Grandma Nun and More Vocations – UPDATED

This time of year I generally put together a huge “Vocation Round-up” and give news of vows and clothings and entrances. Here we go.

First, the Grandma Nun:

When Sister Shirley Shafranek makes her final profession of vows as a Catholic nun Sunday morning, two of her grandchildren will be gift bearers at the Mass.

The 59-year-old mother of three and grandmother of five will become the first grandmother ever to join the Sisters of St. Francis of Tiffin as a nun and the first mother since Elizabeth Schaeffer, who co-founded the religious order in 1869.

“The call was always within me but I chose to ignore it for a while,” Sister Shirley said in an interview last week.

In Romans, last Sunday, St. Paul told us: “. . . the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” Along with the growth in young vocations, I’m reading lots of stories about these “delayed” vocations — older women and men responding to a call they heard in their youth. The call is irrevocable.

If you feel inclined to help young men and women settle school debt in order to pursue their vocations, see here and here.

The news for 2011 is the clear increase in numbers to these classes of postulants, novices and juniors.

The Little Sisters of the Poor (very great ladies whom we deeply admire) received four first professions and seven new novices on July 18th.

Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (Alabama): Very busy over there! Sr. Mary Paschal makes final vows, Sr. John Paul first vows, a new postulant, and new novice. Also, noteworthy anniversaries

The Carmelites Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: celebrated a solemn profession (with two more earlier in the year), two first professions and received seven new novices. Seems they have a huge postulant class coming in, too.

Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist: As I wrote here last week, they added 18 new novices, with four final and seven first professions.

The Nashville Dominicans clothed, I think 24 new novices and professed 15, with (I think) 7 final professions, too. But they haven’t updated, so I don’t know for sure. The blog attached to the Fund for Vocations has a little photo essay

Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration: expands their novitiate by four

Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George: two first professions, four novices

Sisters of Life: 45 of them are currently in Madrid and they’re seriously techno-evangelizing from there and live-blogging

A rare glimpse of a Carmelite postulant

“It’s a good life, if you don’t weaken!”

UPDATE: Sr. Lisa Marie highlights vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for more than a combined 240 years!

Not forgetting the men!:
Dominican Friars: Solemn Profession
Dominican Friars, Simple Profession
Dominican Friars, Novice
Dominican simple professions
Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word

More Professions:
Cistercian Final Profession

Abbey of St. Walburga
Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Sisters of St. Dorothy
Dominican Sisters of the Immaculate Conception
School Sisters of Christ the King
Olivetan Benedictines
Norbertine Canonesses
Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist
Franciscan Sisters Perpetual Adoration

More New Novices:
Franciscan Sisters, Peoria (they’re changing their habits, too)
Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal
Discples of the Lord Jesus Christ
Marian Sisters
Salesian Sisters

Seventy-five years later

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Kate Oatis

    Thank you for including Sister Shirley’s story here, Elizabeth. The Sisters of St. Francis, Tiffin, appreciate it very much.

    Kate Oatis, director of communications

  • Ann

    I believe that is their site. I use to live right next to Tiffin and still have family there. These nuns are one of the most Liberal in the area, if not the state. We all know for the past 50 yrs. vocations have plummeted, as certainly the sisters in Tiffin, unless they are taking in whoever can increase their numbers, don’t know. But I do know, that they too, in Tiffin, Oh are amongst the other feminist liberals who contribute in expanding their own ideas and agenda to fit their own beliefs. Sad

  • Ann

    Sorry, the above site is correct..hope it works.

  • Erika Ahern

    Hooray! My favorite post of the year. My daughter and I wait with baited breath every August for your run-down. Thanks for the hope and joy and peace.

  • James

    Thank you for sharing this Anchoress.

    It’s good to see the light of God’s Hope in the midst of all the upheaval and uncertainty in the world right now.

    It’s as if we (like Peter underestimating the weakness of his faith) are trying to walk on a stormy sea towards Christ. Our faith may wane, but Our Lord will never let us sink into the abyss if we only call to Him in the heaviness of our despair.

    Thank you.

  • Jane Comeau

    Thank you for sharing these stories! The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, La Crosse, Wis., welcomed two novices this year and celebrated with Sister Amy Taylor who professed first vows in June. In September, Sister Sarah will profess final vows! Exciting year indeed. if you’d like to read their stories.

