Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A different kind of bridal shower

I was totally thrown off by working Monday, which is usually the second day of my weekend, so please forgive me for being a day late. I'm also in the midst of dishwashing and packing (again, when I haven't completely emptied my suitcase from my last trip) to head to Illinois tomorrow for a family reunion over the July 4th weekend. As I'm leaving straight for the airport from an abbreviated day of work tomorrow afternoon, and since I'm nothing if not a first-class procrastinator (although at least all my laundry is done), needless to say I'm a bit crazed.

So as I sat here a few minutes ago, pondering what to write, an email popped into my inbox. It was from my friend Jenna, a St. Peter's parishioner and roommate to my cousin Carrie. And my writing problem was solved. Let me explain:

I know, for me, and for a lot of you, I'd warrant, we feel called to marriage, and we spend a lot of time daydreaming and wondering and praying and crushing and over-analyzing and worrying needlessly about who our husband will be and when on earth will God bring us together already because this whole single thing is getting really old. Am I right?

But not all of us are called to marriage, ultimately. For some, God calls them to religious life.

In late May, Ben, a young man I know (he's in his late 20s now, but I was in grad school and volunteering in youth ministry when I met him on a retreat during his senior year of high school) was ordained to the priesthood. His ordination (and that of three other new priests) was in another diocese across the state, and I couldn't go, but the diocese streamed the ordination mass live on their website. And I cried tears of joy for him, for he had found his calling, his bride, in the Church.

I cried similar tears when Jenna, who for those of you who don't know her, is all-out fun and smart and faithful, sent out a mass email (also back in May), letting her friends know that she, too, had discerned her call to become a nun with the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, an order that ministers for terminal cancer patients who cannot pay for their care. As I read her initial email, though smiling, I wept again. I know you're probably thinking I'm a weepy mess more often than not (ok, I kind of am), but the reason for my emotion is that these two found the desires of their hearts, the answer to their prayers, their home. I would (and have) done no less for friends who become engaged to be married.

Now (here's where that email I received tonight comes in), Jenna has set up a donation web site and is seeking help from family and friends to help join her order. See, what some of you might not know (in fact, I don't think a lot of Catholics are aware of it, actually) is that in order for a woman to enter religious life, she cannot bear any debt. And Jenna has more than $32,000 in student loans she needs to pay off by September, if she hopes to enter the convent this coming October on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The amount seems daunting, when you look at it from a practical level, but I have no doubts that God can make this happen.

In her own words, Jenna says:
"Please look through my site – read my story, look at the pictures I have put up of me and of my future Sisters (and Brothers) and prayerfully consider donating the suggested amount of $50-$100. If your financial situation does not allow for a donation of that size, please offer whatever you are able to no matter how large or small that amount is. I am grateful for donations of any size and truly blessed by your generosity. Also please note that you can make your donation anonymous on the website if you would prefer that. 
I also ask that you send this to anyone and everyone that you would like to - anyone who might be interested in helping financially and willing to pray for me and my sisters, and all our benefactors. I'm happy to have this email go far and wide. Even the smallest donation means a great deal to me, and I cannot do this at all without prayers. 
Please know that I will be praying for all my donors/benefactors personally -- forever. I really do mean forever. I cannot offer you anything material for your support, but my confidence in the Lord and His generosity and in the power of prayer steadily increases and I know that your generosity will never go unrewarded. I can also assure you that my appreciation is beyond words.
 I'm happy to answer any questions and so grateful for your help. Thank you for helping me move towards the life of service the Lord is calling me to!"

Think of it, in a way, as a bridal shower. When a woman is engaged, she is celebrated with parties from friends, coworkers and family who celebrate her, bringing with them towels and small appliances, tea pots and (sometimes hideous-but-well-intentioned) decorative items as a means of support as she prepares to start her new life with her husband.

Now, Jenna won't need any of that, in fact, she'll be leaving pretty much everything behind. But how much will the world benefit by her gift of self? There's no way we can know, but the least we can do is give her a wedding shower -- of financial help, if possible, but of prayers most certainly -- as she prepares to become a Bride of Christ.

the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne.Dom
the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne.
Last but not least, I hope everyone has a wonderful Fourth of July, and may God Bless America!

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