Regnum Christi

vocational discernment

How Did You Know You Had A Vocation? Monstrance of Eucharistic Adoration

“How Did You Know You Had A Vocation?”

The third part of a blog series answering questions about the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, by Lisa Small


It was the year 2000, the day two of the children who witnessed the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima,  were to be beatified. I hadn’t known that when I agreed to go with my boyfriend to a Friday evening Mass in downtown Auckland. We planned to go dancing in the nearby clubs afterwards. As we entered the Cathedral, there was a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Fatima in front of the altar which I later learnt in the homily was one of the official traveling statues from Portugal that is taken around the world.


After Mass, the priest exposed the Blessed Sacrament and explained that there would be all-night adoration which would end with 8am Mass. My first experience of adoration had been just a few months earlier, and I had had a powerful encounter with Jesus that had started transforming the way I saw my place in the world and my understanding of who the Son of God was. I was mesmerized by His presence and how close He had felt to me that first night, and as I gazed up at the monstrance, that deep thirst for Him came flooding back. Here He was, completely vulnerable and exposed, pouring Himself out to me with His love, grace and mercy. I just couldn’t leave.


I leaned over to my boyfriend and whispered, “Do you think we could stay a bit?” After about half an hour, I leaned over to ask the same question. As a naïve eighteen-year-old, and being new to a lived faith in my daily life, I had never heard about all-night adoration. I thought it meant that we would stay all night and keep watch with Him, rather than the usual practice of praying in turns throughout the night. As He continued to draw me into His Heart, the desire to not leave Him kept growing. I just couldn’t leave…


And so we didn’t – we didn’t make the clubs that night. Around nine in the morning my boyfriend dropped me off at my house, a little exhausted but with a full heart.


That began a deeper quest to understand the longing in my heart to belong completely and exclusively to Him. Even with my boyfriend beside me, there was an unspoken prayer within “Lord, why can’t it be just you and me forever? Do I have to get married? Do I have to have kids? Do I have to get a 9-5 job and do what everyone else does in life? Isn’t there another way?” I had never met any nuns before. I had never thought of that as a possibility so I felt I had to resign myself to getting married and having a job and family, while something deep inside was pulling me in a different direction. “Lord, open the path and show me what I am supposed to do with my life!”


I had no idea where He would lead me, but just a few months later I found myself in Rhode Island, USA, about to begin my training as a missionary with Regnum Christi, meeting Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi for the first time.


I first heard about the missionary year from a lay man in NZ who had just returned home after discerning religious life with “some congregation” overseas called the Legionaries of Christ. When he shared about the Regnum Christi Mission Corps volunteer program, something had sparked a flame within. I knew it was what I should do after High School as my gap year. When I arrived at the Providence airport in RI, I would never have imagined that God would answer my all-night adoration prayer so quickly.


When I met the Consecrated Women who ran our training, I was a little confused about who they were. This was the first time that I was meeting them. Right away though, I fell in love with the way that they celebrated and participated in the liturgy, their love for Christ and the Church and their keen resolve to make a true difference in the world by evangelizing through creative and enterprising means. This was when I truly saw the beauty of a life totally given to Christ and His Kingdom. After one of them shared her own story about her call to this vocation, things in my mind and heart started to fall into place. In her, I saw a reflection of myself and the deeper longing that had been growing to belong completely to Christ. I went to back to Our Lady, this time Our Lady of Guadalupe, and entrusted that desire to her, “Mother, is this where your Son has been leading me? Did He need to get me to cross the huge Pacific Ocean in order to discover the mission that He has made me for?” That night I resolved to live my volunteer year as if I were consecrated, as a way of continued discernment.


So, how did I know I had a vocation? It was a journey of seeking God, listening to the inner desires of my heart and finding Him in the circumstances of life and how He created me. That was later confirmed in spiritual direction and by those in authority within Regnum Christi. The peace and joy I have now is a deep consolation that He has continued to meet me every step of the way.


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“Nun-Run” Takes Girls To Visit Five Religious Orders Across Three States In Three Days

Catholic parents are called to help their children discern God’s will for their lives, whether that be marriage or the religious life. But many Catholic girls, especially in North America, have never seen religious sisters or nuns in everyday life, and have very little knowledge of what daily religious and consecrated life even entails. How can they discern a religious vocation when they don’t even know what they are discerning, when they’ve never witnessed it? And if they do feel the call to religious life, how will they know where to seek the opportunities that await them?

 

These are the questions that Regnum Christi member Donna McCall, who has two teenage daughters, recently faced. Unlike most girls their age, Donna’s daughters, ages 14 and 16, were fortunate to have daily contact with nuns, having attended a school run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, and spend time with the Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. These early experiences created in her girls a desire to learn more about religious orders, so Donna decided to organize a “Nun-Run,” where girls could visit several different religious orders in just a few days.

 

Donna and her daughters enlisted the help of Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, Natalia Santos, who serves as the ECYD Girls Director in Atlanta. Together, the two contacted religious orders in the area, and eventually arranged to visit five different congregations in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Free lodging was provided by generous Regnum Christi families in the Nashville and Birmingham areas, who offered up their home or paid for hotel accommodations for the group. In the end, Donna and Natalia, with the help of a mom who generously offered to drive the group in her 15-passenger van, took five girls to five different religious orders in three different states over three and a half days.

