The stigma associated with attending church remains, yet a growing number of young women are seeking truth, spirituality, a deep connection with God, and ways to serve the community.
In fact, growing numbers of young people are gravitating toward consecration – including ordination as priests, taking vows as religious, or living consecrated live in community or individually.
“Come and See Day,” held at the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center in Santa Ana, is a recent example of meetings, retreats, and workshops offered by religious communities responding to questioning young people discerning vocations.
“It’s important for all young people to be open to what God is calling them to,” explains Sister Gabrielle Vogl, director of the center and a member of the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“The possibility of religious life helps women to fully give themselves to what God has planned,” Sister Vogl explains. “God’s plans are infinitely greater than what we can come up with ourselves.”
About 20 young women attended the Nov. 3 “Come and See Day,” she notes. “Not only were the numbers good, but these women in particular showed a remarkable maturity. There was a depth to them showing they are ready to respond to God.”
Events like “Come and See Day” allow young people to easily witness the charism of a particular institute or religious community, says Joan Patten AO, Diocese of Orange Delegate for Consecrated Life. “It is always very helpful for young people discerning to hear vocation or discernment stories. Experiences such as these usually provide structured opportunities to pray, which is ultimately where one hears the call from the Lord.”
When the disciples noticed the extraordinary life of Jesus, they were attracted and asked Him, ‘where are you staying?’ Patten notes. “Jesus invited his disciples ‘to come and see.’ The invitation strikes their hearts and they respond by following Him.”
While young people have a lot of opportunities both in the world and in the Church, “a vocation to consecrated life is always in the context of a relationship of love and it is important to remember that our identity and particular vocation flow from this relationship.”
Discerning young people want to know how to identify God’s call. “It’s a pretty big question,” agrees Sister Vogl. “The second-biggest question is how to deal with the perceived things that one gives up as a religious.
“What is it like to take a vow of obedience? Do you miss not having a husband and children? We help them try to understand what is considered a loss by the world’s standards and show the gains that come from giving all to our Lord.”
There is a deep fulfillment that comes from God, she declares. “An intimate relationship with Him can be just as or even more fulfilling than marriage or children. It is the consolation that Our Lord gives that sustains us.”
A vocational retreat December 28-30 at the center will attract women 17 to 25 years old and a number of adult education programs are upcoming, Sister Vogl notes. For more information, visit sacredheartsisters.com or call the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center at 714-557-4538. The center is located at 2927 S. Greenville Street, Santa Ana.