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Labouré Society helps local woman pursue her vocation

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STORY UPDATE (July 2013)

By Patricia McGeever
For The Catholic Telegraph 

Christine Grote is a lot like other young women her age. She likes the band Mumford and Sons, enjoys Facebook and Instagram and has a mountain of college loan debt.  Where she differs from her peers is how she’s paying off that debt and why.

Grote, 26, wants to be a nun and the order she’s chosen to enter, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, won’t accept her unless she’s debt free.  So she is working with the Labouré Society, a nonprofit that exists solely for the purpose of helping aspirants pay off debt so they can pursue their vocations. Many are forced to delay their entry into religious life until they are debt free. Grote has to raise $45,000 by June 30.

“All the money goes toward a big pot. We’re fundraising for the organization and by fundraising I qualify to receive a grant for my needs,” she says, which is coincidently also $45,000. “People who donate to this organization are supporting religious vocations and not just Christine Grote’s bills.” All the money goes toward active vocations and should any aspirants later decide to leave their orders, they would reassume their debt.

But Grote isn’t planning on bailing. She’s excited about her future. She heard God’s call, she says, and knows her place will be with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in The Bronx. “My soul felt so at home,” she says after making a discernment trip to the community. “There was such a deep peace there.”

Her path to this discernment process started in the fourth grade at Our Lady of Victory School in Delhi. During Exposition, Grote says she heard God speak to her heart. “He said, ‘Christine, this is Jesus. I’m as real to you in the Eucharist now as I was to the apostles,’” she recalls. She said Jesus told her the things she learned in religion class about the miracles He performed and the places He preached were all true. She said He also told her, “‘I laid down my life for you and I ask you to do the same.’ I remember Him saying that so clearly,” says Grote.

That’s a pretty heavy conversation for a fourth grader and Grote took it at face value. But by the time she got to high school at St. Ursula Academy, she began to question her faith and stopped attending Mass. She took her doubts with her to George Mason University in Virginia.

“She called crying,” her mother, Cathy Grote, remembers one fall day freshman year. “She said, ‘I’m so homesick.’ I said, Christine, go to Mass. It’s the same everywhere.”

The next morning, Grote went to Mass. She was hoping to slip in unnoticed but the woman seated in front of her turned around and introduced herself. She was a Catholic missionary and this chance meeting would chart the course of her life. The woman invited Grote to participate in FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), and during her freshman year, she took an alternative spring break trip to New York to help the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal as they handed out food to the poor, worked in a homeless shelter and in a soup kitchen.

“For the first time in my life I really saw people living out the Gospel”, says Grote. That week made a lasting impression on her and changed her life. She changed her major from political science to social work. She began attending Bible study classes. She went on retreats. When she saw the work the sisters were doing, she decided that’s what she wanted to do.

“There’s always been something special about her so this does not surprise me,” says her mother. “She’s always been a very insightful child.”

After working as a missionary for three years with FOCUS, she came home to work at a nonprofit. She put her vocation on the back burner as she worked to pay off her loans. Then, she lost her job. She had nothing but time and opportunity. And she took advantage of it.

As she fundraises for the Labouré Society, Grote plans another trip to the community. She finds out if she’s accepted to the order at the end of May. The last few months she’s been slowly changing her lifestyle as she prepares to enter the convent. She stopped wearing makeup, she’s turning off the radio and TV more often seeking silence. Her prayer life continues to grow. She’s spending as much time with her family as possible because once she’s accepted to the order, it’s a seven year process before she takes final vows and contact with them will be limited. She is happy with her calling and her order and grateful for the spring break trip that set it all in motion.

“For the first time in my life, what I really encountered that week was the life that Jesus was inviting me to. And I knew it. The life he invited me to in the fourth grade.”

To donate to the Labouré Society, visit to www.LaboureSociety.org, or send a check made out to the Labouré Society and put the name Christine Grote in the memo section. Mail it to The Labouré Society, 1365 Corporate Center Curve, Suite 104, Eagan, MN 55121.

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