“What’s a vocation? Who has one?” (Hint: we all do!) These were a couple of the opening questions Sisters Jill Laszewski and I asked 17 students at St. Jerome’s Catholic School in Maplewood, Minnesota. Thanks to the efforts of Sister Audrey Lindenfelser who ministers at the school, we received an invitation, as members of the SSND North American Vocation Team, to spend an hour with a fifth grade class on May 26, 2022.
With such an extended period of time, Sister Jill and I were able to touch on our universal call to follow Jesus’ mission of bringing God’s love to the world, the various vocations in which we might live this out and a particular look at consecrated life in its many forms. We described life as a SSND: our vows, community, prayer and ministry. We also shared some of our own vocation stories, especially highlighting aspects from when we were their age — old gawky photos included!
We reminded the fifth graders that it’s not too early for them to pay attention to how God calls them each day — as students, daughters and sons, siblings and friends — to live out God’s mission. We also encouraged them to keep listening to how God might be calling them to make Christ’s love visible as they grow.
The students were very attentive and respectful overall, but I’m certain our talk had extra impact because the students know Sister Audrey and a religious order brother and priest from one of the parishes. This allowed the students to connect what we were saying with people they know and care about in their own life. We could see them light up when we asked about the women and men religious they knew!
According to the 2020 CARA study, 73% of newer members to religious institutes attended Catholic schools for at least part of their education and 30% of women first thought about religious life before age 13. This is why it is important for us to make efforts to reach out in parishes and schools to provide young people of all ages with some exposure to women religious and the lives we lead. Just having a chance to meet and know us matters!