  • Gail F

    If you are following the LCWR coverage over at the NCR (and I wouldn’t blame anyone who is NOT) there is some discussion about religious orders in the comboxes. Several people are writing in that traditional orders that wear habits are growing and have young vocations, but the same people keep writing back that a lot of these orders don’t keep many women. They imply a very large drop-out rate. Do you know if any of that is true?

    [It's always been true. As Rumer Godden, a Benedictine Oblate who spent several years living the guesthouse at Stanbrook Abbey while writing In this House of Brede -- a novel about a community of Benedictine nuns in the years pre-and-post VCII, and written in the mid-sixties, put it: "the novitiate was a busy place, with its entrances and exits..." The difference, I think, is that decades ago it was considered something of a shame and a scandal for a young woman to leave the convent, once entered. I remember people gossiping about a novice from our parish who left before vows. To leave was very much to be seen as "failing."

    Nowadays, the time spent in religious life up to the taking of final vows is seen as a journey of discernment. As one nun put it to me, "it may be that there was something the Lord wanted you to learn, in that time in religion, that you discover you were meant to apply 'outside', so to speak." So, leaving is no longer scandalous, a failure or even that remarkable. What is more remarkable, to me, is that commenters over there would pssst about the percentages of final vows (which they very likely do not know, as the biggest increases have happened so very recently that "final" vow tallies are not even yet in the picture), rather than rejoicing in the renewal of interest. One sister from the Carmelites of the Sacred Heart in Los Angeles related to me that their very long, very thorough formation process has lead to a nearly 90% "retention" rate, from novitiate to final vows. And just following some of our monastic friends, we're seeing a much greater number of postulants persevering in the life. I don't know why some people cannot get through a day without urinating on any good news they hear, but there are people like that, and that's a fact. :-) admin]

  • Gert

    Thanks for including the Abby of St. Walburga (Benedictine contemplatives) in your list! I was a postulant and novice there over twenty years ago but discerned it was not my vocation. I love these nuns — theirs is a beautiful life of prayer and hospitality (according to the Rule of St. Benedict).

    Let us pray not only for those discerning a call to consecrated life, but also for the generosity of their parents in giving their child to God’s call for them.

    Thanks for the beautiful list!

  • Gert

    @ Gail F

    Yes, many more young women enter than stay through final profession. It’s all part of the discernment process and shouldn’t be the least bit concerning to you. This is true of most religious communities, I would guess. In the two years I was in the monastery, I saw a ratio of 3:1 of those who left to those who stayed in our community.

    It’s not a failure of discernment before entering, but rather a success in the many-years-long process of discernment that takes place throughout the novitiate. Final vows are binding and not to be entered into lightly. Thank God time is given for being certain this is one’s vocation!

    I wouldn’t trade my two years in the monastery for anything in the world, and I thank God He called me there for that short time — for His own purposes in His plan for my life. I guess I would say that not all who are called to enter are called to stay. God’s purpose and plan, not ours :)

  • James

    (“I don’t know why some people cannot get through a day without urinating on any good news they hear, but there are people like that, and that’s a fact. :-) admin] “)

    It’s to be expected in this hyper-cynical age we find ourselves in.

    And our society does not appreciate nor does it understand the full depth of a “vocation”. We are “career” and “job” oriented to a fault.

    When two strangers are introduced, the first two questions are: “What is your name?”….and “What do you do?”

  • Sister Terese

    I am in a very small community of Benedictine sisters. We wear a traditional Benedictine habit–the veil is somewhat modified. We have had many possible vocations in the past 10 years. Out of about 20 women who came for either a short-term or long-term discernment period, only two have stayed. But, again, that is not seen as a detriment but as just another step in the discernment process of both applicant and community. However, I have had the unfortunate (or fortunate) opportunity to be around the new “sister” of whom wear street clothes, make-up, expensive clothing, etc., and for at least 12 of them, all belonging to decades and even centuries old esta blished religious communities, are dying out. There are several communities, somewhat new, who have chosen to wear a habit, even though some are no more than white blouses, dark skirts and a short veil, and who have enjoyed increased numbers in formation over the past two decades. But, you will NEVER convince the “other” sisters even though they themselves recognize this fact that communities where sisters wear a habit are garnering all or most of the vocations. DUH??!!