 

The Nun-Run began on Friday morning at the home of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in Cumming, Georgia, with Mass and breakfast. From there, the group headed to Nashville, Tennessee, to visit the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. Upon arrival, they went on a tour of the Motherhouse and learned about the order’s over 150-year history. Following the tour, the girls visited, asked questions, and heard the vocation story of one of the sisters, all over cookies. The group spent evening prayers with the sisters before heading to their first host family’s home for dinner.

 

On Saturday morning, after delicious blueberry muffins provided by their Regnum Christi host family, the group travelled south to the Casa Maria Convent and Retreat House of the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in Irondale, Alabama. This being a retreat weekend at the convent, the girls got to see the sisters’ Franciscan and Dominican faith in action, and participated in confession, Mass, communal prayer, adoration, and a retreat talk, which, providentially, focused on following God’s plan for one’s life. They also received a tour of the property and learned about the community’s history, and during lunch and dinner with the sisters, the girls heard vocation stories and had an opportunity to ask questions.

 

Sunday morning took the group to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama to meet with Sister Mary Jacinta, Vocations Director of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. Here, the group was blessed to speak with a cloistered nun, who surprised them all when she pulled out her laptop to share a picture presentation she had created for them about daily life in the cloister. Before leaving the monastery, they visited the grave of Mother Angelica, who herself was a nun of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, walked the grounds of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and prayed at the replica of the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes there.

 

The group headed back to Georgia in time for Sunday evening Mass, after which they returned to the consecrated women’s home where the girls baked cookies with the consecrated and had dinner. They also had the opportunity to hear vocation stories and ask questions, have a tour of the home, and experience adoration and night prayers with the community, as well as stay the night in one of the rooms where the Regnum Christi missionaries live during the year.

 

On Monday morning, the group headed to the Gift of Grace House in downtown Atlanta, a home for women suffering from AIDS run by the Missionaries of Charity. Here, the girls visited the AIDS home and visited with patients. They also prayed in the chapel, held a relic of St. Teresa of Calcutta, toured the grounds, and were able to spend time with one of the sisters, who shared her vocation testimony and many entertaining stories about life as a Missionary of Charity and her encounters with Mother Teresa. After their visit at the Gift of Grace House, the group returned to the consecrated women’s home for Mass before heading home.

 

For Donna, the highlight of this activity-filled trip was watching the girls have potentially and fundamentally life-changing encounters with Christ. “Regardless of why these five girls came, they left spiritually changed in a very beautiful way, and whether or not any of these girls end up joining a religious order, this was a trip of a lifetime, and it will stay with them all of their lives,” says Donna. “For these five girls, nuns, consecrated, and religious sisters are no longer just some super holy women – they’re really cool regular people who have a deep personal relationship with Christ and who fully and completely give themselves to God.”

 

Since the first weekend-long Nun-Run, plans for more are already in the works, and at the end of June, Donna accompanied a group of eight young women on the first Nun-Run day trip, facilitated by Sister Mariam of the Hawthorne Dominicans of St. Rose of Lima. The group visited Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in downtown Atlanta, where the sisters care for terminally ill cancer patients who cannot afford care elsewhere. The group toured the hospital and grounds, talked with patients, and had a Holy Hour, and then had lunch with the sisters where they were able to learn more about the order, ask questions, and hear vocation stories, including the testimony from one sister was once a blackjack dealer in Vegas!

 

And Donna is not stopping there – she feels a great call to continue the Nun-Run ministry, and plans to host at least three day trips and one weekend trip every year. “There is a great need for young ladies to experience religious orders,” says Donna. “It is so hard in today’s society to not feel weird or out of place when seeking God’s will, and seeing others doing the same thing helps the girls feel less alone. They can talk with each other about their shared experiences, and help each other along the way.”

 

Although the nun-runs are an excellent opportunity for girls to experience religious life and can be a step in their process of discerning what vocation God is calling them to, Donna believes that the journey of discernment begins at home. “I think one of the most important things, besides taking our kids to adoration and praying as a family, is simply making vocations a normal option for our children,” says Donna. “We prepare them for the sacrament of marriage daily because they see that lived out in the home. We talk with them about their careers, and we take them on college tours or help them find a trade school or a military recruitment office. But very few families think to introduce their kids to religious orders, or take them to monasteries or convents, and chances are, the kids never thought about it because no one ever asked them. It’s important that we introduce them to this possibility.”

 

Donna and her husband, Chris, have been married for 21 years, and have five children ages 15 months to 16 years. Both having grown up as Air Force brats, Donna and Chris had lived numerous places throughout their lives, before meeting in Virginia and settling down in Georgia, where they now live in Canton, just north of Atlanta. A few years after their marriage, Donna converted to the Catholic faith, and she joined Regnum Christi in 2018.

 

Donna would love to see the Nun-Run ministry spread across North America! If you are interested in hosting a Nun-Run in your own area and would like some advice on how to get started, feel free to contact Donna at [email protected].

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Final Vows of Mabel Barrero: “In consecration, there is a relationship between two living people; it’s not something abstract, but real, and the initiative is Christ’s”

When Mabel Barerro finished her law studies, she attended an Emmaus retreat. She was already living her faith, but that is when her image of God began to change. “However, only when I met the consecrated women of Regnum Christi could I feel a relationship with Jesus in a personal way,” she tells us. Every time this young Columbian woman left a retreat, she started to have an identity crisis, “because I felt, in a way that was strange for me, that I didn’t just have to help out on three-day retreats, but that I had to dedicate my whole life to Jesus.” With her discernment period over, Mabel made her final vows in Columbia on June 24, 2023. We interviewed her just before that.

