed with the light of Christ, and we each respectively have been given talents with which to emanate that light. We all are disciples of Christ, regardless of country, ethnicity, or race. Social injustice occurs within our country as well as throughout the world. Through prayer and discernment I have been called to use my gifts and talents to spread God's love to all humanity, especially those who are suffering most, through the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is a volunteer group established in 1960 by John F. Kennedy to serve developing countries and devoted to world peace and friendship. Work done by the Peace Corps ranges from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation and has served 139 host countries. I personally have been very blessed with a warm house, an abundance of food, and a rich faith for my entire life, and I hear the call to give back through the talents I have been given within this organization. In the Peace Corps I am called to be a disciple through the talents I refuse to bury in the sand."
Abby and Rolando Morales
Rolando and Abby have found discernment of vocation to be an incredible, amazing process. Often times when people think of discernment, they associate it with religious vocations, but Rolando and Abby feel that it is much more than that. When they first met, Rolando was a Peer Minister at St. Stephen and was discerning the priesthood, and Abby was on a different part of her faith journey as an incoming freshman and an actively involved member of St. Stephen. Abby and Rolando agree that it was their incredible faith and the joy that their faith brought to them, that attracted them to one another. It was there that Rolando and Abby's story of discernment and finding their personal and joint vocation began.
Although the vocational discernment process was initially Rolando's, it became Abby's as well, as the last thing she wanted to do was take Rolando away from what God wanted for him. She knew that she could not ask God, nor Rolando for that matter, to choose her over God's will. Rolando and Abby prayed tirelessly that God would help them both to know whether Rolando was meant to be a priest, or a husband and father. They prayed separately and together daily. They prayed the rosary, they prayed at St. Stephen, in their dorm rooms, they prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, they prayed in silence together, they met with spiritual directors at St. Stephen individually; ultimately, they prayed for God to help them know His will for each of them, both individually and as a couple.
Rolando and Abby explain discernment as a very difficult process. They were patient in the beginning, but as their love for one another continued to grow, they wished that God would communicate His will for them, more quickly. They made the commitment to each other to continue to pray about it, individually and together, and to take it day by day to see where God would lead them. It was so important to them that whenever either of them became anxious or impatient, they had the other to remind and bring the other back to prayer, which continues today in their marriage.
Rolando and Abby believe that God speaks to His people in many ways, one of which being through dreams, just as He communicated with Mary and Joseph. Through the power of prayer, leading to openness of heart, mind, and soul, God helped Rolando to see what his vocation was; to be married. It was through Rolando and Abby's openness to God's will for both of them, that He led each of them and their relationship to grow in faith and love of one another in and through Christ.
Discernment of vocation is truly that, a discerning process which requires patience, openness, willingness, understanding, love, and above all, complete faith that God will take care of you if you only let Him. But discernment doesn't end with becoming a Priest, getting married, vocationally remaining single, etc., it continues. You discern your career, job opportunities, starting a family all through prayer and openness for God's will in your life.
Sr. Maria Canisius Willey, OP
"I first started thinking about religious life in high school. I was on a Steubenville Youth Conference in the summer of 2002, and the priest I went to for confession suggested the idea. I agreed to consider it, but my knowledge about religious sisters was pretty weak. I didn't know any, and I had no idea what their life was like. So I tried my best to be open to God's will and left it at that. Eventually, I entered a dating relationship and convinced myself that I was called to marriage. Once in college at the University of Northern Iowa and away from my boyfriend, I would often visit the tabernacle in St. Stephen's Catholic Student Center to pray. St. Stephen's was important for my development as a Catholic, and I attended Mass, volunteered as a cantor, and became involved as a sort of "jack-of-all-trades" in various activities. It was a good place to continue seeking God's will, with the help of Fr. Ken Glaser as chaplain. Early in my college years, the image of me wearing a veil began to pop into my head, totally unbidden. I convinced myself that I was simply visualizing myself as one of the women in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. Nevertheless, the image was very persistent. When God seemed to tell my that my boyfriend and I would break up, I resisted the thought. However, at the end of my freshman year, my boyfriend did indeed break up with me. Once I finally adjusted to being single again, my heart was totally free for God to get my attention. Meanwhile, my best friend, Jacob Boddicker, SJ, whom I met through St. Stephen's, had entered the Jesuits. We kept up correspondence during his novitiate, and his experience of religious life inspired me. Whenever I visited the novitiate, I was always invited to morning and evening prayers, and I thought of how wonderful it would be to live in a prayerful community like that. In fact, I grew quite envious!
Once I started discerning, Jacob was a great source of counsel and strength for me. I visited a few communities, but I mostly worked on my relationship with Christ through prayer and spiritual reading. I continued discerning in graduate school at Saint Louis University, where I met Sister Joseph Andrew of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and three postulants in the spring of 2008. I eventually worked up the nerve to attend one of their retreats in November of that year, and I remember feeling so comfortable there, as though, in many ways, I was already Dominican. The balanced life, the love of knowledge and teaching, and most of all the love for Christ and His Church -- all of this fit me. Sister Joseph Andrew wanted to give me my papers after the February retreat in 2009, but I said "no." I came to this decision after a lot of prayer, consultation with Jacob, and consultation with my spiritual director, Fr. David Meconi, SJ. So I waited until September of that year to ask for papers in order to finish my MA in history and give my family time to process my decision. The pre-aspirancy retreat in the summer of 2010 confirmed my vocation; it was so incredible to know that I was going into a happy, healthy community of women who adore Christ!"
"I started discerning my vocation when I was a kid. I remember thinking, "God, what is my purpose in life?" Although I did think about being a priest, I was convinced that I wanted to work in a business, get married, and have a family. I went to UNI to pursue a business degree, not anticipating what God had in store for me. My years at St. Stephen taught me how important it is as Christians to live as a faith community. It was through the faith discussions I had with other students that I realized many college students were struggling with the same things I was struggling with at that time. These interactions were a great source of support and helped me grow in my faith, and instilled in me a desire to share my faith with others. I subsequently became a Peer Minister at St. Stephen. Leading prayer services and other spiritual activities allowed me to not only share my faith, but it also allowed me to explore my faith in new ways. Working at St. Stephen also allowed me to interact with priests on a regular basis, which helped me develop a better understanding of the diocesan priesthood and aided me in my discernment.
This is the advice that I would give to anyone discerning a religious vocation: · Pray and attend Daily Mass. Prayer in its essence is personal communication with the Trinity. Regular communication with God will allow Him to more fully guide you in your discernment. Spiritual direction is important in helping you understand what you are experiencing in prayer. · Be Open. God is constantly working through the Holy Spirit. He can do great things with the gifts He has given you, so don't feel as if you ‘don't have what it takes.' · Trust God. Discernment is important, but at some point the seminary process involves trusting God and taking a ‘leap of faith.' To enter seminary you do not have to be 100% confident that you will be ordained a priest. You must simply feel called and be open to how God wants to work in your life."