Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate as three new Sisters take vows

June 15, 2017 by

On Saturday, June 10, three women professed vows at a special Profession Mass at 10:30 a.m. in a crowded Sacred Heart Chapel at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia.
Sister Dian Hall of Cartersville, Ga., professed 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., professed their vows as agrégée sisters. The theme of the Eucharistic Celebration of Profession was “Summoned to Love.”

The mass was presided over by Father Juan Anzora, of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, in Cartersville, Ga., and Deacon Ed Souza, of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Junction City, Kan.

Sister Dian Hall

Sister Dian Hall was born and raised in Cedartown, Ga., and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of West Georgia. By the early 1990s she was teaching in a migrant education program in Cartersville, Ga.

Sister Dian Hall

It was during that time that she stepped in to help raise one of her teenage students when the girl’s parents were killed. When Juana — now 34 — was in her 20s, she and Hall decided they wanted to “formalize” the family feeling they had had for years, so Hall adopted her. Juana is now a married mother of three sons, and lives in Cartersville.

That’s where Hall was living and working in 1994, when she met three Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia who live in the Greater Atlanta area. That began a “conversation” with sisters that continued until November 2009 when Hall came to Concordia and was received as a candidate for agrégée membership. She spent two and a half years studying and praying with her mentors in Georgia — Sisters Jodi Creten and Helen Mick — before realizing that she was being called to canonical membership. She became a canonical novice in June 2012, and professed her first vows during a special ceremony at the Motherhouse on June 7, 2014. She returned to Georgia to continue in the work she did before coming to Concordia, as a special education inclusion teacher for the Cartersville schools.

Father Juan Anzora from her parish made a special trip to preside over her vows.

“God’s continued faithfulness leads me to this time, this place and this commitment. Your prayers, your love and your constant support, my family, friends, and Sisters bring me joy and much happiness,” Sister Dian Hall said. “My gratitude is overflowing to each and every one of you. Thank you for walking on this amazing journey beside me.”

Sister D.J. Rak

Sister D.J. Rak

Sister D.J. Rak is a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Junction City, Kan., where she is president of the St. Mary’s Cemetery Association. She is a retired Army Nurse and Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner. She has spent 10 years working as a contractor at Fort Riley as part of the Global War on Terrorism.

While she was very active in her church, she read an article about agrégée sisters in her diocesan newspaper. “I felt like I think this much about religion life, I need to check this out,” she said. “I called Sister Mary Lou Roberts.”

That phone call turned into a two-hour meeting for lunch until the place closed down, followed by two more hours of discussion at her house, followed by attending her first assembly. A total hip replacement in November of 2014 caused her to miss her first classes toward her vows, but Sister Jean Befort worked with her to get her caught up.

“I am so rich in treasure to have you all in my life. You have blessed me with your prayers and support throughout my journey to the profession of my vow,” Sister D.J. Rak said. “Thank you for being my faithful friends and also my true family.”

Deacon Ed Souza, of St. Francis Xavier Parish, traveled to Concordia to preside over her vows.

Sister D.J. Rak’s current plans are to stay in Junction City where she ministers to the homebound and those in nursing homes in Junction City and sometimes Wakefield. She has goals of starting a small parish nursing group.

Sister Mary Jo Sullivan

Sister Mary Jo Sullivan

Sister Mary Jo Sullivan, of Norman, Okla., is originally from Herington, Kan. One of her earliest impressions of the sisters is of being 4 years old and seeing Sister Noella “killing a giant bullsnake that was going to eat me.”

“I was 4, and I snuck to the park. My brother was in parochial school,” she said. “There was a snake in the grass and Sister Noella grabbed a bat and saved me.”

While she said she always felt an undeniable pull to religious life, “life just happened.” But, “As long as I can remember, all roads pulled me back to Concordia,” she said.

She recalls Sister Marcia Allen finally asking her, “Is it time to stop resisting?”

“So, Sister Marcia Allen asked the right question,” Sullivan said. “It’s been an amazing journey and I’m very grateful.”

Sister Sullivan said she looks forward to carrying the charism of the Sisters forward into her working ministry. “It allows me to add vocabulary and have support.”

“The gratitude that I feel today is overwhelming, as each of you, in your own way, has walked this path with me,” she said. “Thank you to my friends and family for your encouragement and to each of the members of this congregation for your spirit, your enthusiasm and your example. May love and laughter light your days.”

 “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.

The Profession Mass coincided with the Sisters’ Spring Assembly, Weekend of Exploration and annual Jubilee celebration from June 7 to 11 at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

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