  • Without a doubt, the Lord has done an intense work in me if I look at myself in the moment when I entered the Summer Discernment Course and now eight years later… The Lord has humanized me.
  • I believe that everyone needs a place where they can be vulnerable, and my community is that safe place for me where I have been able to be myself.
  • Number 12 of our Constitutions defines what the spousal relationship is very well: “A Consecrated Woman lives from an experience of the personal, real, passionate and faithful love of Christ.”

Mabel is Columbian. She was born in Bogotá 32 years ago. She studied law and was an attorney by profession, but after an Emmaus retreat, her life took a turn. Many questions arose in her head and her heart, but she tells us that with the help of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, she came to know Jesus, “and this was even more impactful for me, because the more I discovered, the more I felt myself called to follow it, and the more I got to know Regnum Christi and the consecrated women, the more I realized that the personal experience of Jesus’ love is what gathers us and invites us to total self-giving.” Mabel’s story is the story of a woman who met Christ and sold everything to follow this treasure that she found after college.

Mabel serving at an Ephatha retreat in Barcelona

How do you feel in these days, about to make your final vows? Does Christ continue to surprise you on this homestretch?

Since the moment when I found out the date, the nerves have intensified, but it’s special because they are the nerves of knowing that we’re so close to giving a “yes” forever, and I think anyone who is in a similar situation experiences it. These reactions tell me what this relationship is: I am giving myself forever to a living Christ. He is someone real who is everywhere, and of course he continues to surprise me: He shows me details that make me see clearly that he is an active part in all this, even in the organization of the Mass, the selection of the date, etc.

How did you get to know Christ and Regnum Christi?

I knew from a young age that God existed; we lived the faith in my home, and I also studied in a high school run by nuns and then in a secular school with a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. So I can say that I always had an idea of God, but it wasn’t anything close for me.

When I finished college, I began to attend Emmaus, and there, this idea of God began to change. However, only after I met the consecrated women of Regnum Christi did I feel a relationship with Jesus in a personal way. And this ultimately caught my attention. It was a novelty for me.

Almost every day I reflected on what it means to have profound happiness, which parties or winning a legal appeal didn’t bring me, but a three-day retreat did.

How did the Lord tell you that he wanted you as a consecrated woman in Regnum Christi? Do you remember how your “yes” to the Lord happened?

I was very happy working as an attorney. I liked what I was doing, but I began to feel that something was missing, and that something in me began to fill up every time I served in Emmaus. Then, every time a retreat ended, I started to have an identity crisis, because I felt, in a way that was strange for me, that I had to do more than just help on three-day retreats, I had to dedicate my life to Jesus. But I didn’t like these invitations I was sensing because I didn’t imagine myself in anything that wasn’t practicing law. I tried to avoid the issue, but Jesus kept insisting.

Then this started to become stronger and more frequent; almost every day I reflected on what it meant to have profound happiness, which a party or winning an appeal didn’t bring me, but a three-day retreat did, and I think this question about happiness was the door God used to present to me a life choice that I wouldn’t have even considered.

The problem was that to me, it wasn’t logical that the Lord would want me as a nun, since I didn’t think I was the “type.” I couldn’t imagine myself in a convent at all. But then, when I met a consecrated woman, the way she spoke about Jesus attracted me strongly and helped me to live my relationship with him more naturally. So I set aside the topic of vocation, and I dedicated myself to get to know Jesus with her help. And this was even more impactful for me, because the more I found out, the more I felt myself called to follow, and the more I got to know Regnum Christi and the consecrated women, the more I realized that there are no “types,” that each one is different from the others, and that the personal experience of Jesus’ love is what gathers us and invites us to total self-giving. And after a few years, I decided to take the step, to tell him “yes.”

Mabel with other missionaries in Chile

How did your family react?

I think I shared the news badly because I had never really told them about what I was experiencing. As the topic was so strange for me, I preferred not to speak to them about it. When I had decided to do a missionary year in order to discern more seriously, I told my siblings first; they were surprised but supportive. With their help, I told my parents. It understandably surprised them; maybe it was hardest for my dad because he didn’t understand why I would give up my career for something like this.

You studied law. How has your professional formation helped you in your vocation?

Yes, I studied law, I graduated and I practiced in a law firm in Columbia for two years. As a consecrated woman, I have understood that studying law has been very important for me as a person (more than professionally). My career runs in my blood, and I couldn’t identify or understand myself without this aspect of my life; the Lord certainly knew this and gave me the opportunity to study, enjoy and assimilate it.

Now I am only a year and a half into my apostolic internship, and I believe I have been able to contribute a little in juridical matters.

How do you view yourself from when you said “yes” to God to now, when you are going to make your final vows? What has changed in your life?

Without a doubt, the Lord has done an intense work in me if I look at myself in the moment when I entered the Summer Discernment Course in Monterrey and now, eight years later; yes, there is a giant change: The Lord has humanized me. I believe that I am now a more “real” person. The passage from Ezekiel about changing the heart of stone for a heart of flesh could define this process a little. The most moving thing is knowing that he will continue doing it.

Changing the subject, what is the community of consecrated women you live with like? How does it help you confirm that God really wants you here?

