Trying out a new habit

Little versions of a Franciscan brother and Dominican nun walked before a crowd of young people gathered in a church, tugging at their white habits or adjusting their brown robes.

For many of the children at Our Lady of Loreto Church in Foxfield last week, it was the first time they had seen a religious brother or sister and wore a habit.

“I think the habit is really comfortable,” said 7-year-old Sydney Shivar, who wore a Dominican-style cream habit and black veil before the group.

More than a time for dress-up, youth leaders organized the religious vocations presentation with religious brothers and sisters as an extension of the summer youth program Totus Tuus to acquaint children with another way of life dedicated to Christ and service of others.

“One of the things we’re trying to point to is it’s not just a job, it’s a life, a life given to God,” said seminarian Daniel Ciucci, who directed Totus Tuus in the Archdiocese of Denver this year. “A habit, with all its symbolism, points to a great charity, a great act of self-gift.”

In previous years of Totus Tuus, Latin for “totally yours,” held at parishes across the nation, priestly vocations were emphasized to children, yet there wasn’t a presentation about religious vocations, especially for women, Ciucci said.

Our Lady of Loreto parishioners, parents and Totus Tuus leaders wanted to give a message that all are called to holiness and a particular vocation.

It takes a community, primarily the family, to assist a child to discover their vocation, said pastor Msgr. Edward Buelt.

“The most important community out of which vocations come is the family,” he said. “A school and a parish’s only role is to assist the family in drawing that out of the child.”

And exposure at a young age is key, he added, when children are quickly learning and may be discovering a call from God.

“There is never an age at which we should not be … drawing out of them their vocation that has already been instilled in them from their mother’s womb,” Msgr. Buelt said.

A group of 12 parent and parishioner volunteers and an anonymous donor made a vision a reality when they sewed and made 28 religious habits to make religious vocations more tangible.

With the leadership and vision of parishioner Katherine Dorsey, nine women worked together to sew and assemble the habits for the June 26 presentation.

“It makes it much more real to them,” said Jane Eusterman, one of the volunteers.

She said the volunteers all prayed while making the habits in hopes that vocations would be realized.

“It’s not just a fun effort—it’s praying that these seeds would be planted here,” she said.

Eusterman and volunteers also asked religious from various orders to speak to the children about what led them to their vocation.

Capuchin Franciscan Brother Anthony Monahan of San Antonio Friary in Denver, who recently made a lifetime profession, told the youths about his vocation.

“I’m here today, because I was called by God,” he said.

Sister Esther Mary Nickel, a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Mich., who teaches at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, talked about true happiness.

“Our happiness lies in finding what it is that the Lord is asking of us for our life,” she said, “and then we know why we were created to love him and love one another.”

Msgr. Buelt also shared his own discovery of his vocation. As a child he felt unloved but realized Christ’s own love for him.

“I wanted to give my life back to (Christ) and the only way I knew how was to be a priest. I decided early on I was going to give my life for you all so you all could have life in Jesus,” he shared with the group.

After the presentation, 7-year-old Aiden Segovia, who wore a Franciscan habit, said that he could “wear this every day.”

Totus Tuus leaders who helped with the presentation said the children were excited to see the religious and try on the habits.

“Being exposed to (religious life) is the first step,” said Summer Swisher, 21.

Totus Tuus blog
Two young adult leaders who are working as Totus Tuus teachers blog about their experiences for the Denver Catholic Register here.

Tips for fostering vocations
Religious sisters, brothers and youth leaders offered tips for families on how to give support for vocations.

  • Make time for at least five minutes of family prayer daily.
  • Foster silence in the home, instilling in children the habit of listening to God.
  • Pray for youths and the vocation God calls them to.
  • Expose young people to vocations through visits to religious orders or involvement in educational programs such as Totus Tuus.
  • Spend time each week with children studying the faith.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash