When Cassandra Verma graduated high school during the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt lost. Aimless. A lot of soul-searching. She didn’t get into any of the colleges she had applied for.

“I remember being at Mass and praying and saying in my head, ‘At this point, I don’t know where my path will lead to, but I know that you have a plan for me,’ ” Verma said. “So I trust you and I put my faith in you and I always will work toward what is best.”

It is that faith that led Verma on a path to the Miriam Dinner, an Intercongregational Vocation Office event hosted at Our Lady of Grace Church in Encino March 18 planned to provide young women with an opportunity to explore their calling in life in a relaxed environment.

The dinner, which was organized by religious sisters, priests, and volunteers, was only the second time an event geared toward young women had been held in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The first Miriam Dinner, named after the Blessed Virgin Mary (Miriam is Hebrew for Mary), was held in March 2022.

“The goal of the dinner is that those who are attending would have a better understanding of consecrated religious life,” said Sister Sophia Farkas of Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, who coordinated the event and said the dinner welcomed both those “in discernment” and young women simply wanting to know more about religious life.

Additionally, Sister Sophia said, the event aimed to “establish connections and relationships between the young women and the different kinds of religious sisters.”

Often, the vocational discernment for men considering the priesthood gets more attention in the Catholic Church. But as the women heard that Saturday night, the call to the religious life for women is also a crucial part of the life of the Church.

Miriam Dinners follow the same model as St. Andrew Dinners, which gives priests the opportunity to invite individuals whom they think might have a priestly vocation to have dinner with the bishop or archbishop in a more casual atmosphere.

During the dinner, the participants prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, then heard from three sisters. One spoke on what being consecrated religious means, another explained the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and a third described the concepts of commitment and discernment. Several sisters also shared their own vocation stories and explained the charisms of the different religious orders represented at the dinner.

The evening concluded with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which provided quiet time for the young women to contemplate the word of God and to be in the presence of the eucharistic Jesus.

The young women, sisters, priests, and volunteers all pose for a photo after the Miriam Dinner held at Our Lady of Grace Church in Encino on March 18. (Submitted photo)

The event was organized by the archdiocese’s Office of the Vicar for Women Religious with help from Father Mike Perucho, the archdiocese’s director of Vocations, and Father Marinello Saguin, pastor of Our Lady of Grace.

The next Miriam Dinner is planned for Oct. 7, 2023, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Gardena. Organizers hope to have the Miriam Dinner at least twice a year with rotating locations between regions.

Participants will also be invited to future retreats and discernment events of the religious sisters.

Verma is now a junior studying psychology at UCLA. She doesn’t know if being a nun or sister is in her future, but the dinner helped her see the many possibilities that religious life poses.

“After the Miriam Dinner, it opened my eyes because of the different sisterhoods explaining their agenda and what they do and what they stand for; it made me think there are multiple pathways that people can go through and still serve their community in a faithful way,” Verma said.