Deadline nears for Weekend of Exploration in June

March 20, 2017 by

During what may be the busiest weekend of the year at the Nazareth Motherhouse, the Sisters of St. Joseph are inviting single, Catholic women to join the festivities — and to learn more about religious life.

For the second year, the Sisters have scheduled the Weekend of Exploration — set for June 8-10 — to coincide with their Spring Assembly, “Profession Day” and annual Jubilee celebration.

The reason for the timing, say the three members of the sisters’ Vocations Team, is to give women who may be interested in the diverse forms of membership offered by the Concordia congregation a chance to meet all the Sisters of St. Joseph who “come home” for this weekend each spring.

Sister Lorren Harbin

“The busiest weekend at the Motherhouse is the perfect weekend to have guests,” said Sister Lorren Harbin, an agrégée sister who lives in Fruita, Colo. “Sisters from all over the states are home and enjoying the Jubilee celebrations of years of service and new members are with family and friends to celebrate their vows of commitment as well. It is a joyous time.”

The Weekend of Exploration begins with supper Thursday evening, June 8, and continues through Saturday evening, June 10.

On Saturday, the women participating will be invited to attend the special “Profession Mass” in the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Motherhouse.

Sister Dian Hall

Sister Dian Hall — one of the three members of the Vocations Team — will profess her final vows as a canonical Sister of St. Joseph, while D.J. Rak of Junction City, Kan., and Mary Jo Sullivan of Norman, Okla., will profess their vows as agrégée Sisters.

They will also be invited to stay for the Jubilee Mass and celebration on Sunday, June 11, honoring seven Sisters who are marking significant anniversaries of when they were received into the congregation as novices. Together those seven women represent 450 years of love and service as Sisters of St. Joseph.

“The women here for the Weekend of Exploration will experience a myriad of experiences of our life, from the candidacy, to profession, to the Jubilee celebration of many, many years of fidelity. It is a unique opportunity to experience all aspects of religious life,” explained Sister Dian, who lives in Cartersville, Ga. “Although society tells us that nothing lasts and promises are often broken, our life tells a much different story of faithfulness and trust.”

In 2006, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia reached back to their roots in 17th century France and re-established a type of committed spiritual life for women known as “agrégées.”

An agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — did not make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. But she lived according to the rules of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and was recognized by the local people and the local churches as a Sister of St. Joseph.

Agrégée sisters are defined as single Catholic women (who may be never married or widowed, or who have had their marriage annulled) who commit themselves to active and inclusive love of God and the dear neighbor as expressed in the spirit and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

There are three significant differences, however.

  • “Canonically vowed sisters” profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as defined by canon — or Church — law. As part of the vow of poverty, an individual sister relinquishes all personal wealth and income; at the same time, the congregation assumes responsibility for her economic well being for the rest of her life.
  • “Agrégée sisters” profess a vow of fidelity to the congregation, but it is noncanonical, meaning that it is not governed by Church law and is instead a private vow between that sister and the Concordia congregation. It also means that the agrégée does not relinquish her finances to the congregation, and the congregation assumes no financial responsibility for her.
  • Women interested in either form of membership begin their candidacy with about two years of discernment and study. At the end of that time, those who feel called to canonically vowed religious life will enter a “novitiate,” when they leave their previous life and live as part of the sisters’ community but have not yet taken up their works as a Sister of St. Joseph. For a woman who feels called to agrégée membership, there is also a third year of study and preparation, but they do not leave behind their outside lives. Instead, they meet with mentors and study around their regular work and life schedules. And once they have professed their vows, they continue in that work and life schedule.

 

In the past decade, nearly 20 women have come to the congregation, most as candidates for agrégée membership and two as canonical sisters.

For the June Weekend, four “inquirers” — or women interested in learning more — have registered to attend so far. And there’s plenty of room for more; eight women took part in the 2016 Weekend. The deadline to register is June 1.

Sister Pat Eichner

“My hope is that the women that participate come away with a better idea of who we are as Sisters of St. Joseph,” said Sister Pat Eichner, the third member of the Vocations Team who lives in Concordia. “They get a glimpse into our lives and what we are about as women religious, which will help them in their discernment of if they are being called to our community.”

During the Weekend of Exploration, the women will have a chance to meet both canonical and agrégée sisters and candidates at the Motherhouse and Manna House, the sisters’ spiritual retreat center. There are also presentations planned on the history and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, plus Mass in the Sacred Heart Chapel and time for prayer and contemplation.

Women interested in learning more are invited to contact any of the Vocations Team members:

Sister Dian Hall, at  770-546-6461   or dianhall5@yahoo.com

Sister Lorren Harbin, at 970-260-2287  or LHarbincsj@gmail.com

Sister Pat Eichner, at 785-243-4428 or eichnerpat@csjkansas.org.

More information about the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia is also available at www.csjkansas.org and facebook.com/CSJKansas.

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