Above, left, Sister Jan Ihli, and right, Sister Lorraine Schmaltz, are vocation contacts for the Union: US Province in Fargo, N.D.
by Sister Lorraine Schmaltz
Who is God calling to religious life? That is the mystery we have all experienced in our own call. A few years ago, Sister Jan Ihli and I agreed to be vocation contacts in Fargo. One small step has been attending the Serra dinners once a month, coordinated by Father Kurt Gunwall and the vocation office in Fargo. There are usually about 12 men and women who are committed to pray for vocations. The hour together includes a meal, the sharing of a vocation story by a priest, seminarian or sister and prayer. This past year Sister Jan attended a “Come and See” vocation day with a display, joyful sharing and handouts at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.
Our steps have been small but I saw a glimmer of hope on April 30 when attending a Miryam dinner hosted by our Fargo bishop, Bishop John Folda, at his house. The invitation was sent to the vocation contacts of the five communities in the Fargo diocese. The request was for at least one sister from each community to be present and be ready to share a few thoughts on their vocation story, something of their charism or community or some wisdom or guidance for discernment.
The gathering began with evening prayer in the standing-room-only chapel. Dinner was delicious and the table was lovely with the fancy dishes and glasses and served by two other priests. Around the table were two Sisters of St. Francis from Hankinson, N.D.; two Sisters of Carmel from Wahpeton, N.D.; two Sisters of Mary of the Presentation from Valley City, N.D.; two Sisters from the Society of our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT); me, a Presentation Sister from the Union; the bishop; four priests; a mother; and nine lovely young women ages 18- 30. Twenty-five around the table was inspiring. Each sister’s sharing was brief and the questions of the young women showed a sincere interest in our life. The formal part of the evening ended with praying a decade of the rosary in the chapel led by the bishop and then casual visiting in the living room. I was happy to visit with most of the young women and extended an invitation to visit the convent, maybe for Mass and brunch on a Sunday. They received cards Sister Jan and I have been using with our names, e-mails and phone numbers. It was an enjoyable and relaxed evening. I offered personal thanks to the bishop and Father Gunwall for planning and hosting the evening. I went home hope-filled, energized and grateful.