From the very beginning of the Church, there have been men and women who have been drawn by the Holy Spirit to follow Christ with greater freedom. They have sought to imitate Him through committing themselves to poverty, chastity and obedience: these are called the “evangelical counsels.” This means that consecrated people commit to giving everything (poverty) and doing anything (obedience) in God’s service, as a loving response to God’s love for them (chastity).
Consecrated means “set apart.” Those called to consecrated life are “set apart” by God for this particular way of life which “expresses the deepest nature of the Christian vocation and the yearning of the Church as the Bride for union with her sole Spouse.” In this “we see the hand of God who, in his Spirit, calls certain individuals to follow Christ more closely, to translate the Gospel into a particular way of life, to read the signs for the times with the eyes of faith and to respond creatively to the needs of the Church” (Pope Francis, Letter to all Consecrated People). Like all vocations, consecrated life is not an end in itself but it serves to sanctify the individual and to build of the body of Christ.
So many older people in our community remember the sisters that taught in our parish school. Unfortunately, today, not many young people know of or have even met a religious sister.
We are so blessed here at Most Holy Trinity to have seminarians studying for the priesthood, as well, three young women in consecrated life: Sr. Mary of the Holy Family, Sr. Mary Luke and Christi Spitzley. This weekend we celebrate with Sr. Mary of the Holy Family her final vows into her Religious Community, the Family of the Incarnate Word.
A message from Sr. Mary of the Holy Family
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us, that man cannot give his entire self to God at one moment in time. This is because even though God lives in the unchanging eternity, man lives in linear time. He cannot give God the future of his life because he does not possess it yet. Nevertheless, St. Thomas goes on, in a certain sense there is a way to consecrate one’s entire life to God, and this is by means of a vow.
When we make a vow to God, we offer Him, come what may, everything that our life brings during the time we have promised Him. Thus, a married couple makes vows to be faithful, loving and open to life with their spouse for as long as both of them are alive. A religious begins religious life making temporary vows lasting for a period of time (say one or two years) that they renew over and over again until they are ready to take an eternal and perpetual profession. Also called “final vows”.
The reason the vows of a religious (or the promises of a consecrated) are called “eternal” or “perpetual” is because unlike the marriage between a man and a woman that lasts up until death, the espousal of a soul to God is actually what we normally call “heaven”. So, a man or woman completely consecrated to God is actually just deciding to start heaven already on earth. That is why the vow is eternal, because it starts now and it has no ending point!
It may seem obvious that everyone should want to start to live heaven as soon as possible, however, this supernatural way of living is really a call from God. God calls whom He chooses. This call to live as a witness of eternity is an immense blessing that cannot be deserved, but must be accepted with love, generosity and faithfulness. Why do some people find it frightening to discern their call, why doesn’t everyone who has a call answer it or persevere and why does it take so many years for a religious to be prepared to make these “final vows”? Well, quite simply because in order to go to heaven there is one major requisite: we have to die!
I think the only way for a human being to die happily (or at least willingly) is to die for love. Because love is the only thing stronger than death. As Christians, we know that Love Incarnate actually conquered death and in Him our whole life has meaning and value. I often think to myself, “life is not worth living if it’s not worth dying for”. The vocation of every person is a call to die to ourselves in order to live a new life for God and for others. To be a gift of self. Again, since we live in time we have to grow into this life of love. We have to make commitments, and then renew our commitment every day, even every moment! Until we reach the perfect love that God is calling us to.
Well, by the grace of God I have finally reached the part of my journey where I will make my religious vows “final” and “perpetual”. I am overjoyed that God, in His kindness and mercy, has brought me to this point. I am looking forward with great anticipation to publicly profess my perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and Marian slavery of love this September 14th on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
As you know, I am here in Genova enjoying a year of formation in the monastic contemplative life. For the occasion of my vows, I will return to where I did my initial formation in Washington D.C. to profess with a few other sisters and then spend a few weeks with my family back in Michigan. I ask for your continued prayers for my perseverance and sanctification. Be assured of my prayers for all of you.
Sr. Christi Spitzley
Sister Christi is settling down at the convent in Ann Arbor. I’ve included a couple photos of the evening when she and other young women were officially received at the mother house in Ann Arbor.
A message from Sr. Mary Luke
Thank you so much for your continued prayers, and hello from Tennessee! I am now beginning the second year of my novitiate, and God-willing, I will make first temporary vows in one year. For the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, the first year of our novitiate is dedicated to building a strong foundation in our relationship with the Lord and learning more about becoming a consecrated religious through classes, prayer, meetings, and service. After the first year of our novitiate which takes place at our Motherhouse in Alma, we are sent on our first missions to another one of our convents. I was sent to Knoxville in Tennessee to work with our mobile medical clinic, alongside Sister Mary Lisa who is a physician and the medical director of the clinic. The mobile clinic travels through the Smoky Mountains to various rural sites to care for people without insurance, and it has been a privilege to serve on this team for the past few weeks.
I am most excited to learn from Sister Mary Lisa how to become a Sister-physician since we are always a Sister first in our apostolic work. Prayer is the primary focus of our community, so I am learning to integrate an intensive prayer life with serving in this new capacity, and it has been such a blessing. Next year, I will return to medical school at Michigan State University to complete my final year of clinical rotations to become a physician. I ask the Lord each day for grace to do all things for Him with great love since the love that animates our actions (whether that be serving in the clinic or unloading the dishwasher at our convent!) is most important. These past two years have been such a gift, and I am excited to see what the Lord has in store in the future!
Please continue praying for me, and please be assured of my prayers for you!
With love in Christ, Sister Mary Luke Feldpausch, RSM
A message from Dcn. Luke Goerge
My name is Luke Goerge and I have been your Deacon candidate for what seems like forever. I know many people have wondered if I was still in the program or not. The answer is YES.
Father asked me to give you an idea of what it's been like going through the formation process. First off, there are twelve classes that the diocese requires a candidate to take. You must complete at least six of them before applying for actual candidacy. Before that you’re just an aspirant. I waited until I had all twelve classes done before applying for candidacy. Tricia agreed that it would have been too much for me to try to balance candidacy practicums and classes, classes that I’m finishing up, work,