It is always a bit of a bene when a Holy Day of Obligation falls on a Sunday – two for the price of one, and all that. Especially now in midsummer when none of us is looking for something extra to do, we can welcome the gift of efficiency in this year’s liturgical calendar.
Not everyone among us, however, is looking for ways to reduce the portion of our days we offer to God. At the beginning of this summer I wrote you about the priestly vocations that have come from Saint Bernadette; today I want to let you in on the news of another vocation from our midst, this one to religious life.
Teri Rockenhaus, a young women who has been a parishioner here for two years, will be entering the Sisters of Life. It is a relatively new community, founded in 1991 by the late Archbishop of New York, John Cardinal O’Connor, for the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of every human life.
The Sisters of Life are well known within certain circles of the church, but I think a lot of you wouldn’t know about them. Though based in New York, they attract sisters from around the country. Like my friends, the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, they include a number of highly educated and even “high-powered” women, if you’ll pardon the expression, who seek union with Christ, the opportunity to serve, and the blessings of religious life.
Which brings us to the simple question, why would any woman today want to be a nun? For a good answer, you will have to ask Teri, not me. But it has long been my observation, since my priestly assignments have blessed me to get to know various communities of sisters, that once you see how joyful is the life of women religious, how could anyone NOT want to be among them – or at least consider it?
It used to be that sisters staffed most of the primary schools of the church in our country. Not all sisters were teachers, but every young Catholic was exposed to the basics of the consecrated life. Since the near-collapse of religious life after the Second Vatican Council, hardly anyone ever sees sisters anymore, or if they do, they can’t recognize them. But they exist, and like the Church herself, they are young.
Some communities clung to their charism over the turbulent years, and continued to attract new life. Some communities have rediscovered themselves, and begun to flower again. And some vigorous souls have undertaken new foundations, or re-foundations. Whether long-faithful, or newer “renewal” communities, these institutes are in fact teeming with new life because they have whole-heartedly embraced an identity that is suited to the modern world and the post-conciliar Church, and fully conforms to the ageless elements of Christian consecrated life.
More and more, women are looking far and wide for a contemplative or active manifestation of religious life that brings to flesh the voice they hear calling them. They are giving their lives to Christ, and finding what the voice of Jesus is offering them: joy. And we would ask nothing less than that joy of intimate union with Christ among her new Sisters for our sister, Teri. I am sure we will be in her prayers; let’s keep her in ours.