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Parish hosts Martha Dinner for young women

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January 13, 2011

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES DEANERY — On a chilly early fall evening a small group of young women gathered with representatives from several area religious communities to hear their vocation stories and discern their own possible call to consecrated life.

Held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish (IHM) in Anderson Township on Sept. 29, the informal yet informative gathering was dubbed a Martha Dinner, named for Martha of Bethany, friend and disciple of Jesus. The event was organized by IHM’s vocation commission and patterned after the series of Andrew Dinners held in the archdiocese for young men exploring a call to the priesthood.

“We wanted to do something for the young women, to promote vocations and acknowledge all the wonderful things that Sisters do,” explained Jennifer Becker, a member of the vocation commission.

The young women in attendance ranged in age from their late teens to early 20s and are all “seriously considering religious life,” Becker said.

A number of local religious congregations were invited to do presentations at the event, but only a few were able to be present, she said — the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, the Sisters of Mercy and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia of Nashville, who staff St. Gertrude School in Madeira.

Martha Dinner

Dominican Sisters Mary Sheila Maksim, left, and Mary Magdalene Soileau share their experiences with participants at the Martha Dinner. (CT photo/Colleen Kelley)

 

The evening began with prayer and dinner, followed by talks by each of the Sisters. Sister of Charity Patricia Malarkey began by sharing some of the congregation’s history, noting the faith and determination of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded the order. She also mentioned the Sisters’ current ministries and spoke of her own call to religious life.

“I wanted a deeper relationship with God and had the desire to serve others,” explained Sister Patricia, who serves in pastoral care at Bayley Place, a continuing care retirement community operated by the Sisters of Charity.

As part of her presentation, Sister of Mercy Carolyn Brink, vocation minister for her community, showed a DVD titled “What do you want to be? Think Mercy!” along with relating the history of the order founded by Catherine McAuley. In sharing her vocation story, Sister Carolyn told the young women that “when you really having a calling from God, it doesn’t go away.”

“This world needs more Sisters,” she said. “There’s some power in being a Sister, in being able to reach out with compassion to others with the support of your community.”

Representing the Dominicans were Sisters Mary Sheila Maksim, principal of St. Gertrude, and Mary Magdalene Soileau, who teaches second grade. They noted that while the Dominican order was founded in the 13th century, the Congregation of St. Cecilia was established in 1860 at the encouragement of Bishop James Whelan, second bishop of the Diocese of Nashville. The Sisters explained in detail the formation process for their order and spoke to what a joyous time it was for each of them.

“God does amazing things and brings you so much joy,” Sister Mary Magdalene said. “He will provide you with what you need for what He’s asking you to do.”

A question-and-answer period followed the presentations, with the young women questioning the Sisters on topics such as their daily lives, entrance requirements and wearing of a habit.

One participant, a student at a local Catholic school who asked not to be identified for privacy reasons, said she attended the event because she has been raised “to live a life of prayer and service,” and has been drawn to religious life since she was a child. She is planning to attend college in the fall and says, “I’m trying to listen to what God is calling me to do in my life. Becoming a Sister seems an incredible way to serve God and others.”

The evening was beneficial in discerning her vocation, she said, “because it brought a greater awareness of what’s out there and the opportunities that are available to me. It was interesting to meet the Sisters, learn how they are living out their vocation in different ways and to meet other young women who are considering the same thing I am.”

Her mother, who also attended the dinner, said, “She is so in tune with listening to God that I feel like if God is calling her to this, she will know the answer and I want to her to listen God. That my prayer for my children always, no matter what their vocation may be.”

Regarding the evening, Becker said, “I think the young women walked away with more information on what daily life is like for the Sisters in the various orders. They enjoyed the event and were inquisitive about and receptive to what the Sisters had to say.”

Future Andrew and Martha Dinners are planned, she said.

Eileen Connelly, OSU can be reached at [email protected].

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