By Dave Jolivet, Anchor Editor
WAREHAM, Mass. — In 1 Kings 19 when God spoke to Elijah, it wasn’t in the strong wind rending the mountain and breaking up the rocks; it wasn’t in the earthquake; and it wasn’t in the fire. God spoke to Elijah in a gentle breeze, a whisper. It was in those conditions that the Almighty informed Elijah what God wanted him to do.
Today God still speaks to His children, wishing to guide them in a direction that will make them happy and make the world a better place for all. But it’s difficult to hear the “whisper” amidst the noise and confusion of social media, school, work, Netflix, Youtube and Pandora. The message is still being transmitted but the receptors are being neutralized.
To help young women block out the “strong winds, earthquakes, and fires,” Sister Paulina Hurtado, O.P., newly-appointed associate director of Vocations for the Diocese of Fall River, and Paula Wilk, director of Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at St. Patrick’s Parish in Wareham, are offering a three-day respite from the day-to-day busyness with a “Called by Name Retreat for Young Women” at Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham from August 21-23.
“God’s call comes through many ways at the time we least expect,” Sister Hurtado told The Anchor. “Hearing and noticing God’s call requires being attentive. It may come through simple events or through persons God puts on our way. Listening or keeping a conversation with them, praying, reading a book or listening to a song, a prayer or a poem allows our heart to be touched and to respond. The Call by Name retreat is an occasion in the process of readying our heart to hear God’s voice calling us.”
“This three-day retreat is a wonderful opportunity for young women in high school or college to take the time to reflect on what their vocation in life is, or at least start to think about it,” said Wilk, who has been involved with the annual retreat since its inception in 2011. “God calls us many times during the day, speaking to us through the Eucharist, the teachings of the Church, Scripture, and people and events in our lives. By following a simple plan of discernment.”
The retreat experience will illustrate Wilk’s statement and offer insights to the young women in ways to deepen their relationship with God by listening for that whisper, the call from Him to lead the individual to her vocation in life, whether it be as a religious, as a wife and mother, or as a single woman.
“It was my First Communion what brought me to a deep Spiritual awakening,” said Sister Hurtado. Because she didn’t belong to a “very Church-going family,” she received the Sacrament two years later than her classmates. “The preparation which the school provided made me feel part of an exclusive group in the school. It was not so much a time of study but of joyful expectation, and when the First Communion day came I was ready to join Jesus and to follow Him.”
Since that time, Sister Hurtado continued to follow the call, even through a very serious childhood illness. Her ministry as a Dominican Sister took her all over the world. “Now in the Diocese of Fall River, I join in the efforts of Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., and every parish in the same Spirit of collaboration to invite and to welcome vocations to the consecrated life and to the priesthood.”
Assisting on the retreat, as she has in the past, will be Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity Sister Catherine Lamb, director of the Homebound Ministry at St. Patrick’s Parish in Wareham.
In her more than 60 as a religious, Sister Lamb has ministered to Cape Verdeans, Mexicans, African-Americans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and Eastern European people.
The charism of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity is reaching out to others, and it is with that Spirit that Sister Catherine and two others from her order, Sisters Mary Kay McDonald and Barbara McIntyre will share their experiences with the young women on the weekend.
Held on the beautiful grounds of the Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham, the retreat offers young women the time for reflection, guidance, food and fun. There are presentations, prayer and daily Mass.
“The retreat changes a bit each year,” Wilk told The Anchor. “This year we will be doing a bit more on discernment. Each participant will receive the book, ‘He Speaks to You,’ by Sister Helena Burns, FSP. It is a lovely daily mediation on God’s call in your life. We will be doing this with the ladies and of course we will have a lot of fun by the beach and lots of delicious food.”
Anamaria Artaega is entering her senior year at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I, double majoring in psychology and religious studies. “I went on the Called by Name retreat after my first year at Salve Regina University,” she told The Anchor. “At the time I finished my first year of college and had learned a lot about myself and others but I wanted to focus more on what was the purpose for my life. What did God create me for and what gifts and talents did God give me to use to fulfill my purpose? The retreat was for young women discerning where they fit into God’s plan.
“The retreat allowed for us to be together in a quiet place surrounded by nature and supportive adults helping us see more clearly what our plan entails. I found that weekend experience to be one of the most personal experiences for me. In a world full of busy schedules, busy people, and a busy culture, silence and spending time with your soul is something that is seldom done. I enjoyed the experience very much! I am now following one of my callings in serving children on the autism spectrum with applied behavioral analysis.”
Each year the retreat concludes with guest speakers. “This year we are delighted to have the Little Sisters of the Poor,” added Wilk. “Each year we try to change things up a bit so that if we have returning participants they will find something new and different.”
Sister Hurtado said that Pope Francis has asked that everyone be open to God’s call in our lives. “Vocation is about God’s call and our response to that call, so find a moment to journey deep within your heart and mind,” she said. “As Pope Francis put it, ‘Be open to the action of the Spirit of God, without fear of what He asks us or where He leads us. Let us entrust ourselves to Him.’”
The retreat is open to all young women of high school and college age. The retreat brochure tells of the opportunity to “meet new friends and find new skills that will help you grow in your relationship with Jesus and what God is calling you to do.” Whether it be Marriage, single life, or religious life, retreatants will learn the skills necessary to discern their vocations.
“The invitation is to leave your cares and worries behind,” said Wilk. “Come and retreat with us.”