What if religious life is for me?
I did not think much about the question the first time because I was confident that religious life was not for me.
I have been actively involved in the Church and a charismatic community called Singles for Christ. I was trying my best to walk the talk and live the faith. I want to be a living witness to how I overcame trials and used them to fuel the desire to become a better version of myself.
I never mentioned the stirring within about religious life to family or friends but to my spiritual director. At the time, I was advised to process the idea: know the reasons for pursuing the vocation and that I was not running away from something. I took the advice to heart. Yet at the back of my mind, maybe this is just a phase in my life, and eventually, this question will gradually disappear from my thoughts. However, in the past six years or so, the question stayed. It lingered. I would ask this question during my quiet time, prayer time, when I am on the bus, train, or driving, especially when I see religious people, and I would laugh at myself every time. There is no way I am heading in that direction!
At a retreat organized by CFC-Singles for Christ, I had the opportunity to hear a Sister of Providence speak about their mission. Their charism of serving the underprivileged - those who are ignored, victims of injustice, marginalized, and voiceless - spoke deeply to me.
Over time, the asking, “What if religious life is for me?” became frequent. I want to believe that the best tool for discernment is action. So, I mustered the courage to act and reached out to the Sisters of Providence.
In November 2021, I started my Come-and-See journey with the Sisters in Calgary, and by February 2022, I moved to Edmonton to continue the journey. I was immersed in community life. The experience became an occasion of growth and self-knowledge—an opportunity to understand others and myself. I felt loved and supported by the Sisters, and it caused me to appreciate the vocation to religious life.
On February 18th, 2023, I entered as a candidate and the ceremony was held at the Providence Centre Chapel in Edmonton, with friends, family, Sisters of Providence, and Sisters from other congregations present.
As I continue to learn about myself in the context of religious life, I trust in divine providence in this journey of unfolding the question that led me here, “What if religious life is for me?”.
Learn more about this unique vocation here.
On February 2nd, 2023, religious from eight different communities gathered to celebrate the World Day of Consecrated Life on the Feast of Presentation of the Lord. It was a joy-filled day with the celebration of the Eucharist, meaningful conversations that deepened connections, and a delightful meal shared between those present.
Submitted by Sr. Dianne Turner, Assistant Director of Vocation
I was born in 1922 and raised in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. I attended High School in Swift Current where I met the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis. Soon after I felt called by God to begin my life with the Sisters in Bienville, Quebec.
After the time of formation and profession of vows (1942), I returned to Western Canada teaching In Saskatchewan and Alberta until 1958. Then I moved to Medicine Hat to the Novitiate Formation community as Director until 1964. I was further blessed with the opportunity for religious studies in Rome, and then further studies in psychology and counselling in Calgary, Ottawa, and New York. My journey then was focused on spiritual direction, youth counseling (University of Calgary) and helping those who suffered from addiction and their families through recovery, counselling with AADAC, the 12 Step individual and group counselling. I also served those attending serenity retreats, and those in personal growth groups and retreats for women.
Submitted by Sr. Helen for Faithfully.
I have been abundantly blessed, as I was born and raised in Ponteix, Saskatchewan in a faith-filled family where love, prayer and acceptance were the dominant forces molding me and guiding me in my early life.
In my teen years I was privileged to be asked to be responsible for looking after the cleanliness of the sanctuary in our parish church. Years later when I was finishing my high school there were moments when I felt God's love and presence in my life and a deep desire to follow Him. So it was. I joined the congregation of sisters who taught me at St. Theresa Academy in Medicine Hat, the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis. For my formation and I went to Bienville, Quebec and in 1947 I made my profession of vows. I then returned to western Canada for my initial training to become a teacher, and in later years earned a B. Ed and B.A in Alberta.
In my 30 years as a teacher, mostly in Saskatchewan, I was blessed to work with many wonderful teachers and many eager students.
