By Sr. Carolyn Martin, lsp
The sun shone a little brighter over Mobile Bay on August 8 as twenty-six radiant young women descended on Fairhope, Alabama for a “Fun in the Son” discernment retreat with the Little Sisters of the Poor. Having begun this event the previous evening with a service experience among the elderly poor and an encounter with all of the Little Sisters at Sacred Heart Residence in Mobile, the retreatants now entered into this new day of grace with hearts wide open as God spoke to them during Mass and Eucharistic adoration by the bay, in the words of Fr. Victor Ingalls and of the Little Sisters, and in the beauty of nature.
Retreatant Audrey Knapp reflects on her experience:
“I entered into the ‘Fun in the Son’ retreat with the Little Sisters knowing I would leave with much more, but I did not anticipate the peace and grace I feel now in my discernment. I was inspired–first, by the number of women who came to discern God’s will for their lives, then by Father Victor’s insight into woman’s unique ability to love, and by the Sisters, who find so much joy and peace in their vocation. In serving the elderly poor, the Sisters know they’re directly serving Jesus. The pure joy of the Little Sisters seems to be tangible to anyone they come in contact with. This weekend was eye-opening for me. I pray I find that kind of peace in my vocation, and after this retreat, I have a newfound hope that I will do so in pursuing the beautiful dream God has for my life.”
In this Year of Consecrate Life proclaimed by Pope Francis, this retreat was one among a variety of discernment events the Little Sisters are offering to inform, encourage, support, and empower young people in discerning God’s plan for their lives. The response from the young adults of our local Church and beyond has been truly amazing.
This weekend was indeed a time of “Fun in the Son” for all who participated. May it open up for each one a vista to the deep peace and joy that awaits those who seek with an open heart to fulfill the Lord’s awesome hopes and dreams for their lives.
Participant Reflections – Amelia Wilson
I adored how all of the residents, Sisters, and the women discerning were genuinely joyous. Christ abides in all of us and when we came together to love one another our communion was beautiful. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to serve Jesus in the residents this weekend. The experience will always remain with me. God bless the Little Sisters of the Poor!
Participant Reflections – Brooke Woodard
I was helping the elderly drink water after they received communion and (I can’t remember his name, but it was the Hispanic man in Lourdes) he was trying to keep the bread in his mouth because he couldn’t use his hands, so I walked over to him and helped him receive Our Lord Jesus Christ.. this touched my heart because since I am coming into the church this next Easter I cannot receive Communion yet, but helping him take the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Beloved Lord united me with Christ through this man as though I had just received him for the first time in the Eucharist myself.
I realized that I don’t have to wait to give others love until I find my “calling”. I have realized that Love itself is truly a vocation. For all people at all times. Just like St. Teresa the Little flower said in “Story of a Soul”.
I believe she was interceding for us this weekend. Thank you again sisters. I hope to see you all soon! God bless. -Brooke Woodard
Participant Reflections – Garcia Jean-Bart
It is no easy task to reflect and synthesize on one of the most powerful and Spirit-filled weekends of my life, but I will endeavor to do so by the grace of God. At the outset of the retreat, I had a very specific prayer request, that the Lord would make clear what He wanted me to do with my life. During the retreat, I received so much more than I had prayed for. For such is the nature of our faithful Provider and loving Father; He spoils us with the best. It is for this very reason that for the past three years of my life that my daily prayer has been to be open to the will of God and to be receptive to all that He has to offer me. This prayer bore fruit in a powerful way during this retreat. After this weekend, I walk away with much peace and joy in my heart that the Lord will reveal to me the plans He has for me. He will provide the virtues and gifts needed to follow Him. He will keep His promises. Though the exact picture is still blurry, I am trusting in His providence, goodness, and love to show me every step of the way on the great adventure that He has asked me so lovingly and gently to embark upon with Him. It is my greatest honor and privilege to respond with the words of our Blessed Mother, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to thy word.”
I would be remiss to not mention my deepest gratitude to the Little Sisters of the Poor for not only hosting this retreat, but also inviting us so lovingly and willingly into their home. Each and every one of the Little Sisters went out of their way in not only taking care of us and living out their consecrated hospitality, but even more so in the way that they genuinely desired to help us each in our discernment journey, whatever it may look like. I have found in the Little Sisters a spiritual support that is absolutely invaluable to me. In their love and in their kindness, they provided each of us young women with words of wisdom and encouragement that we will take with us wherever the Lord may lead us. So to the Little Sisters of the Poor, thank you! -Garcia Jean-Bart
Participant Reflections – Morgan Waites
When I got to college I would have never thought that I would find myself falling in love with the Catholic Church and eventually calling it my home. I definitely did not think that after converting to Catholicism I would consider the religious life. It all started just about a month ago. I was in a relationship with a great guy but I knew that my faith was growing so fast and my love for Jesus was increasing and my boyfriend’s faith was not going in the same direction. I did not know at the time that God was telling me if I just got the courage to break it up He would give me so much grace in return.
Once our relationship ended it was a struggle for me to figure out “well, what do I do now?” I began working at the Little Sisters of the Poor around the same time the break up happened and I was captivated by the love and joy that the sisters gave off. I even realized just how much I love working with the elderly and all the love I have to offer them. People knew I was working with the sisters and began to ask me, “So Morgan are you going to become a Little Sister now?” and of course my immediate reaction is “No way! I’ll never be a nun.” But the more that question stuck in my head I began to have fear that “what if I am called to be a sister?” I was scared and the more I was around the sisters I felt that I could never live the lifestyle they live. It’s just too much. I prayed and prayed that God would just give me a clear answer about religious life, but I still wasn’t figuring anything out. The sisters told me about the “Fun in the Son” retreat and I did not want to go at first because I knew that I would be persuaded to be a sister some how and I did not want that to happen!
I was set on not going but a week before the retreat I knew in my heart that I needed to let go of whatever fears I had and sign up. God never ignores our fears or worries because going on this retreat was the absolute best thing I could have done for my faith and discernment. The retreat was filled with grace and direction. I never knew what religious life was really all about, I mean, I’ve only been Catholic for four months! During the retreat, the sisters shared stories of their service and vocations, Fr. Victor Ingalls gave wonderful talks on the woman’s heart and the beauty of religious life and the Holy Spirit was definitely there working in each woman’s heart and mind. I felt at peace knowing that there were 25 other beautiful ladies sitting next to me going through the same process. Throughout the day many of my fears were disappearing and my heart was full of joy and happiness. I was beginning to understand that just because I feel a calling to religious life does not mean I have to enter the convent tomorrow. I have so much time to discern and enjoy my first year of being Catholic! As long as we “Refuse God nothing” He will give us everything we need.
Participant Reflections – Peyton Mahoney
I think that the retreat was a perfect way to get away from the chaos of everyday life and truly reflect on what God has planned for me. I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent my weekend! -Peyton Mahoney
Participant Reflections – Samantha Stratton
I’ve realized fellowship is the single most important factor in building confidence in my faith. Being around other Catholic women and surrounded by the Holy Spirit brings out the deep longings of my heart externally to share Jesus with the world. -Samantha Stratton
Sr. Carolyn serves as regional vocation coordinator for the Little Sisters of the Poor. She welcomes requests for information about vocations and upcoming discernment opportunities, and offers personal vocation accompaniment to young adult women discerning the consecrated religious life. She can be reached at email@example.com or (251) 591-3700.