My community has been very important in my vocational process; it has been said many times, but that’s how I live it. I believe that everyone needs a place where they can be vulnerable, and my community is that safe place for me where I have been able to be myself, where I have been wrong and they have helped me, where I am constantly learning from the others, where I have been able to be very free and, being myself, I have been able to see how my consecrated personality has “flourished.”

Mabel with her father

What role has the Regnum Christi family—Legionaries, Consecrated Women, Lay Consecrated Men, and lay members—played in your vocational experience up until making your final vows?

The experience I had in Chile as a missionary is significant here, because in the section I was in (Dehisa) there was a lot of teamwork among lay consecrated men, Legionaries, lay members, and consecrated women. This was my first powerful experience of Regnum Christi; it was experiencing that it’s about family, that there is no way to understand myself as a Consecrated Woman without the other Regnum Christi members.

What does it mean for a Consecrated Woman to have a spousal relationship with Jesus? What characterizes this relationship?

Number 12 of our Constitutions defines what the spousal relationship is very well: “A Consecrated Woman lives from an experience of the personal, real, passionate and faithful love of Christ.”

It is a relationship between two living people; it’s not something abstract, but real, and also, it is given by Christ’s initiative. (That is very impactful.) I am able to give myself forever only because I know there is Someone I can give myself to—I will not be alone. Rather, I will have a spousal relationship with Christ, which is different from that of two spouses in marriage; it is a spousality that is understood not by logic, but the perspective of faith.

There is no way to understand myself as a Consecrated Woman without the other Regnum Christi members.

What would you say to a young woman or man who is discerning whether God is calling them to consecrated life?

When I was discerning whether or not to take the step, everything spoke to me of the vocation to the consecrated life, and it wore me out because I didn’t want to accept it, and plus, I didn’t like the typical phrases on the pamphlets, such as “Be not afraid,” “Come and see,” “Christ doesn’t take anything away, but he gives you everything,” etc., etc. … All this rubbed me the wrong way, but now that I think about it, these things only occur to me because, even though they sound like clichés, the surprising thing is that they’re true! I would like to say something more elaborate, but I can only say, “Be not afraid,” “Come and see,” “Christ doesn’t take anything away, but he gives you everything…”

Word association: what comes to mind when I give you a word?

  • The past: mercy
  • The present: nerves
  • The future: trust
  • Final vows: totality
  • Communion: constant
  • The others: gift
  • Columbia: beloved homeland
  • Layperson: commitment
  • Legionary of Christ: priest
  • Consecrated Woman: sister
  • Consecrated Lay Man: testimony
  • Your family: love
  • Jesus: assurance
  • Ring: symbol
  • Studies before consecration: law
  • Mission: making Christ present
  • Church: Body of Christ
  • Suffering: constant presence of Christ
  • Life: eternity
  • Apostolate: sending out
  • A song:Si tú me lo pides (If You Ask Me)” by Pedro Capó
  • A book: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas
  • A movie: Worth
  • Your favorite color: Blue
  • Your favorite number of the Statutes of Regnum Christi: 7 and 8
  • Your favorite number of the Constitutions of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi: 12
  • Your favorite saint: Augustine

 

Translated from the original Spanish publication.

Final Vows of Mabel Barrero: “In consecration, there is a relationship between two living people; it’s not something abstract, but real, and the initiative is Christ’s” Read More »

Called to Mission: Building a Culture of Vocation in Cincinnati

In September of 1993, on the Feast of Our Mother of Sorrows, Maria Reinagel began her life as a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, and for the past 30 years, she has served in a variety of roles, including spending 16 years as a faculty member helping to form young consecrated women at Mater Ecclesiae College. Today, she continues to work to support consecrated vocations, serving now as the Director of the Office for Consecrated Life, which seeks to build a culture of vocation and promote the beauty of consecrated life in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

The Office for Consecrated Life includes two important dimensions. First, Maria acts as a liaison between the archbishop and religious men and women, providing support to those who have already given their lives to God in consecrated life. This entails fostering an appreciation for consecrated life, like hosting a Mass and bruncheon for jubilarians celebrating a milestone anniversary in religious life. Maria also organizes an annual conference for those who minister to and care for aging religious, and generates a media campaign to drum up support for the annual campaign for the Retirement Fund for Religious. For example, this year Maria invested in having a professional 4 minute video made with an appeal to support the fund using local religious, so that people could see how their donations are put to use and how religious and consecrated people in the archdiocese benefit from their support.

The second dimension of Maria’s role is to promote new vocations to consecrated life. This entails keeping up the archdiocese’s website for the Office of Consecrated Life, and working with vocation ministers to sponsor and promote any vocational events and retreats happening in the diocese. Maria is also the point person for those who have vocational inquiries not specifically related to diocesan priesthood, and in the last three and a half years, she’s spoken to over 40 people seeking guidance on vocational discernment, one of whom will soon likely be joining the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.

Through her role in the Office of Consecrated Life, Maria has had the opportunity to get to know the different religious communities in the archdiocese of Cincinnati and, in doing so, has grown in her own understanding of the history of the Church and religious life. And while Maria’s own call to consecrated life and her love for the Church have prepared her for this role of serving and promoting vocations, she believes that it was also her experience of journeying through the renewal process of Regnum Christi that helped to equip her in a vital way. “My own experience of renewal, and being accompanied through that, has favored my desire to walk along others and accompany them,” says Maria. “It opened up for me a clarity of what a gift that accompaniment is, and gives me the desire to help religious in the church to grow healthy and strong vocations.”