After a wonderful sabbatical in Ottawa, I had the privilege of taking biblical sessions in Jerusalem and time to visit the Holy Land. Shortly after this wonderful experience I was ready to accept the position as parish leader in parishes in the Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan, as well as working with Father Sullivan in the task of training lay people to lead the parishes for Sunday liturgy in the absence of a pastor.
In 2011 I retired in Medicine Hat. I was a member of St. Patrick's Parish as well as had the time and privilege of visiting my relatives and friends.
Presently I am retired and enjoying life in Swan Evergreen Village Senior Home in Calgary with other Sisters from my community.
Submitted by Sr. Clemence Liboiron for Faithfully.
Interview conducted by Solomon Ip for Faithfully
Interview conducted by Solomon Ip for Faithfully
Mr. Santiago Torres will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate by Bishop McGrattan on Saturday, May 21 at 11 am at All Saints Parish in Lethbridge. Earlier this month, Chris Moraes, the President of the Serra Club of Calgary sat down with Santiago at his home parish of St. Bonaventure to ask him about his vocations journey and his upcoming ordination.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
“I am currently 33 years old. I was born in Colombia and moved to Canada when I was 16 years old with my mother, step-father and my younger twin sisters. My parents separated in my youth and moving to Canada was a challenge. At that time I was not practising my faith. I enjoy making visits to my native Colombia and visiting my father when I am there.”
Who is your favourite Saint?
My grandparents have always been very influential on me and my faith. When I was young they gave me a book about St. Dominic Savio. At his first holy communion St. Dominic said to God that he never wanted to sin again which was a very inspiring message for me. I took him as my confirmation saint and his story has inspired me to always trust in the Lord and has given me strength many times throughout my life.
When did you first become aware of your call? Who was instrumental in encouraging you to explore it?
At the age of 16 I met a girl at my school who was also from Colombia. We grew close and eventually began dating. She was very strong in her faith and brought me to Mass and encouraged my prayer life. Eventually we ended our relationship but my faith remained because of her. On one occasion I heard about a CCO Mission at my parish. My first deep conversion took place when I attended an evening of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I was invited to take part in a Faith Study and that was when I really started to connect all of the aspects of my faith and especially came to discover a real relationship with our Lord Jesus. After that I started to get involved with CCO and I joined the executive of the campus ministry group at the UofC. This allowed me to share with others the encounter that I had personally experienced with Christ.
How has the Diocese of Calgary been instrumental in the discernment of your own vocation?
The Blessed Sacrament chapel at St. Bonaventure is where I really began to hear the Lord calling me to his service. It was also the witness of several priests that allowed me to be open to this call. Around the time of my conversion, Father Cristino was on his pastoral internship at St. Bonaventure and he likes to recall the story that he began praying for my vocation way back then. The spiritual direction from Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon was instrumental in navigating fears, doubts and feelings of unworthiness for such an important calling. The friendship of Fr. Troy Nguyen in the early days of discernment also helped to ease some anxieties about going to spend the first few years at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon to begin my priestly studies. \
What has been the greatest challenge that you have gone through as in your Seminary formation?
The seminary is a place that really helps you to get to know yourself. It is an interesting balance of guidance, formation, and evaluation. At times it can magnify your shortcomings, and there are times when you find yourself comparing yourself to the other gifted and faith filled young men. It does, however, also help to discover the great gift of the priesthood and to accept that despite feelings of unworthiness, that God can indeed call you to serve him in this vocation.
What has been your greatest joy or consolation in this journey?
The abiding understanding that God always responds to openness with faithfulness and that he wants to fulfil you with happiness. The relationships that are forged with your brother seminarians allow you to wrestle with the doubts. It is a true brotherhood and gives you strength for the journey of discernment.
In the few months that it has been established in our Diocese, have you been aware of the Serra Club and its activities?
Yes, absolutely. Sometimes the seminary can become a bit of a bubble and you just keep your head down and keep working towards the goal. It is a wonderful realisation that you are not alone on your journey and that there are many dedicated people out there praying with and for you. The letters of encouragement from students and lay people have been a great blessing to me and I am grateful for the presence of the Serra Club and the work that its growing membership is doing to promote and support vocations in our Diocese.
