Near or far – religious life a rewarding opportunity
April 18, 2019
Answering the Lord’s call to religious life can lead a person to a distant land, or sometimes mere blocks from one’s childhood home.
Either way, religious sisters and brothers celebrating jubilees this year agree on the importance of being obedient and open to going where one is needed – and that the results can be rewarding.
For Missionary Benedictine Brother Tobias Dammert, celebrating his 50-year jubilee, and Mercy Sister Corrine Connelly, celebrating 60 years, God’s call led them down different paths.
Brother Tobias and Sister Corrine are two of 47 religious brothers and sisters with ties to the Archdiocese of Omaha who are being honored in this edition of the Catholic Voice as they celebrate milestone anniversaries of 50, 60, 70 or more years of service to the church. Each either was born in the archdiocese, served here or both.
Born in Karlsruhe, Germany, Brother Tobias entered the Benedictine Abbey in Germany, where he served several years in the tailor shop and mission office. In 1975, his life took an unexpected turn.
“Although my heart was set for serving in Africa, the Mission House in Schuyler needed a cook and housekeeper, so I was asked to go there,” he said. “Since I joined a missionary congregation, I knew my future could be elsewhere.”
Despite leaving family and friends behind, Brother Tobias looked forward to working with Americans.
“My dad was a prisoner of war in the Carolinas and Georgia and experienced wonderful American people there,” he said.
And, during post-World War II reconstruction, his family lived near an American military base where personnel were kind to his family, Brother Tobias said. “I had a gratitude to Americans, so it was not difficult to come to the states.”
Once in Schuyler, his previous fundraising experience was recognized and fundraising soon became his full-time job. In 1994, he was named director of development and office manager for the Mission House.
It’s been rewarding work, Brother Tobias said. “I especially enjoy the interaction with our donors.”
He also finds fulfillment in serving as spiritual director for several people after becoming certified for that ministry.
After so long a time away from his homeland, Brother Tobias has no plans to leave America, even becoming a U.S. citizen in 1982.
For Sister Corrine Connelly, much of her religious life has been spent in her hometown, Omaha.
Influenced by the Mercy Sisters who taught her at Holy Cross School and Mercy High School, she felt an early call to religious life, and entered the order in 1958.
Her first assignment was at St. Bernard School in Omaha, and later, College of Saint Mary, and as principal of Mercy High.
“Since I attended Mercy, I already knew everything about the school, and I grew up only three blocks away,” she said. “So my parents were close – it meant a lot.”
Serving in one’s hometown offers other benefits, Sister Corrine said.
“When I got to Mercy, I hadn’t realized how much enrollment had dropped, but since I had a lot of friends and connections here, I had a lot of help to bring it back up to its glory days.”
She also has been able to keep in touch with many former students and friends throughout the years.
“When I was I high school, I hung out with 12 other girls, and we still get together for lunch,” she said.
“Religious life is a real calling,” Sister Corrine said. “But it’s more difficult these days to encourage young people to enter religious life because there are so many other opportunities to serve.”
But for those considering a religious vocation, both Brother Tobias and Sister Corrine encourage seeking counsel from a trusted priest or religious.
“Then, take it to prayer,” Brother Tobias said, “and let God touch your heart – and don’t hesitate to say ‘yes.’”
To read summaries of service about each of the 47 religious sisters and brothers celebrating milestone anniversaries this year, go to http://edition.4hop.com/CATHOLIC_VOICE/CV_080318/index.html and proceed to pages 6 and 7.
Please note that after publication, Society of Mary Brother Joseph Barrett died in San Antonio, Texas. He passed away on Aug. 7, at age 93.
Also after publication, the Catholic Voice received information from additional sisters celebrating anniversaries this year. For summaries of their service, go to http://catholicvoiceomaha.com/news/catholic-voice-honors-three-more-jubilarians.