In this time of chaos and uncertainty, women continue to find themselves answering God’s call to religious life, even in a pandemic. Our newest members discerning vowed life with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet come from many cultural backgrounds, life experiences and educations.
Women are encouraged to bring their life experience to religious life, said Sister Kathy Stein. “It is calling us to move beyond ourselves, beyond the way things always have been. It is literally bringing new life because our newer members are challenging us and calling us to think, live and dream in different ways.”
With an evolving way of welcoming newer members into religious life, Sister Amy Hereford said, “Formerly, formation was a mold a woman had to ‘fit’ into. Now we are asking, “How do we discover together what kind of sister this woman will be?” It is a dialogical and mutual journey.”
We asked some of our newest members to share what life is like as a woman discerning religious life during a time in our world of change, letting go and finding a new way.
Chizuru: To be able to walk together in religious life with a free heart, discerning together what God’s will is and listening to each other.
Guadalupe: My hope is that somehow we can become more aware of the deep wounds that many of our brothers and sisters carry and in some way be there with them in their suffering.
Kristina: I have wonderful, crazy dreams about how our charism family of the Sisters of St. Joseph might all be united by 2050. When we celebrate our 400-year anniversary, I hope the Carondelet congregation no longer exists as one of 16 or fewer separate CSSJ congregations sprinkled across the United States. I dream that we are a part of one, global CSSJ congregation.
Noriko: COVID has changed our lives, but the essential thing remains the same — not to be afraid, not to get caught up in the panic. I have tried to keep my calmness and do what I have to do, what I can do, day by day. Jesus is in my little boat. Why do I need to be afraid?
Iffat: I have learned I need to change with the needs of the present time, and God will take care of all my concerns.
Sumaira: The pandemic has brought many changes globally. At the beginning, I was terrified by it, but as the time has passed, I have learned that I have no control over coronavirus, but I have control over me. Prayer, precautions and hope have kept me going.
Sally: As the pandemic continues, I have learned several things about myself. 1. It is essential to have a meditation practice to center myself in the Divine. 2. To do at least one thing that brings me joy each day. 3. My connection to family, friends and community is vital for my mental health.
Guadalupe: I have learned to set aside my plans and be patient about it. Many times unexpected situations occur that need to be addressed immediately. You have to go with the flow. Live in the present moment.
Sumaira: First, I work a lot on myself each time with each experience. If I am holding onto something and I can’t let it go, it will give me nothing except stress or pain. Secondly, I have realized that the only person I really have control over or can correct is myself. With the passage of time, I am growing in maturity and wisdom through my experiences.
Chizuru: I came back to Japan in 2021 and started a new life. It made me let go of my values and arrogance. It was painful. I’m still letting go. It hurts, but I have a lighter feeling inside.
Sally: In the novitiate, my friend recommended the book White Fragility, and it changed me. I am continually discovering and letting go of ways of thinking and unconscious biases within myself that are racist. I am trying to become aware of my complicity of oppression and make space for a more anti-racist lifestyle. This is a daily practice.
Kristina: Everything about this life excites me. Everything. Even the painful changes that I am experiencing—and would never have chosen for myself—are full of God’s grace and much, much personal growth. I am often overwhelmed with wonder, awe and gratitude that I am a part of this community.
Noriko: The Intercommunity Novitiate, where I meet men and women from different congregations. We learn and share our experiences, reflections, challenges and dreams together. We encourage each other. That gives me energy and new ideas.
Iffat: What excites me about religious life is serving and offering my gifts to the community.
Sumaira: I think being human is a unique opportunity on this planet, and living your life for a cause is even better. In religious life, I have found peace of mind and my soul is satisfied.
Guadalupe: Stop rushing. Take some time to reflect and pray. Know that you are deeply loved and that you are not alone. Listen to the voice within.
Iffat: Religious life is not only joining [a community of sisters], it is offering your relationship with the Divine and letting Him be in charge and shepherd all parts of our lives.
Chizuru: Especially for young Japanese women, I want them to know that Japanese churches are not the only form of faith. There are various forms of faith in the world. If you feel the call of God even a little, please jump out and take on the challenge.
Sumaira: I would say, “Lord you are the center of my life.” Walk according to the will of God. Keep saying to yourself. “Lord Jesus, I will go where you want me to go, do what you want me to do, say what you want me to say and give what you want me to give.” Trust in the Lord your God, whom you witness and confess through your lips every day.
Noriko: I want to say to them not to hesitate to start a new life. You don’t have to worry about your life. God is in charge of it. God is always taking care of you.
Sally: If you feel the Spirit nudging you to religious life, take a deep breath and try it out. Who knows? This lifestyle might be what brings you fully alive!
Kristina: Each of us is gifted with one precious, unique, wonderful life. However, time really is short! Don’t let your worries prevent you from following what is in your heart! Ask God to show you the next step in your life path. Since it takes years and years to become a fully professed sister, you really have nothing to lose by taking whatever next, first step you need to.
This article appeared in the 2022 issue of Carondelet Magazine. Join our mailing list