  • Barb

    It’s nice to read about all the young vocations that are out there!

    I’m ‘too old’ myself to apply for religious life (will be 57 years old in a few days’ time), but even if I were able to, I wouldn’t touch the liberal Orders in my diocese with a ten-foot pole! They’ve gone so far off the deep end! There’s not a young face in the bunch!

    Regarding those who leave before profession, I know of at least two who left while still in the novitiate-in fact, one just left before she would have made her first vows. It’s sad, but as someone told me recently, ‘The postulancy and novitiate is a time of testing.’ Truer words were never said!

    I just wish that the more ‘traditional’ Orders would be more open to the ‘over-35ers’ who still have good health and can offer something of their ‘life experiences’. It seems that we ‘post-35ers’ are chopped liver!

    [Barb, there are a number of religious orders that are willing to consider women your age and older -- some Carmelites, Visitation nuns are famous for late vocations. Here are a few links:

    Communities accepting Vocations after 45, Benedictines, Daughters of Our Mother of Peace, Visitation Sisters(Massachusetts) -- hope that helps! admin]

  • Lee Gilbert

    The Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, Nebraska currently has about 17 young women in their novitiate, some of whom are simple professed.

    Between July 26th and July 30 was the first time the monastery has lacked a postulant for 8 yrs, because someone received the habit on the 26th and the newest postulant did not enter till July 30th. Another one is coming in early September, and at least one more is in the pipeline that I know of.

    Ordinarily a Carmelite convent is not supposed to have more than 21 nuns, but they can accept more if they are planning a foundation. Two years ago Valparaiso’s numbers reached up into the mid thirties, so they made a foundation in Elysburg, PA.

    Once again, however, they are in the thirties, so it seems they will be making another foundation in the not too distant future. Mother Teresa says it all depends on how many black veils ( solemn professed) they have.

    In any event, postulants keep coming. Not only are the full, traditional habit, the Latin Mass and all seven offices in Latin not obstacles, but rather they seem to be magnets for these young women. More than anything they are looking for authenticity. They don’t want to be involved in an ongoing experiment, but rather want to graft themselve on to a way of life that has been making saints for centuries.

    My impression, by the way, is that the retention rate is very, very high, though I cannot give you a statistic, certainly far, far better than one solemn professed for every three entrances.

    leegilbert at att dot net

  • Karen

    As someone who “came and went” I can tell you that discernment is a wonderful and continuing experience. I just wanted to give a shout out to a wonderful community of faithful and faithfilled women in Farmington, MI. Their community has remained stable at about 30-35 members, and they recently had a clothing (we were in the novitiate together). In the last two years there have been two final professions, both women under 40. They are the only Dominican cloistered community to have perpetual adoration. Check it out here:

  • Jeanne

    YES! I always look forward to your vocation posts. Thank you for all the work of putting these together!!!!

  • Deirdre Mundy

    About the Mishawaka Sisters — (Franciscans of Perpetual Adoration)– I wanted to pass on the following “scandalous” story about one of their hospitals–

    I was talking to a protestant friend, and she commented that a lady she knew was very unhappy with the sisters’ hospitals because she’d given birth to 5 kids in them, and she had wonderful experiences and they really treated the new moms well, but then…. when she asked to have her tubes tied after #5, THEY REFUSED TO DO IT because they won’t have anything to do with contraception, abortion or sterilization, and she had to go to the crummy county hospital instead. And can you believe it! They seemed like such a helpful hospital, too!

    So, there you have it. Not only do they wear habits, adore the Eucharist, and have young vocations, but in their hospitals they ADHERE TO CHURCH TEACHING.

    Of course, they never make it onto the news… only the dissenters get screen-time.

    Anyway, these sisters are an awesome bunch, and I’d reccomend any girls discerning a Franciscan vocation to give them a look!

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    The Dominican nuns in Guilford, CT also have perpetual adoration, and the Summit Dominicans have near-perpetual adoration,which is impeded only by the need to grow by about ten! :-) admin