Discerning God’s call in life can be daunting – but it does not have to be. That is the philosophy of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, who are in their fourth year of hosting an 8-month-long discernment program called the Fiat Project for women in their 20s and 30s.
“It’s not a program to try and convince everyone to discern religious life,” Sister Sydney Moss, the vocations director for the Salesian Sister, told the Denver Catholic. “I really just want them to be open to discerning God’s will.”
The Fiat Project, like many things, was born out of necessity in 2020, when COVID-19 lockdowns closed most in-person events, including the Sisters’ co-ed college discernment groups.
Equipped with the video meeting app Zoom, the Sisters were undeterred in their efforts to help young people with discernment.
“We realized – why stop what we’re doing? We have Zoom. Let’s still offer this and meet with young women virtually,” Moss said.
Now, instead of being limited by location, young women from across the country – and even throughout the world – can join the Fiat Project, with in-person groups also available in Texas, California, and Colorado.
The Sisters tweaked their groups to be geared specifically towards women, and to include more information on discerning consecrated life, which had been lacking in the previous group format, Moss said.
The Fiat Project meets once a month from October-May and is divided into age-based small groups. Each monthly meeting has a theme, such as discerning God’s call or salvation history, as well as panel discussions on both the married and consecrated vocations. Every meeting includes time for Lectio Divina (a prayerful reading of scripture), as well as time for small group discussions. At the end of the program, the women are invited to attend an in-person retreat in Texas.
The benefit of a more extensive discernment program, instead of a shorter “Come and See” discernment weekend at a convent, is that “these young women get to know other women who are in their same shoes that are also in this process of trying to figure out, ‘What does God want me to do?’” Moss said.
Moss said that the community aspect of the group is essential. Sometimes, she said, young women can find themselves in a faith community of people who are much older than themselves, and so connecting with other young women on the discernment journey helps them feel less alone, while also providing continuing formation, instead of a one-time experience.
“There are some areas where there are really great young adult Catholic circles, right? And then there’s others who really feel like, you know, I go to church, and I’m the only person there under 50,” Moss said. “So I think for a lot of them, it’s that sense of having a supportive young adult community that’s going to walk with me as I try to figure out God’s will. I think that’s one of the biggest things.”
Besides creating community, one of the goals of the group is to help women develop “a balanced schedule of daily work, activities, relationships, prayer, and sacramental life.”
“Sometimes people think, well, I need to quit everything I’m doing to just discern what God wants me to do,” Moss said. “And maybe for some people that is necessary, but for the most part…Jesus called the apostles when they were at work. Matthew was at the tax collector’s post, the others were fishing. So it’s in the doing that God reveals His will to us,” she said.
The Fiat Project helps women develop a rhythm of prayer and a sacramental life, and also requires women to attend monthly spiritual direction, Moss noted, which will be provided by a Salesian Sister if women do not already have a spiritual director.
Moss said one of the biggest obstacles to good discernment is the expectations young women face from society or even from themselves.
“I’m supposed to get married, or I’m supposed to have this good job, whatever it is…we want them to be able to intentionally take this time and really ask, ‘Well, what does God want me to do?'” Moss said. “It’s not just what the world wants me to do. What does God want me to do? And that can be really hard, depending on their social circle, their friends, their family.”
Moss said she hopes the Fiat Project helps discernment feel less intimidating for women, and that they come away feeling equipped for discernment of any life decision.
“I think people get scared of the word discernment,” Moss said. “But it’s simply including God in the decision-making process.”
“I’ve always told (the women in the project), you might not know by the end what your life vocation is, but will have developed a deeper relationship with God and have the tools to continue discerning,” she said.
Registration for the upcoming Fiat Project is open through October 1. Moss said there are already 90 participants registered for this year’s program from throughout the U.S., and in the past, they have had participants from the Philippines, Mexico, and other countries.
In-person group meetings of the Fiat Project are available for women who live near San Antonio, Texas; Bellflower, California; or Colorado Springs, Colorado.