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home : features : people of faith

3/15/2018 9:00:00 AM
RELIGIOUS LIFE
Sisters' many vocations efforts
BY EMILY BENSON
STAFF WRITER

St. Teresa of Kolkata said, "God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful."

Sister Carol Rohloff, CSJ, refers to that quote when discussing why a vocations event recently planned by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet had to be canceled due to low registration -- and why the religious order will keep trying to help people in the Albany Diocese learn more about religious life.

The cancelled event had invited high school-aged teens to a day of prayer and discussion with the sisters at their motherhouse, St. Joseph's Provincial House in Latham. But it's just one of the ways the sisters are reaching out to young women in the area.

"The sisters worked long and hard to plan this event," Sister Carol remarked. "But it didn't work out, and that's okay. If it is meant to be, it will be."

The Sisters of St. Joseph are determined to keep up their outreach efforts. Sister Carol said the Catholic Church is changing, as more women are opting for marriage and fewer have been choosing religious life. Women today also have many options for ministry in the Church.

Sister Carol cited volunteering or service projects and said that both men and women have taken on leadership roles in parishes, as well. The Albany Diocese currently has 10 female parish life directors, for instance.

"There's a lot more available for women, not just becoming a nun," Sister Carol said.

The difficulty, she said, is how to reach the women who would be interested.

In planning the meet-and-greet at the Provincial House, the Sisters of St. Joseph shared the event on social media via Facebook and sent flyers to all the local Catholic high schools, and to parish directors of religious education and the episcopal vicars of the Diocese.

The event would have started with prayer in the motherhouse chapel, then an icebreaker activity, lunch, a PowerPoint presentation about religious life and what Sister Carol called "speed dating"-style meetings with individual sisters.

A desire to get involved in religious life, said Sister Carol, often comes from having a close connection with a woman religious. But those relationships used to be established in Catholic schools where sisters taught, "and the seeds aren't being planted anymore.

"So, what do we do?" she continued. "We do what we can."

In 2010, for example, the order began a volunteer program called St. Joseph Worker, targeting wo­men between the ages of 21 and 35 who wish to spend a year in volunteer service. St. Joseph Workers focus on community, systemic change, spirituality and leadership. In the Diocese, the program has been based in Schenectady.

"When a young woman, or young person, finishes college, they may want a year of service or want to sign up with a non-profit. St. Joseph's lets you work along with sisters, see the community life and see if interested in discernment," Sister Carol said.

The program provides volunteers with food, housing, health insurance, a monthly stipend and transportation. Sister Carol says it's perfect for "the millennial generation [who] are more interested in service projects."

On March 22, the sisters will host a meet-and-greet for college-aged women, similar to the high-school meet-and-greet. Led by Sister Linda Neil, CSJ, the group will discuss discernment and life in college, have dinner and participate in prayer.

Most of the women attending are coming from The University at Albany; some have come to similar events before.

Sister Carol mentioned that the Diocese is also restarting monthly discernment meetings for women who are considering religious life (read a previous story at www.evangelist.org).

"I have great confidence and hope for the future," said Sister Carol. "I am certain that more is ahead."

(For more information, contact crohloffusa@netscape.net.)





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