What is the thing you are most anticipating as your ordination to the transitional diaconate it approaches?
The thing I am most excited for is simply just “Living it” and being entirely dedicated to the ministry of the deacon. I am sure it will bring new questions, new challenges, and new learning. The ordination brings both a sense of finality of one process but also a new beginning of a new one in the ordained ministry.
What piece of advice would you give to a young person who feels like they might have a call to a religious vocation?
First of all, talk to someone about it. A spiritual director, vocations director or your parish priest will help encourage, guide, and help you to know that you are not crazy for thinking you might be called to the priesthood. Fr. Wilbert was able to reassure me that despite my insecurities, that God would sustain and inspire me to keep saying “Yes.” Secondly, Give the Lord the chance to show you that He is God and that he knows and loves you and that wants what is absolutely best for you.
Photo credit: Chris Moraes.
Above his bedroom door, Br. Michael Perras, OFM, has a small banner made by his great-aunt who was an Ursuline sister which reads: “To Radiate Christ”. For him, it serves as a reminder to put on Christ when putting on his habit every day. Yet it also speaks to something deeper, the call for Christians to radiate Christ to the other. Those in consecrated life have chosen this as their life’s work, whether contemplative or active, ordained or not, male or female.
The feast of the Presentation makes this clear to us — that we are to live in imitation of Christ, the “light to enlighten the nations”. This feast has long fascinated Br. Michael (Mount St. Francis, Cochrane), in particular the figures of Sts. Simeon and Anna. In Br. Michael’s words, they serve as reminders: reminders to be amazed and to give praise, reminders to hope and trust, reminders of the elders in our lives, reminders of those who pass on the amazement of encountering Christ, and as reminders of those who call out the truth of who we are — in many ways, they are types of the consecrated life itself. The feast itself is a reminder: the hints of our baptismal promises in the liturgy are a reminder that we live as children of God, in the dignity of being anointed priest, prophet and king as Christ was in his Incarnation among us. Finally, Candlemas has been traditionally seen as the tail end of Christmas, with its themes of light-bearing. It is only right then, that the consecrated life and the Presentation of Christ are celebrated together, serving to remind us that we are all called to be bearers of light, and to witness to the light — to radiate Christ into the world.
When we think of the consecrated life, the mind quickly turns to nuns and religious sisters, and for good reason. Women far outstrip men in North America to the vocation of consecrated life, both in number of vocations and variety of orders. However, they do not comprise the only groups under the term “consecrated life”. Rather, the consecrated life includes all who profess public vows of poverty, chastity in the form of celibacy, and obedience, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church. Compared with sisters and nuns, brothers, monks and friars are far less common in North America, especially within this diocese. Some orders have come and gone quite quickly, such as the Benedictines, while others enjoyed enduring tenures among us, such as the Brothers of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Franciscans have maintained a steady presence in Cochrane from the 1940s until now, and among them lives the sole non-ordained religious brother currently in the diocese: Br. Michael.
For Br. Michael, the call to religious life “came out of nowhere”. He grew up in a parish which receive Redemptorist missions regularly, and had two great-aunts who had been Ursuline sisters, but these seemed to be more “stepping stones” to the consecrated life, not “runway moments”. His parents owned the grocery store in Glenavon, SK, which was a primer in the life of service, and this continued in his life into youth ministry work throughout Saskatchewan. However, several things drew him to the Franciscans. Having tried to live simply during his pre-Franciscan life, an added depth was encountered in religious life, where the continual call to simplicity means to live out of who one is. Community and fraternity naturally grow out of this simplicity, with the discovery that “I can live out who I am in this way” among the messiness and the goodness of community, not changing who God has asked him to be.
