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Vocation Advent Retreat focusing on Mary and Elizabeth open to all

 111320sisters retreat preview

Members of the Poor Handmaids of Christ gather during a retreat at their motherhouse in Donaldson in 2019. The Poor Handmaids and at least two other religious orders from the Sisters collaborative in the Diocese of Gary will host a Virtual Vocation Advent Retreat on four upcoming Sunday afternoons, Nov. 29-Dec. 20. (Provided photo)



Northwest Indiana Catholic


      Vocations are not just for those discerning a religious calling, so the Sister’s Collaborative of the Diocese of Gary is welcoming women of all ages to a Virtual Vocation Advent Retreat that will be spread over four Sunday afternoons and involve at least three religious communities.

      “We all have a vocation, whether it be to the religious life, married life, single life or a specific career, like education or medicine or the law, and we don’t know where God will lead us, but we trust in him,” said Sister Joanne Marie Schutz, a member of the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius and the pastoral associate at St. Mary parish in Crown Point.

      “While this retreat is inviting young women 18 to 40 who are discerning a religious vocation to participate, we are actually welcoming all women, whether discerning a vocation or not, to register,” added Sister Linda Volk, PHJC, a teacher and vocation team member who has also served as a provincial councilor for the PHJC American Province in Donaldson, coordinator of Sister residents at Convent Ancilla Domini and is also an environmental activist at The Center at Donaldson. “One of the advantages of going virtual is that our capacity is unlimited.”

      Titled “The Gifts of Visitation: Spiritual Encounters with Mary and Elizabeth,” the retreat will encompass the four Sundays of Advent, Nov. 29 and Dec. 6, 13 and 20, through a Zoom meeting each week from 2 to 3 p.m. (CST).

      “There will be a presentation each week, as well as time for quiet reflection and large group sharing, so it will be an interactive program,” said Sister Connie Bach, PHJC, director of vocations. “We didn’t want it to be all talk, and we want to get the participants involved.

      “The theme speaks to the gifts that came from the relationship between these two women, Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, and how we relate their encounters to how we encounter the Christ Child and bring Christ into our lives,” Sister Connie said.

      “While our target audience is women discerning religious life, it is also for women new to the discerning process and those just curious about religious life, as well as other women who are interested in exploring the topic of Mary and Elizabeth,” Sister Connie noted. “We are also happy to answer questions from participants who want to stay online after a session.”

      Sister Joanne Marie and Sister Linda will alternate introducing separate topics during the retreat.

      Using Catholic columnist Denise Bossert’s book, “Gifts of the Visitation,” Sister Linda will open the retreat on Nov. 29 by presenting the spirit of readiness. “It was very mutual, what Mary and Elizabeth gave to each other to help them each respond to God,” Sister Linda said. “How can we ready ourselves and keep ourselves open to God?”

      Sister Joanne Marie will next present the spirit of courage – “How Mary had to have courage to answer ‘Yes’ to the will of God and how, in any of our vocations, when we don’t know where God will lead us, we still trust him,” she said.

      Sister Linda’s second topic is the spirit of hospitality, “How we can open ourselves to deeper kinds and different degrees of hospitality, and how we are hospitable to God and to each other,” she explained.

      Sister Joanne Marie will conclude the retreat with the spirit of joy. “Mary lived her life in pure joy. She had to figure out where God was leading her, and through discernment, how do you know where God is leading you?” she will address. “Now Christmas is coming, but there would be no Christmas unless Mary said ‘yes’ and shared that joy with Elizabeth.”

      In addition to Sister Joanne Marie Schutz, SSCM, and Sister Linda Volk, PHJC, Sister Mary Joseph Watkins of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, Franciscan Health St. Francis Center Dyer patient educator, will also participate in the retreat.

      “We were going to host another Taize Service, which is so beautiful, but we wanted to have something that more people could participate in, and with the COVID-19 restrictions, we decided to plan an Advent retreat that we could host virtually,” Sister Connie said.

      For more information on the retreat or to register, visit or contact Peggy Guernsey at 962-8626 or Sister Connie Bach, PHJC, at (574) 340-6409.

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