Another aspect of her role in supporting and promoting vocations that Maria loves most is the space it has provided for her to use her gifts of innovation and creativity. One of the ways she uses and cultivates her creativity is through poetry; Maria has been writing since she was young and has written over a hundred poems.

But for Maria, writing poetry has not simply been a creative outlet; as a woman who suffered abuse as a child, writing poems, particularly in the beginning, was a way of finding her voice, and learning to speak the things that she had suppressed, or had never expressed. As Maria’s poetry developed, it began to communicate her story of healing and how she has been blessed and healed by Christ’s grace, eventually becoming deepening reflections of prayer and of her experience of Christ and his personal and healing love for her.

Maria’s poetry writing is truly charismatic – a gift that she exercises with little effort, but has had a profound impact on those who read it. “When a poem comes out, it just pours out, and I didn’t put a lot of effort into it,” explains Maria, “but others are very touched by it, and it’s that disproportion that tells me that this is something that God is working through.” Maria has been continually urged to publish her poetry by those with whom she has shared it, but it wasn’t until she came across Journeys Revealed Ministries, a non-profit team of authors, speakers, and spiritual companions based out of Botkins, Ohio, that this idea of publishing a collection of poetry became a real possibility. Journeys Revealed Ministries is inspired by St. Thérèse of Lisieux and other great saints, and is dedicated to spreading the love of Jesus by sharing their stories through a variety of outlets, including publications, podcasts, and social media platforms. After Maria met with JRM’s founder, Julia Monnin, the group agreed to walk with Maria as she continued her discernment related to publishing a book of her poetry, and, as part of this discernment, she set to work on writing and submitting a manuscript.

However, it soon became apparent that Maria’s story was more than a random collection of poems – they tell of the healing of a soul – and she was encouraged to tie them together with a coherent narrative to help to fulfill the mission of the Journeys Revealed ministry which, through the sharing of personal experiences in real and relatable ways, seeks to shed light on the darkness and leads others to greater intimacy with Christ. Maria has spent the last year pondering each of the poems included in the manuscript, and writing a biographical introduction to each chapter. She is working to complete this second draft of her manuscript soon so that the book can be published within the next year or two (God-willing, of course), and hopes that the finished product will be a gift to all those who read it, particularly those who have experienced abuse or trauma. “I am very moved by the work our Lord is doing,” says Maria. “There are so many women especially who have suffered from abuse, and this has become a beautiful way for me to serve them and to show them Jesus’ healing power.”

Maria joined the consecrated community in Greater Cincinnati in 2015. In addition to her work as the Director of the Office for Consecrated Life for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, she is involved in adult ministry and is a spiritual director. You can watch a video of Maria’s mission to build a culture of vocation and promote the beauty of consecrated life as part of The Heart of the Consecrated Woman series on YouTube. You can find more information and resources about the discernment path at catholicaoc.org.

Below is a poem written by Maria to the laity, called to the mission of imaging the Church and transforming culture.

 

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Hearing His Heartbeat: A video series to help young people listen and respond to the voice of God

When Jacquie Lustig, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi living and serving in Cincinnati, first discovered the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola during her early years of formation, a dream began to grow inside of her. Once she began her role as the ECYD Girls Director in the Ohio Valley, spending most of her time mentoring junior high and high school girls, that dream – to translate the Rules of Discernment of St. Ignatius into everyday language that everyone can appreciate and understand – only became stronger the more she listened to young women talk about their experiences of seeking God.

Jacquie’s many conversations with young women on how to navigate the spiritual life, and reject the lies that keep them from hearing God, confirmed to her the need for an understanding of discernment that could be accessible to all, particularly the youth she was serving. After these conversations, witnessing how learning about discernment and how to hear the voice of God gave the young women she was ministering to the freedom and space to be able to connect with God in a healthy and natural way, she would often walk away wondering, ‘How on earth can I get this to more of them?’.

The answer to this question came to her with the arrival of Ilona Kies, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi who joined the Cincinnati community in the summer of 2020. Before that, Ilona had worked in Germany in the areas of media work and catechesis, and in 2018, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in media design in Cologne. And Ilona’s education and expertise was just what Jacquie needed to make her dream a reality. “Ilona heard about my dream and literally sat me down in front of a camera and told me, ‘Just talk to me, Jacquie!’.” Together, they created the Hearing His Heartbeat video discernment series, which presents the ideas of the Ignatian Rules of Discernment in language and themes that are relevant and easily applicable to young people today.

One of the greatest challenges to discernment that young people face today is real doubt and uncertainty about how to “hear God” in the first place, which can lead to discouragement and confusion, and Jacquie hopes that the Hearing His Heartbeat series will help:

“Sometimes we try super hard to find God, feeling like we aren’t sure if we’re ‘getting it right’. It’s kind of like walking around life with question marks swirling around our spiritual experiences: ‘Was that God?’, ‘Can God even talk to me?’. I hope that through the videos, people catch a whiff of the truth that God wants them to hear his voice, and wants them to feel and be free!”

The Hearing His Heartbeat discernment series consists of six videos designed to help young people become aware of the voice of God in their own hearts and respond to him fully in their everyday lives, but would be helpful for all people who might be seeking more freedom and connection in their relationship with God. The videos offer practical skills for the spiritual life designed to increase the viewers’ knowledge and faith that they have everything they need to hear God’s voice and respond to him in a healthy and natural way. There are also printable journal prompts available in the show notes to guide viewers in applying some of the messages they have received to their own lives in a concrete way.

