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Culture of Vocation : Alive and Well in Canada

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There are many exciting opportunities in Canada to foster the Culture of Vocation. I would like to highlight four of them.

In January of this year I had the privilege of spending one month in silence and prayer, at a tiny retreat centre called “The Reflection Loft” in Toronto.

Mary Clare Stack

Why do I call it tiny? Only two people can stay overnight at any one time, so it truly lends itself to contemplation and stillness.

The Centre is a 12 to15 minute brisk walk from the University of Toronto and the Newman Community- the Catholic student presence on the University campus. Every day, despite a bone-chilling cold averaging -30C, without the wind chill, I walked to Newman to participate in the Eucharist. The faith of the students was tangible; young adults coming from all over the world to gain an education. Fr. Chris, the chaplain, along with the chaplaincy team (Catholic grad students) recognizes the necessity of fostering a Culture of Vocation so family life is honoured; single young adults are entrusted with leading faith study groups, social justice seminars, homeless projects. Fr. Chris and the team is also very committed to inviting the students to consider a call to consecrated life or the ministerial priesthood.

During my stay in Toronto we celebrated the World Day for Consecrated Life. To honour this day Fr. Chris invited the women and men religious in the Parish to be present that day at all the Masses. One of the Carmelite Sisters was invited to reflect on the readings of the Liturgy and to weave her vocational story through it. Following her reflection, all the women and men religious were invited to renew their vows. The congregation spontaneously extended a warm round of applause.
After the Eucharist we were invited to the Newman Centre to view displays about the different congregations, to enjoy refreshments, and to speak with those present. I was deeply moved by the spirit of openness shown by the students and their enthusiasm to explore more about God’s call to consecrated life.

March 9-12, 2014, Ann Christine Coster and I were privileged participants in the National Association of Vocation and Formation Directors (NAVFD) biennial Conference in Toronto, Ontario.

Our keynote speaker, Barbara Reid, OP, immersed us in Sacred Scripture, opening up the conference theme- “Promise, Prophecy and Hope”- with energy, humour, fresh insights in particular about the call and response of women in the Scriptures. Many of Barbara’s books are available in English and in Spanish so I would encourage anyone who feels a desire to unearth some of the buried or distorted stories of “promise, prophecy and hope” lived by women in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, to search out her writings.

There was a tangible spirit of hope and enthusiasm among the participants. It was very evident that consecrated life has a future, and a strong future, even though it might look quite different from what the majority of us have lived and loved.

Another sign of life is the “Spiritus” gatherings being hosted at St. Joseph’s College- the Catholic college on the University of Alberta campus. Every other month young women and men, discerning their call in life gather with a Basilian, Oblate and Redemptorist priest; a married couple, 2 or 3 women Religious, myself included, from 6:00-9:00 p.m.

We begin with the Evening Prayer of the Church, enjoy a simple meal prepared by the college chef and then, we listen to a reflection that deepens our understanding of God’s call in the life of a single person, a married couple, consecrated woman or man. We break into small groups for discussion, followed by a brief coming together of the whole group. The evening ends with ½ hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament accompanied by Songs of Taize.

This past week a young woman by the name of Hailey shared her call to the Trappestines. Her reflection was so refreshing, so clear. It was obvious when she was finished that God has called her and “God will not fail her”.

There is an open, trusting climate in the group. I feel so privileged to be present and be strengthened by the faith of these young adults whose hearts are open and desirous of answering God’s call wherever God may lead.

The June gathering will be facilitated by a young couple who will be celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony in August.

T wo or three times each year, I have inviteda small group of young women to go to Carey’s Cove, our cottage on Pigeon Lake, for a weekend retreat.

We spend the weekend in prayer (both personal and communal), sharing, enjoying the beauty of nature, discovering the gift of Sacred Scripture, and celebrating the Eucharist at one of the local parish churches.

Some of the themes we have explored are: listening to God in one’s heart; Mary, Woman of the Word; Advent, time of joyful expectation;
living one’s baptism; discernment; there are many ways to pray- what is best for you? Will any of these women become Ursulines of Jesus ? Perhaps not, but one thing I know for certain is that God is central in their lives; they are women of deep faith, and whatever path they take to live out their vocation, their lives will reflect their desire to make Christ known and loved in the world today.

Mary Clare Stack, UJ

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