Looking for joy? Consider a vocation - Catholic Courier

Looking for joy? Consider a vocation

Michele Schroeck was a high-school senior who wanted to know more about sisters and religious life but didn’t want anyone to know she wanted to know. So during a vocation presentation at school, Michele did her best to act “obnoxiously bored, for fear someone would think I was interested!”

Young woman, chances are if you’re reading this essay, it’s probably because your grandmother or mother clipped it and gave it to you. In fact, if you had picked up the Courier and found vocations featured, you might have dropped it like a hot potato.

Nonetheless, I’m going to pitch to you, even if you’re yawning broadly or hiding under your covers in your dorm room to read with a flashlight. Why you? Because I believe that, like most of us, you want your life to be joyful and want one that makes a difference, wherever God calls you. And, who knows, stranger things have happened — perhaps Mercy could be the wherever.

Take Sister Michele Marie Schroeck, for example: She’s now director of service learning at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. She enjoys leading college students on border-awareness experiences in New Mexico and Texas; living at the House of Mercy with three other sisters and a young candidate, Jenny Wilson, who joined Mercy last summer; and hosting “Kids’ Club” weekly for neighborhood children who have few outlets. Not long ago, in the mobile Mercy Migrant Education Ministry, Sister Schroeck migrated from Ohio to Florida and back annually with five other dedicated sisters and laypeople to provide a continuity of education for primary-aged Hispanic students.

She would say, however, that her students and their families provided her with a great appreciation of cultures and the common yearnings of children and parents everywhere.

Jennifer Lang, who also taught in the mobile ministry, first felt “a call” in third grade to serve people who are poor as she listened to two Mercy sisters speaking about their ministry in the Philippines. But she didn’t want to be “different” from other kids around her, especially during high school, so she submerged her call under covers. It wasn’t until later, after college, teaching and retreat work, that Jen found she could no longer ignore the stirrings as “God placed more and more religious in my life who were happy, like the Mercy Sisters in Buffalo and those in the migrant ministry.”

Today, Sister Lang is a second-year apostolic novice, volunteering in parish ministry and at Mercy High School in Brighton.

Laurie Orman was working as director of faith formation when she and Sister Kathleen Wayne, vocation minister, shared a dinner of liver and onions. “The rest is history,” she said. “I think I had been searching for awhile, but I just hadn’t found the right person to talk to and to ask me the challenging questions.”

An apostolic novice, Sister Orman lives with Sister Lang and four professed sisters at Brighton’s Our Lady of Lourdes Convent — which is designated a welcoming community for new members — and serves as a youth minister.

“There is a sense of joy and excitement with the Sisters of Mercy, and it shows in their actions as they strive to be open to working where there are unmet needs,” she said.

Other Rochester women in “incorporation” (that is, those who have not yet taken final vows) are: Sister Madeline Rockwell, a canonical (first-year) novice in Laredo, Texas, where Mercy novices from across the U.S. are discerning God’s call through concentrated prayer and study; Sister Cathy Solan, a student at Carlow University living with sisters in Pittsburgh and preparing to take her final vows this August at Greece’s Our Lady of Mercy Church; and Sister Pat Black, a sister who has professed first vows, now serving with Mercies in Merion, Pa., as an instructional technology specialist.

Since our arrival in Rochester 150 years ago, we Mercies have served in the diocese and beyond as administrators in elementary schools, high schools and colleges; in pastoral work; as counselors, spiritual directors, nurses, health-care providers, foster mothers for special-needs children and missioners in Chile; and in a variety of ministries of direct service to those who are materially poor or in need, such as inner-city youths, uninsured families, aging people, caregivers, families in economically depressed rural areas, abused children, pregnant teens, homeless youths and young mothers.

In 1991, thousands of sisters across the United States and 11 countries came together to form the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. One great benefit of our union: a gift of sisterhood enhanced among many nationalities.

Another “coming together” occurs on Jan. 1, 2008, when Mercies in Buffalo, Erie, Pa., Pittsburgh, Rochester and the Philippines will legally and canonically combine to form a New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community. Women entering hereafter will join this new community of 500-plus sisters.

Although young women today have college and/or work experience before they enter religious life and can now engage online in a Mercy chat room, they’re otherwise not so different from the women in your mother’s and grandmother’s day who entered right after high school: Most have witnessed joy in sisters they know who are serving others; most have wanted to make a difference wherever God calls them.

Sister Rockwell, who was a teacher’s assistant in a pre-K special-education classroom in Ithaca, sums up her decision to enter: “I feel that I’ve joined with others who share a common desire to grow closer to the heart of God, and they can be an example and a support as I strive to achieve my desire.”

We daily witness that palpable desire in new members and in our aging and frail sisters. So, young woman, why not come and see?

Sister Moorhead is Rochester regional president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

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