“Truth really matters, and the truth is, God is sometimes simpler than we give him credit for,” says Jacquie. “Hopefully these videos make a little step forward in teaching some of those simple truths about the voice of God that can lead to a deeper freedom in the heart.”

And for Jacquie, that moment when the young women she is serving discover not only that God is speaking to them, but also that they can truly hear him, is a priceless gift that she feels humbled to be a part of:

“It is impressive, in so many ways and forms, that a soul already knows the voice of God inside her . Sometimes, all it takes is just a few words, or the right question, to unlock that security in them. But always, always, that girl’s deeper heart knows the voice of God. And it’s just such a gift to help her listen to him and believe in his voice.”

Currently, Jacquie is rounding out her ninth year of serving young women and their families through ECYD in Cincinnati. She is also continuing in the theme of discernment, working with a team that is creating an ECYD summer camp for middle school and high school girls that focuses on the voice of God and what he sounds like in their everyday lives. Besides the local work that she loves, Jacquie’s newest surprise has been the assignment to support consecrated vocations work as Assistant Vocations Director. “I am already enjoying working on a wider team of consecrated women in love with God, and have felt many new sparks of life in this recent addition to my life and mission!”

To watch the Hearing His Heartbeats discernment series, visit the ECYD Ohio Valley YouTube channel. You can also donate to this and future initiatives of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in Cincinnati by following this link.

 

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Love Reciprocated Back: A Summer of Professions for the Steeves Family

Regnum Christi first came alive for Mark and Georgette Steeves through the commitments of weekly Eucharist Adoration, frequent confession, team life, and monthly and annual retreats. These encounters with Christ and with other Regnum Christi members striving to life their Catholic faith more fully inspired the couple to want to be the husband and wife, father and mother, and witnesses of love for the Church that God was calling them to be. 

When their son, Evan, was in third grade, Mark and Georgette helped to start a Conquest Club in their parish, and Mark helped with the local Conquest summer camps for several years. All three of the Steeves’ sons, Evan, Daniel, and Andrew, were Conquest participants and retreat team leaders, and took part in a variety of retreats, ski trips, and summer camps with the club. In 2008, Mark had the privilege of driving a group of boys, including his son Evan, with Father Robert DeCesare, LC, to New York for Pope Benedict’s U.S. visit.

The Steeves’ daughter, Olivia became involved in the local Challenge club, and she and Georgette experienced their first Challenge summer camp in Wisconsin when Olivia was ten years old. “There, I saw Olivia blossom in a way I’d never seen before,” says Georgette, who sees that first Challenge summer camp as an integral step along Olivia’s faith and vocational journey. Olivia went on to participate in RC Mission Corps after her high school graduation, completing a year-long mission living with the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women’s community in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

This year of living with the Consecrated community during her RC Mission Corps ignited in Olivia a desire to discern the vocation of consecrated life herself, but for Olivia, her journey towards discernment began many years before her mission experience with the community:

“Long before I was consecrated, I was Regnum Christi. The seeds of my vocation were planted through my involvement in the spiritual family and the gradual discovery that this charism, entrusted by the Holy Spirit to Regnum Christi, resonated from within. My vocational story begins here, because it was when my family encountered the spiritual family of RC that we began to live our faith together more deeply and I discovered a personal relationship with Christ.”

On August 21st of 2021, in Monterrey, Mexico, Olivia professed her first vows with the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi. “Watching our daughter give herself to Christ in such a formal way was very moving,” say Mark and Georgette. “It was like a wedding!” Making the weekend even more special for the couple was having their son, Br. Daniel, join them from Connecticut. Br. Daniel assisted during the Mass, and their youngest son, Andrew, sang one of the communion songs along with the Consecrated Women. Olivia’s brother, Br. Evan, was able to attend the Mass via livestream.

But this was just the beginning for the Steeves family! Less than a month later, their son, Br. Daniel, made his first vows in Cheshire, Connecticut, with the Legionaries of Christ. “I was not prepared for the emotions I felt during Br. Daniel’s Mass,” says Mark. “Watching him during his professions filled us with happiness, pride, and love – seeing him make that courageous promise to give Christ everything and say yes to trusting his plan was so inspiring.”

The Holy Spirit wasn’t done with the Steeves family yet – just two weeks later, on September 12th, their oldest son, Br. Evan, professed his first vows with Pro Ecclesia Sancta, an ecclesial family of consecrated life founded in Peru, where Br. Evan spent two and half years for novitiate. Traditionally, first professions for Pro Ecclesia Sancta take place in Peru, but because of COVID, the ceremony was held instead in St. Paul, Minnesota. Br. Daniel, LC, was able to assist during the Mass and profession ceremony, and even presented Br. Evan with his cassock. The youngest brother, Andrew, was an altar server. Seeing all three of their sons serving at the altar was a profound moment for Mark and Georgette. “At the end of the Mass, we had two sons in cassocks and white collars.” Br. Evan is now using what he learned in Conquest to add fun and competition to the youth group he is leading in his current parish assignment, and both Br. Evan and Br. Daniel attribute part of their discernment process to the Test Your Call Retreats in Cheshire which they both attended in their senior years of high school.

