Sharing: Vocation Discernment at Maryknoll on the Hudson

“Say Yes to the Sacred Voice Calling,” was an inspiration as well as a challenge to many of us who attended the Vocation Discernment Gathering held at Maryknoll, New York from July 31 to August 3, 2008. The 65 women and men participants came from various parts of the United States.
The gathering began Thursday evening, with an opening prayer and welcome led by the Vocation Directors from the three Maryknoll entities: Fr. Dennis Moorman, MM, Sr. Leonila Bermisa, MM, Mr. Joe Looney, MKLM. This was followed by creative introductions facilitated by Sr. Beverly Arao, MM and Br. Joe Bruener, MM. Before we retired we had a happy hour: an opportunity to relax, to meet new friends and acquaintances and renew old ones.

On the Second Day
We started with a meaningful prayer service led by Anita Klueg, MKLM. Then the skit presentation ofMaryknoll History! Fr. Dennis acted at Fr. James Anthony Walsh, Mark Zachar as Fr. Frederick Price, Sr. Leonila as Mollie Roger/Mother Mary Joseph, Br. Joe as Br. Thomas Cain, Joe Looney as Fr. Jack Sullivan, and Michelle Born as MLM applicant. Sr. Arlene was the narrator.
What moved me most was the part where Mollie Rogers, then a student at Smith College, spoke about her desire to participate in making a better world. This was triggered when she saw an excited group of Protestant women in campus who had received an assignment to do mission in China.
The role play made the presentation of the Maryknoll history more alive.
What followed was a talk entitled “Say Yes to the Sacred Voice Calling!” by Sr. Nonie Gutzler, MM, a missioner in Taiwan for almost 20 years. She said: The Sacred Voice is really heard in silence because it is in silence that the story can be heard in more depth and it is where we can see where the story is leading us.
Sr. Nonie began by sharing her experience in Taiwan when one morning she went to a restaurant for her breakfast. She ordered pancake but there was none. Feeling forlorn and hungry she slowly sipped her coffee. There was a couple with their children at the other end of the restaurant. The father approached her and gave her a bag of muffin. This reminded her of Jesus who said to the disciples: “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12). She then explained three types of stories: my personal story, our story (community story), and story of God with us. She asked us to think about passages from the Scriptures that touch our heart and move us into discernment on mission. She said: “One thing for sure, the voice inside of your heart if it is calling you to mission will not go away.”
Sr. Nonie said that Jesus was a good religious Jew, an ordinary person who responded to a Sacred Voice in his heart to do mission: He went to River Jordan to be baptized…Jesus listened to the Sacred Voice…Abba calling during his immersion in the water. Sr. Nonie explained that the word Abba is far beyond and much deeper in meaning than can be expressed in words. It is a deep experience of God in our heart when we know who we are and who God is. Jesus saw the face of God as compassion. Jesus came out of the water singing a song…song about the reign of God…Salvation as health, happiness and wholeness.
In discerning about mission, we can say yes or no. Saying yes could mean that everything about our life is about to change, and we know that our life will never be the same again. She asked us to reflect on two questions: “Where is your River Jordan?” and “What do you hear deep in your heart. What is it that the Sacred Voice is calling you to?”
Sr. Nonie discussed the passages of Luke 18:9–14 (Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector,) Luke 18:15-17 (Jesus Blesses Little Children), Luke18:18-28 (The Rich Ruler), Luke 18:35-42 (Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar Near Jericho), Luke 19:1-10 (Jesus and Zacchaeus, which means the clean one.) She again gave two questions to reflect on: What tree do you need to climb to see Jesus more clearly in your life right now? What does the voice of Jesus “I must stay in your house today” mean for you in your life right now? There are always obstacles, she said. The disciples’ encountered obstacles. What do we do in the face of obstacles? She then read Acts 10: 1-48, stories about Simon Peter and Cornelius and discussed it in the context of discernment. She said: “What you think is impossible, God makes possible. Discernment is letting go even if I don’t fully understand…The brick wall is always there, how much you want to keep and how much do you want to give up? “Nothing can silence the Sacred Voice within you.” She hoped that we have the courage to listen, to affirm what we are hearing in our heart and we are able to say yes to the Sacred Voice calling. She ended with a blessing called mystical experience.
In the afternoon, Maryknollers shared their mission experiences in Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya. This was followed by sharing of charisms of each Maryknoll entity. Each participant was given the option to join the entity that she or he is interested in. Since I am a Maryknoll Sister candidate I attended the discussion with the young women interested in Maryknoll Sisters. The Maryknoll Sisters and I shared what attracted us to Maryknoll.
After supper we watched a movie entitled “Station Agent.” It was about a dwarf who isolated himself but later became friendly because of the persistence of his new friends to build relationships. A discussion after the movie was facilitated by Fr. Larry Lewis, MM.

On the Third Day
We started with a meditative prayer led by Sr. Arlene Trant. After that we listened to experiences of Maryknollers who have been missioned in China, Indonesia, East Timor, Chile, Bolivia and across the Americas. Later in the day, a reflection on Maryknoll Mission was given by Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick, MM.
By 7: 30 p.m., we were all ready for the much awaited “fiesta.” Many of the participants danced, skipped and hopped, as the Andean Folk Group sang Bolivian and Peruvian songs. It was such a fun evening!

On the Last Day
Fr. Romane St. Vil, MM presided at the Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy. He reflected on his vocation story. He said that what led him to respond to the call to priesthood after a long refusal (due to his concern for his mother) was that voice within saying: “Do you think you love your mother more than I love her?”
After the Mass, we were led into a quiet and reflective time and space by Bro. Wayne and Sr. Beverly. And before we were sent off with a blessing, each participant was encouraged to write a letter (to self) stating insights, challenges, dreams or plans she/he brings home from the gathering. These letters will be kept by the Vocation Directors and will be mailed to the addressee after three months.
For me, the Gathering was very informative, reflective, and fun! The “Sacred Voice” is in it all…calling…waiting for a response. I know that once one says “Yes,” her or his life will never be the same again!

(Linda AB, M.M.)

P.S. This sharing was published in Maryknoll Sisters Vocation Newsletter Aug 08.