By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL
A Discernment Retreat weekend was offered by the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light at the Mother of Light Convent on April 6 – 8. The theme, Speak Lord, Your servant is Listening, guided the young women to break down the process of vocational discernment whether to marriage or religious life, equipping them with tools to guide a discernment journey.
Through a series of presentations, reflections, group sharing, and prayer the sisters explained how to be attuned to God’s voice. As one of the retreatants remarked, “thank you sisters for a beautiful and peaceful retreat. I’m so blessed and thankful to be able to spend this weekend in your presence.”
A guest speaker, Debbie Perry, shared her witness as a married woman, including the moments of joy and difficulty, insisting with the women that God must be number one in any marriage. The Maronite Servants shared on their own experiences as consecrated religious and what helped them in making their vocational decision. Specifically, Mother Marla Marie, who celebrates her 35th anniversary of religious life, explained how God is more than enough and has deeply fulfilled her.
The Divine Liturgy was offered each day in our Chapel, celebrated by our chaplain Father Nichols, in addition to Eucharistic Adoration. On the last day, the retreatants participated in the Mystery of Penance, receiving God’s mercy on the Feast of New Sunday/Divine Mercy.
The retreatants were given the space they needed to de-compress from their busy lives and just “be” for the Lord. They each commented that they enjoyed getting to know each other and spending time with like-minded young women who are seeking fulfillment and happiness in God’s will for their lives.
If you are seeking resources for discernment, contact the Sisters at email@example.com. For more information about the mission of the Maronite Servants visit their website: maroniteservants.org.
By Sister Marla Marie Lucas
Is God calling me to offer the gift of my life for the up-building of his Church?
Do I desire to follow Jesus more intimately as a religious sister?
Do I know of others who are curious to learn more about religious life?
In today’s secular climate it is extremely difficult for a young woman or man to heed and courageously follow the call of the Lord. Many noisy distractions, empty ideologies, technology, and career advancement opportunities are vying for their attention and inhibit the cultivation of a spiritual life. Moreover, it is countercultural to see a young man or woman intentionally carving out daily prayer time “to be” with and “encounter” Jesus, the light and joy of hearts. For young people to experience or recognize a “stirring” of the heart or a call, they need to pray and seek communion with our Lord.
To help cultivate a “culture of vocation” in our Maronite Church, parishes and families should encourage religious and priestly vocations from within their own community. If you are a young man or women reading this or know of others who may be interested in learning about God’s will for their life’s mission please share these seven steps which specifically guide one to explore the vocation of religious life. These steps are summarized from the book Discerning Religious Life, Sr. Clare Matthias, CFR.
1. Make a Commitment. Discernment is a journey and it takes time. Sr. Clare suggests taking six months to a year to look into the possibility of a call to the consecrated life.
2. Develop your Prayer Life. To discern well requires a daily prayer life and deepening your relationship with God. Holy Mass, frequent Confession, adoration, and personal prayer time, including silence, praying with the Scriptures, and Marian Consecration are highly encouraged. Also, limiting technology and social media, which can easily rob us of the quiet we need for prayer, is vital to hearing the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
3. Seek Accompaniment. A discernment journey needs a good guide. It is highly recommended that you have a good spiritual director to meet with on a regular basis. A spiritual director can be a priest, religious, or even a layperson. When seeking a spiritual director look for someone who is living their faith and trained in this accompaniment.
4. Don’t Date and Discern. To truly give the space and attention to discerning religious life, a dating fast is advised. Marriage and religious life should be discerned separately.
5. Start Visiting. Make contact with congregations that you know and are interested in learning more about, and schedule a visit. Sister Clare recommends, “visit sooner rather than later. It is important to make a step forward for the continued revelation of His will.” Your visit will help you to experience first hand the daily life and mission of the sisters.
6. Look for Confirmations of the Call. As you grow in understanding your call, you will experience confirmations in the form of peace and joy. These confirmations will come from the community, your spiritual director, and those who know you best. Often parents will resist your vocation because it doesn’t align with their plans for you. Here is good counsel from the book: “The important thing is to honor your father and mother and to follow Christ. Jesus knew we would face confrontations on this point and his teaching is clear: ‘If anyone prefers father or mother to me, he is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:37)’”
7. Take a Leap of Faith. The purpose of discernment is to help us to make a concrete decision and take action. Perhaps a longer visit to the convent will help confirm and clarify your call. The community journeys with you and through your visits and interactions will evaluate your readiness and aptitude for consecrated religious life. Be at peace and be courageous. Remember a call comes from Jesus and he is with you every step of the way.
Please pray with us for the women joining us for our discernment retreat in April. We encourage you to share with others about our Maronite Servant of Christ the Light mission and website maroniteservants.org.
If you are discerning a religious vocation or know someone who is encourage them to contact Sister Marla Marie at 508-996-1753 or firstname.lastname@example.org for ongoing accompaniment and helpful discernment resources.