“This past August and September was the culmination of walking with all three of our oldest children through two years of novitiate for Br. Evan and Br. Daniel and two years of candidacy for Olivia,” say the Steeves, who, throughout the past year have experienced a deeper bond with their children. “Having them go through similar stages at the same time was such a gift to us, and to each other!”

Over the past year, the couple also feels renewed in their connections within their Regnum Christi family and has grown in new relationships with the Pro Ecclesia Sancta community. They have also felt growth within themselves, in their love for each other as spouses, and in their gratitude to God for the gift of religious vocations in their family. “As our three children live their vocational lives, it amazes us how much more they express their appreciation for how we parented them and for how we live our family life. It is love reciprocated back to us as a direct gift from God.”

And their own vocation to Regnum Christi has been integral in their role as parents accompanying their children through their individual discernment processes, and, ultimately, to their first professions last summer. “Our Regnum Christi experience showed us how to love our Church, and how special it is to have our children follow Christ in a religious vocation. Regnum Christi has given us grace in supporting and encouraging our children to listen to what God asks of them. We do not lose our children when we give them back to Christ and allow him to share them with the world, because they take us with them.”

To find out more about discerning a vocation to the Legionaries of Christ, visit lccheshire.org or learn about their discernment retreats here. You can learn more about vocations to the Consecrated Men and Women of Regnum Christi by visiting their websites at consecratedwomen.org and rclayconsecratedmen.org. And read more about Olivia’s first profession of vows here. 

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Cheshtrek Gives Atlanta High School Boys an Experience of Seminary Life

Just a few months after his ordination in Rome on May 4, 2019, Father Terrance Allen, LC, arrived at Pinecrest Academy, a Regnum Christi school in Cumming, Georgia, where he has been serving as the high school chaplain for the past three years, ministering to Pinecrest students and families, faculty and staff.

In his role as High School Chaplain, Father Terrance had the opportunity to take a group of students on Cheshtrek, an annual road trip organized by ECYD Atlanta, to the Legionaries of Christ’s seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut over the Labour Day weekend (unfortunately, last year’s trip was cancelled due to COVID). This year, 17 boys (15 of which were Pinecrest students) and three dads made the nearly 2000-mile round trip, stopping in New York City on the way to Connecticut.

For Father Terrance, Cheshtrek provides an extraordinary opportunity for boys to experience their faith in action in the lives of men not much older – and not much different – than themselves, who are living an intensely spiritual, prayer-centered life. While at Cheshire, the boys get to experience seminary life and meet the seminarians, who, while deeply spiritual, are ordinary young men just like themselves. “It’s a great experience for the guys to go to the seminary and meet so many other young men living their faith in an intense way, spending many hours in prayer, and who at the same time will go and play sports with them, and are even sometimes better than them at sports!” says Father Terrance. “These seminarians are all young men who are regular guys and yet intensely spiritual, and the boys are always taken aback by how normal they are!”

The trip also provides an opportunity for boys with vocational interests to witness and get excited about seminary life; for others, it is an introduction to a call that they may never have considered. Says Father Terrance, “It’s a really cool experience that the guys usually couldn’t have that takes them out of their comfort zone and introduces them to a new reality.”

On the way back from their trip to Cheshire, the group stopped in New York again, this time to take in a Yankees game. This year, two Pinecrest alumni who are attending Westpoint, a four-year federal service academy in the state of New York, joined the group for the game to connect with their former classmates and friends.

Father Terrance’s favorite thing about his role as high school chaplain at Pinecrest is how he gets to come face to face on a daily basis with the people to whom he ministers. “Every day I arrive to school and there are students, parents, faculty with whom I can share my vocation and serve. They’re always there, to be ministered to, every day!”

You can find out more about Pinecrest and their upcoming events on their website at pinecrestacademy.org.

 

 

 

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Living the Dream: Twenty-Five Years of Pastoral and Vocation Work

Tammy Grady has been working in the ministry of vocation awareness and discernment for most of her consecrated life. Ever since becoming a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi twenty-five years ago, she has felt God leading her towards vocation work in one way or another. And her current position as the Associate Vocation Director for Women Vocations for the Diocese of Dallas, Spiritual Director at both Benedictine College and SMU Catholic Campus Ministry and teaching Theology of the Body to young adults after being certified from the Theology of the Body Institute in Pennsylvania are just some of her latest roles in a life dedicated to helping young people discover God’s unique plan for their lives.

What does it take to be a vocation director, and carry out the important task of accompanying young adults as they discern God’s will for their future?  Tammy believes that while it’s important to have proper training and studies in theology, the spiritual life, discernment of spirits and on-going formation in order to be better equipped to help guide others, what is equally important is that, as Vocation Director, she also has a strong prayer life, her own spiritual director and mentors, and a sincere love for the young people whom the Lord entrusts to her. “It’s important to really care for the candidate or directee and to try to see them as Christ sees them,” says Tammy. Her role involves learning how to listen well, being attentive to the discernment of spirits in the heart of the other, and helping the directee to develop her own relationship with the Lord and learn how to detect His voice and the Movements of the Holy Spirit in her heart and in her life. “I also think that experience has a lot to do with it. Your own personal experience of discerning, and the more experience that you gain in helping others to discern prepares you,” says Tammy. “When I look back over my life, I think it’s been my own personal prayer, the experiences that I had and learned through my own spiritual direction, growing more aware of how to detect the discernment of spirits, and accompanying so many others over the years in their walk that have really given me both life and spiritual experiences which have proven to be invaluable for my own mission.”