The centrality of the Incarnation to the Franciscan charism also drew Br. Michael. St. Francis’ life was centred upon the humility of the Incarnation and the charity of the Passion, and for Br. Michael, who has been drawn to the Incarnation since childhood, this aspect of the charism is central: “God with us”, Emmanuel. Flowing out of this incarnational reality comes a broader understanding of living the Gospel as good news, in everything done in everyday life.
Br. Michael sums up his experience of consecrated life quite succinctly in the phrase “big brother, little brother, always a brother”. As the eldest of four, being the big brother has always been a part of his life; and joining the Order of Friars Minor, the experience of “minority”, of being little and simple, is central to the charism. From this place of being a biological brother flows the life of being a religious brother. Biological siblinghood calls us to the importance of relationship and building bridges, and questions how we build links, how we forgive and reconcile, and how we engage with others with different viewpoints; it is only natural that religious brotherhood does the same in different dimensions — being present to others, listening to others on their journey, encouraging what they have and offer. Br. Michael sees his vocation as that of a link in a chain — being others’ connection to faith and to the Church, the Church’s connection to the world, and linking these together in new and unexplored ways.
Each religious brother and sister lives out their vocation in a different way, stemming from the consideration of what they have and what they offer. Historically, unordained brothers were manual labourers who made life function for their order; nowadays, many are engaged in academic pursuits or in active ministry work — Br. Michael himself works in retreat ministry and spiritual direction. Despite changing situations, the most important facets of consecrated life have not: to announce the Good News, and to witness to the Good News lived out in the lives of the people of the broader community.
For Br. Michael, consecrated life is an invitation for us to deeper listening and awareness of God’s working in our lives and those around us. In our noisy world of instant gratification, consecrated life gives us pause to reflect on what and who we are listening to. The work of fraternity, hospitality and service that so many religious carry out points out that all Christians have a vocation to community and to being the Church. The ordained priesthood can often seem removed to some, and so the accessibility of consecrated life speaks to the connection, approachability, inclusivity and dialogue that all Christians are meant to embody, to the centrality of relationship in humanity. To sum it up, consecrated life is a sign for us to live life for the other, and not for the self.
In Br. Michael’s words, consecrated life is one of “witness and connection, being present and listening” — a life remarkably similar to those of Sts. Simeon and Anne. As we approach the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, let us grow in the lessons that consecrated life teaches us: chiefly, let us grow “To Radiate Christ”.
Over the past few months as I have become acquainted with the members of the Seeds of the Word, I have come to see Our Blessed Mother in each one of them: a joyful young woman dressed in simple blue clothes, her life overflowing with the Life of God. The Seeds of the Word is a Brazilian contemplative and missionary community whose mission in Calgary began in 2014. Visiting their home, I have peeked into the community’s life of prayer, penance, and mission, which they live in cheerful hiddenness. Their contagious smiles reveal the treasure of their courageous hearts which have opened to receive and give the gift of God.
The focus of the community is intimacy with Jesus Christ through the Word of God. For them, Jesus is the Precious Seed, whom they receive in personal and communal prayer, and then share with the world. Christmas is the most important feast for the community because of the centrality of the Word of God in their spirituality. Sr. Ana Sophia shares her experience: “I always get emotional at Christmas time when we contemplate that Baby... the Word of God Who came to save the world. It is so powerful to look at Him.”
One of the newest sisters, Sr. Bridget, formerly Alissa Going, from Vauxhall, AB, professed her first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on December 3, the feast of St. Francis Xavier. Through these vows, she has made a commitment to her first year of consecrated life. As Sr. Ana Sophia explains,
“the call to consecrated life is a special call from the Lord, not to everyone, but just a few people who He separates from the world to Himself because these people need more than what the world offers us. That’s why we leave everything behind for Him: because those good things are not enough. We need more.”
Consecrated men and women show each of us, whatever our state in life may be, that it is only in giving ourselves to God that we can receive Him. At Christmastime, the Child Jesus reaches His sweet hands out to us in love. In order to truly hold Him in our arms, we must release our mortal grasp on all the things that pass away. If human weakness trembles at the prospect of such self-emptying, it is still when it senses the warmth of love shared in the manger.
