For the next two weekends, Mass-goers all over the Albany Diocese will hear from speakers about vocations to religious life - and be asked to suggest the names of people they think might make good priests, deacons, sisters, brothers or lay ministers.
It's all part of Called by Name II, the second phase of a diocesan vocations initiative that began last year. The first phase, focused on priestly vocations, resulted in more than 80 men now attending discernment groups around the Diocese to explore a possible vocation to the priesthood.
In this phase, speakers will talk about not just their own vocations as sisters, brothers, deacons or lay ecclesial ministers, but the influence people with those vocations have had on them.
After the Nov. 16-17 and 23-24 reflections at Masses, Catholics will be given cards on which they can write the names of prospective candidates for the different ministries. Those candidates will be invited to a retreat.
Sister Monica Murphy, CSJ, is one of the people who will talk about vocations. She is the director of Pyramid Life Center in Paradox, which offers spiritual and recreational programs in the Adirondack Mountains, and director of guidance at Catholic Central High School in Troy.
Sister Monica will be speaking on Called by Name II at Immaculate Conception parish in Hoosick Falls. She shared a few thoughts:
Q: It's said that personal stories are the best advertisement for anything. Was this true for your own vocation - were there sisters you knew as a youngster who sparked your decision to try religious life?
Sister Monica: Rev. Tom Zelker, pastor of Immaculate Conception, asked if I would talk about vocation [this weekend] - and not just about religious vocation. He wanted me to address the call that we all have to serve one another. I personally think that it is our stories that speak to people and call them forth.
I had a parish priest, Rev. Bob Hart, who inspired all of us as kids by his life to be all that we could be and to be people for others. He was always showing us by example where the needs were and calling upon us to go with him to try to do what we could to help others.
All during my school years, I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and they were always happy people who seemed unconcerned about material things and very committed to doing all that they could for others. I wanted to find the secret to that happiness.
Q: Religious life can sometimes seem like more of a "tough sell" today. What will you say to the parishioners at Immaculate Conception to make them think more seriously about it?
Sister Monica: Religious life is a tough sell today. There are so many more opportunities to serve, especially for women today. The Church is going through so many crises. There are many different ways to live out this call today; religious communities [have] lay associates and short-term programs. We all have a vocation to holiness, and the most important thing is to support young people as they try to discern the best way for them to live out this vocation.
Q: Will you be addressing parents, people with a potential vocation themselves or both? Are those different messages or the same?
Sister Monica: I will be speaking to whoever comes to church. My message is the Gospel message, which is the same for all ages. Like Mary, we are all "called by name" to bring Christ to birth in this world. The call is our Gospel call to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God.
Q: Looking back, what can you say about your own life as a sister that might attract others to explore religious life?
Sister Monica: My life as a sister has been filled with unbelievable opportunities to travel through life with others as a teacher (my first love), a retreat director, a tour guide, a camp director and mostly as a person most grateful for the abundant blessings of the companions on my journey.
My saying "yes" to my vocation brought me to Mississippi after the floods, to Peru to learn how our school could help Third World schools there, to Georgia and Virginia to build houses with students, to school every day - which is always an adventure - and definitely to the Adirondacks, where I have been privileged to be part of a great work in progress that God has guided for many years.
(To learn more about Called by Name II, contact Rev. Anthony Ligato at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sister Rosemary Cuneo, CR, at email@example.com.)