Tammy’s own discernment to the consecrated life within Regnum Christi deeply influences her current vocation work. For Tammy, her decision to give two years to the Church in volunteer work was the first step of discernment towards the consecrated life. “No matter what vocation we are called to, our baptism calls us to be a self-gift and to serve others,” says Tammy. “My years as a missionary really opened my heart to the beauty of a life dedicated to self-giving. Building upon this experience, a few years later the Lord let me to see the immense beauty and joy that comes with dedicating oneself to God as the Bride of Christ and mother to spiritual children.” The charism of the call to evangelize and to build Christ’s Kingdom on earth, particularly on an international level, led her to Regnum Christi.

But the key to Tammy’s own discernment to the consecrated life, and in her life in general, was focusing first on building a personal relationship with Christ. “For my own discernment, what helped the most, was that I was not so much looking to discern, as I was just looking to grow in relationship with God,” says Tammy. “So as I opened my heart to the Lord, and grew more in a personal relationship with him, I started to fall in love with him, then it was He who led me down the path of discernment and towards Regnum Christi, and it really was him that was moving me and giving me the grace to respond.”

And this is precisely the attitude – one of radical openness to a personal relationship with God – that Tammy encourages in the young people she accompanies through the process of discernment. While her ministry often involves coordinating specific vocation-centered events, such as weekend come-and-sees and Marian dinners, which give university students and young adults the opportunity to meet different religious sisters and consecrated women and experience different forms of the consecrated life, her main objective is to provide a space for a relationship with God to take root and be nourished in the hearts of those she accompanies. “Spiritual exercises, retreats about knowing how to be open to bringing God more into their lives, doing pilgrimages – these help young people take time in silence and reflection to see and listen where God could be leading them in their life,” says Tammy. “Retreats, doing apostolic work, and going on pilgrimages really take people out of their everyday environment, and enable them to give back to others, allow God to work in their life, and allow them to have a spirit of openness and trust.”

Creating these opportunities for young women to experience the consecrated life and nurture a relationship with God is particularly important to Tammy, who saw a gap in the discernment resources for women. “There are a lot of opportunities for those discerning the priesthood, but not as many for women discerning the consecrated life.” For this reason, Tammy finds herself as a point person for many young women, not just within the Diocese of Dallas, but throughout Texas and in other areas of the United States, who are seeking information about particular orders, prayer resources, spiritual direction, and, as she puts it, “anything that could help them to see where the Lord could possibly be leading them.”

For Tammy, this is what vocation work means – not simply guiding someone towards a decision to a specific state of life, but accompanying them on their journey towards a closer relationship with God:

“One of the things that I see about my work in vocations is that I don’t really consider it or label it as vocation work, but rather pastoral work, because really, the human heart is looking for God. The general vocation is really a life of holiness, union with God, and friendship with him. The specific vocation – whether you’re being called to some form of consecrated life or the married life – is more of your own particular path. So with my work, yes, it has to do with specific vocation discernment, but also just helping students and young women and young men to know God more and to trust in His love.”

For Tammy, accompanying young people along their discernment journey is an honor and a gift. “I feel like I’m walking on sacred ground, helping them to see where the Lord has been leading them,” she says. Throughout her twenty-five years of consecrated life, she has journeyed with women on their walk towards their vocation as a Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, Consecrated Virgins within a diocese or a religious sister within a variety of different religious orders. “All of them have been a great blessing to me,” says Tammy. “It’s just been encouraging to see that God still calls, and that there are still young women who want to be open to become the Bride of Christ in this world and offer themselves to God, to bring about His Kingdom on earth.”

Tammy has also helped women discern their vocation to Holy Matrimony through Christian marriage.  “I’ve been very impressed by young women who have taken time to discern where God is calling them and in their openness discover that He is not calling them to the consecrated life, but to married life as a wife and mother. Their personal relationship with God leads them towards a commitment in seeking to make a difference in the world as an apostle; either as a Regnum Christi member and/or a strong active member of the local Church coupled with preparing themselves for the beautiful vocation of being a wife and mother in the world.”

While the COVID-19 crisis has created new challenges for Tammy’s vocation work, which she believes is better accomplished through face-to-face meetings and in-person relationships, she has noticed a benefit that has come from this unprecedented time as well: lockdowns, quarantines, and the general slowing down of everyday life necessitated by the pandemic have created more space for contemplation and discernment in the lives of the young people with whom she works. “People have more time for reflecting, and I find more people reaching out for discernment and asking deeper questions about life and the future,” says Tammy. “While it’s not the best platform, technical platforms have been useful in connecting with these young people and even serve as a forum for retreats, small group sharing, prayer moments and Q & A sessions.”

On Sept 1st, 2020 Tammy celebrated her 25th Anniversary of Consecrated life to Christ her Bridegroom and King. Reflecting on many of those years being involved with vocation work, Tammy can say that she has never tired of the ministry of accompanying young people through the journey of discernment; in fact, she considers vocation work her dream mission. “Really, I feel right now that I am kind of living a little bit of the dream in what I do,” says Tammy. “It’s beautiful to be able to help people to discover where the Holy Spirit and Christ are working in their life. There are young people still today who have a great heart in wanting to know where the Lord could be leading them, to put God first in their life, and make a difference in this world. To be able to play a role, no matter how small, in this process is a gift that God has granted me and I am forever grateful.”

 

 

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!