by Sister Renatta Jutta Essien, CSC
A pandemic is raging but God is still speaking, calling young people to be still and attentive so that they may hear and respond.
As part of its ministry, the vocation team in Ghana, West Africa, organizes activities and programs in the country to introduce women discerning a religious vocation to the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Such activities typically include the Come and See program, home, school and parish visitations, and discerner visits to the convents.
New paths to engage discerners
But with the arrival of the coronavirus in 2020, these regular forms of outreach had to be suspended. As vocation coordinator I sought other ways to create connections, aside from making phone calls, and turned to social media, which has become a vital tool during these restricted times. Using WhatsApp, I created a messaging group for young women discerning religious life with Holy Cross. This platform has helped our team engage with discerners and has provided discerners with a way to connect with one another, creating opportunities for relational and spiritual growth that nourish their discernment experience. We use this same platform to share materials for discussions about religious life as well as our faith as Catholics. We also rely on email to reach discerners. Still, not all discerners have access to smart phones for easy communication and sharing of vocation materials.
Furthering the connection
For this reason, the vocation team organized the “Discernment Conference—Time with Sisters” event, an in-person program that ran December 16–22, 2020, at our community in Kasoa. Invitations went out to 20 young women discerning their religious call with the Congregation. We were overjoyed when 11 of these women agreed to take part in the program.
The conference presentations and discussions explored discerning God’s call, the history of the Congregation, ministries of the sisters in Ghana, time with sisters, and stages of formation. During the time with sisters segment, sisters shared their individual vocation stories with the discerners. Participants also were introduced to different forms of prayer, which included personal and communal prayer and personal reflection time. They also had the opportunity for recreation and to visit some of our places of ministry. Of the 11 participants, seven attended the entire program, and four attended for three days, scheduled around other responsibilities.
On the last day of the conference, the discerners shared about their experiences of being with the sisters. They expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn more about the Congregation and shared that their time with the sisters had inspired them to reflect on the choices they make in response to God’s call. Again, they were touched by the ministries of the sisters and how they respond to the needs of the times.
Following God’s call
During the conference I was struck by two things: the opportunity for vocation work and the number of young people who continue to explore different life choices, including religious life in Holy Cross. New pathways are opening for sharers and seekers. This gives me hope and the assurance that God is still speaking and continues to call people, well above the din of any pandemic.