Ana, one of the postulants said, “We do not lose anything. We just gain everything.” Sr. Mary Elisabeth remarked that as Sr. Bridget consecrated herself to God, “she was so happy, she was glowing!” It is nothing less than the radiant glow of heaven, in which consecrated people participate on earth.
The community follows Our Lady’s Christmas-time model in being both contemplative and missionary. After receiving the Word of God in her heart and in her womb, our strong and selfless Mother travelled with haste over rough hills to share the gift of God with her cousin Elizabeth. If it is contemplation to receive the embrace of God, it is mission to offer this embrace to others.
The community’s Rule of Life states that “there is no mission without contemplation.” The generous prayer lives of the Seeds of the Word overflow into their lives of mission. They are missionaries in everything they do, lovingly offering each moment of their day for the salvation of souls. “If during the day we don’t go anywhere, we are still missionaries in the house.”
The specific apostolate of the community varies based on the diocese they are in. In Calgary, the Seeds visit schools, parishes and groups to share the Word of God. Their sabbatical year program, which currently takes place internationally, is an opportunity for people of all ages to grow closer to the Word of God and to find their places in the Church. Sr. Bridget took part in the program as a way to take a step forward in discerning her call to the consecrated life.
Ana said of Sr. Bridget, “It was very beautiful to see her courage because if you want to follow Christ you need to be very courageous... to go to another place where God is calling you. It was very beautiful to see how she said yes to God’s plan, whatever it was, even if it was hard for her. We pray that many other people here in the diocese will also answer the call of God, even if it is difficult.”
Each sister in Calgary has left her family and country to share the Word of God in our city. Like Our Blessed Mother, they are eager to travel long distances and surmount tall hills for the sake of sharing the Gospel. I was blessed to be present to bid farewell to Sr. Bridget and Sr. Edith Mary as they left the St. John Paul II house in Calgary to go to the community’s new mission in the Philippines. As the door closed behind them, one of the remaining sisters said with a sad smile on her face, “this is the life of the missionary.”
“Religious life,” Sr. Mary Elisabeth insists, “takes courage to embrace, to say that I will say no to the things the world gives me and to say yes to a life that is hidden many times, a life with sacrifices many times, but a real life, a life with Jesus who is real. It's not a life of dreams. It's a real life in which you love God through people. It’s a life offered to others. It’s a life that is given 24/7.”
Regardless of the state of life to which God calls him or her, each Christian is called to a courageous life of contemplation and mission. As Christmas draws near, we are each invited to open our hearts to the Infant Jesus, that Adorable Little Seed, Who wishes to be planted firmly in our souls and to bear the fruits of love, peace, and joy in our lives.
Every year the students at Christ the King Academy in Brooks, Alberta sign up for a variety of service projects and good works to help prepare their hearts for Christ’s coming during this Advent season. Usually, the students engage in works such as baking muffins, praying for the living and the dead, or cleaning up around the neighbourhood. This year however, we started what we hope to be a new tradition – writing Christmas Cards to our dear retired priests of the Diocese!
The idea came about during the grade six’s religion class, when learning about the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the life of service a priest undertakes. The students were quick to realize that the vow of celibacy meant that for many priests, we as Catholics are their family members! While priests are serving in their parishes, they are surrounded by the many families who help take care them and thank them for their service… but what happens when a priest retires?
The students were surprised to learn that our retired priests are still helping celebrate Mass and administering Sacraments where they can, despite no longer have a parish family around them. We discussed how we can show our love and thanks to these priests who spent their lives working for us, and the answer seemed clear – we would write them Christmas cards! Each student wrote a card to some of the retired priests in the diocese to let them know we are praying for them by name as a class and we are forever grateful for their years serving us.
Written by Michael Metcalf for Faithfully. Michael is a Grade 6 Teacher in Christ the King Academy, Brooks, AB.
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Written by Deacon Michael Soentgerath for Faithfully, October 2021.
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Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers