COURTESY PHOTOS Sister Fidelis Marie of Holy Cross Convent in Sioux City, who serves as vocation director for the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Norfolk, talks to a group of students at St. Augustine Mission in Winnebago. Sister Sarah Elizabeth McMahon visits with a young woman at a conference in Indianapolis, Ind. Sister Laura Ann Haschke, a native of rural Madison, made her first profession of vows as a Missionary Benedictine Sister. She is one of two millennial Sisters at Immaculata Monastery in Norfolk. Sister Rosann Ocken, prioress of Immaculata Monastery in Norfolk, (left) and Sister Sarah Elizabeth (right) help show off butternut squash planted by Sister Laura Ann (middle). Sisters Sarah Elizabeth and Laura Ann are two of the millennial Sisters at Immaculata Monastery in Norfolk


Young women receive call from God


Norfolk Daily News

Thirteen out of 100.

That’s how many American Catholic women born after 1982 reported an interest in becoming a religious sister.

The numbers – the result of a 2017 survey conducted by the Georgetown University-affiliated Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate – are a 5% increase over those who were born between 1961 and 1981.

As a vocations directress for Immaculata Monastery in Norfolk, Sister Fidelis Marie Lanowich of Holy Cross Convent in Sioux City, Iowa, encounters these women on a regular basis.

“I think people want to live for something important,” she said. “… There’s so much going on. There are more youth who are really feeling lost in this culture, and things aren’t satisfying them. So when they find it, they’re like, ‘All right. I’m in.’”

Among the 38 sisters and formation members who are part of Immaculata Priory in Norfolk, only eight are younger than 60 years old. But Sister Fidelis Marie said she is seeing a growing interest in religious vocations among young people.

Sister Fidelis Marie made her first profession nine years ago when she was in her mid-20s. At that time, vocational discernment wasn’t talked about as openly as it is now, she said.

“I think it’s this time period in the Catholic culture,” she said. “People are really aware of discerning their vocation. I think young adults are really attuned to the responsibility of knowing there are options, so what is the Lord calling me to?”

With a focus on spiritual direction, as well as youth and college ministries, she works with anyone who is discerning religious life. Her role is not to recruit more women to a life of religious vocation but to invest in and form relationships with people to encourage them in their faith.

“The Lord is the one who calls them,” she said.

She often answers questions about discerning what God’s will is and how someone will know if they are being called to a life of religious vocation. For those who express interest in knowing more about what choosing a life of religious vocation is about, she might suggest taking part in one of the “Come and See” visits hosted regularly by Immaculata Monastery.

Many of the women who take part in the “Come and See” weekend visits are in their mid-20s, she said. The events are often helpful for those considering a religious life because they provide a contextual experience that goes beyond what one can read about, Sister Fidelis Marie said.

But ultimately, she added, the decision on what one does with the experience is out of her hands.

“It’s really between them and the Lord,” she said. “I don’t want to get in the way of that.”

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