A review of Susan Flansburg's Feels Like Home: Finding Your Way to Catholic Sisterhood
Though I’ve been quite aware of the shortage of Catholic sisters in the United States for some time, an experience last year took me by surprise. Our vocation director Sister Denise Glazik and I were at my alma mater—Eastern Illinois University—for a Busy Persons Retreat at the Newman Center where my religious vocation was nurtured 40 years earlier. It was Catholic Sisters Week, and I had a brilliant idea: We’d invite the students to create selfies for social media with posters that included a shout-out to their favorite Catholic sisters.
“I’m not sure that will work,” Sister Denise calmly remarked. “I don’t think the students have much contact with sisters.” She was correct. An informal poll that day uncovered two students among 30 or so who had a relationship with a Catholic sister. Two.
THAT is why I’m so happy to see Susan Flansburg’s book, Feels Like Home: A Single Catholic Woman’s Guide to Religious Life in the U.S. The volume is slim enough to fit in a purse, and inexpensive enough that every parish, campus ministry center, convent, spiritual director, religious community and diocesan vocation office should have a dozen of them on the shelf, ready to share with women in the midst of discerning their life’s vocation.
Dare I say, parents may want to have a copy on hand, too. It will help familiarize you with the process of discerning religious life, introduce you to apostolic, missionary, monastic, and cloistered communities, and prepare you for that golden moment when you talk with your own child about possibilities for a way of life the world may need now more than ever.
The book includes four sections dedicated to sharing vocation stories; aiding in the process of discernment; working through the bumps in the road along the way; and providing a path for prayer, study, and reading to guide the process. There are excellent questions for discernment at the end of each section, and plenty of recommended books, websites, videos and films that can aid a discerner—and those who accompany her—in the process.
As clear, succinct, and engaging as Susan’s writing is, it is no substitute for direct, personal contact with Catholic Sisters and their vocation directors, who are trained guides for women in discernment. It can be a wonderful first step on the journey.
The volume is slim enough to fit in a purse, and inexpensive enough that every parish, campus ministry center, convent, spiritual director, religious community and diocesan vocation office should have a dozen of them ready to share with women in the midst of discerning their life’s vocation.
If you are reading this and know a woman you think might have a religious vocation—or you yourself are beginning to hear that still small voice calling you to more—please know that my religious community— the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois—is available to assist any woman’s discernment process. A good first stop is our website, springfieldop.org/Dominican-mission, where you will find paths to relationship with our sisters. Once you are ready for the next step, we have sisters trained in spiritual direction who can accompany you deeper into the discernment process. And of course, Sister Denise Glazik is always ready to accompany you.
Ultimately, a person’s choice of vocation is led by the Holy Spirit, discerned deep within her soul, and confirmed by a sense of internal joy and the confirmation of people close to her.
That was my experience in 1981. There was no shortage of people for me to turn to. Having been educated by religious “K through 12” as they say, and raised in a thoroughly Catholic environment, I was acquainted with at least seven different ‘flavors’ of religious life—the sisters, brothers, and priests who taught me, served in my parish, and lived in my town. A college classmate who was in the novitiate, the Franciscan priests who often joined the retreat teams on which I frequently served, a sister who taught me in high school, even a chance encounter with a seminary classmate of one of my brothers—all these encounters along the road of life prepared me for that moment of “Yes God!” shouted into the silence of my dinky apartment. I had so much support along my journey of discernment! I wish that for everyone, and I’m happy to have Feels Like Home to share with the next generation of consecrated women religious who are ready to give their lives For the Life of the World.
Feels Like Home may be purchased here.
Springfield Dominican Sister Beth Murphy is the communications director for her congregation and a facilitator of Cor Unum (One Heart) a community for young adult women based in Springfield, Illinois. She can be reached at email@example.com.