“Mary’s ‘Yes’ Continues: Religious Vocations in the New Millennium” is a new book from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. With contributions from men and women in varied vocations, the book is a gift for anyone discerning what exactly God’s vocational call is for them, as well as for anyone wanting to go deeper into the life of the Trinity in the call they’ve already committed to.
Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, co-foundress and vocations director of the sisters (sometimes referred to as the “Ann Arbor Dominicans”) spoke with Kathryn Jean Lopez about the “yes” that continues with each one of us.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: How does Mary’s “yes” continue? She’s a historic figure. What’s done is done, isn’t it?
Sister Joseph Andrew: Mary’s “yes” continues in each heart who lives her last recorded words “Do whatever he tells you (Jn. 2:5).” The only desire of our heavenly Mother’s heart is that each of us, her children, would love her son and see him face-to-face eternally. In the midst of the world’s — and thus of our own — struggles, insecurities, questions and sufferings, we should take courage that our Mother and Christ have given us the path to holiness: simply allow the divine to unfold in each of us by imitating Mary’s fiat — her “yes” to God!
Lopez: Why does God call us to anything? He surely doesn’t need us if he’s God and so powerful.
Sister Joseph Andrew: God doesn’t need us. He made us because he loves us and love always creates a vulnerability towards the beloved. We desire what is best for that person; what will lead that person to his/her fullness, happiness, completion as an “Imago Dei” no matter what that might ask of us. Once God created us, he bound himself by the ties of love; a perfect, unending and personal love, so personal that he intimately knows the manner of life which will bring each of us to radiate his Image in our own.
Lopez: How did you wind up where you are? How did you know you were called? How do the Holy Spirit’s prompts look different to you now versus when you first sensed the call?
Sister Joseph Andrew: My answer to this question must always begin with my greatest thanksgiving for my parents who loved me before I was born, who carried me to the baptismal font as an infant, who sacrificed that I and my siblings might receive a good Catholic education from grades 1 to 12 … and by whose witness of their own loving fidelity to each other, I knew my vocation would be to consecrate my life to Christ in the manner of the sisters who taught me. I entered the convent at 17. … Today I realize that my early-on desires for this consecrated life were not of my own devising. Instead, I responded to love’s first call. My desires for motherhood have been fulfilled to the nth degree through the innumerable youths I have taught, have helped find their vocation in our discernment retreats, the countless people of all ages that my Marian “yes” has brought into my life. God had the perfect plan for me.
Lopez: Why the book cover with Catherine of Siena and Christ — when concepts like mystical marriage seem so foreign to our day?
Sister Joseph Andrew: At 21 years of age, St. Catherine described an experience she referred to as her “mystical marriage to Christ.” This past November, I was blessed to be able to kneel in St. Dominic’s Church in Siena, beside the marker of Catherine’s reception of Christ’s stigmata as I prayed for the spiritual success of this book. As a Dominican woman, this cover painting expresses the contents of the book well and in the personages of Christ, Mother Mary and St. Catherine. If the concept of mystical marriage seems foreign to our world today, perhaps it is because too many people have not realized that the depths of their possible union with Christ are endless. Perhaps they have not witnessed the depths of love involved in faithful marriages. This begs yet another question: Are we living the fidelity of the vocation to which each of us has been called with love? If so, we should not be surprised that the Son of God might choose a special woman for a mystical marriage.
Lopez: Why are the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience so important to religious life? Are they of use for others too?
Sister Joseph Andrew: A vow is a “deliberate and free promise made to God concerning a possible and better good” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2102). By the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, a religious strives to live more closely in the following of Christ, who was poor, chaste and obedient. If Christ chose this manner of living, then religious men and women imitate him in our free and radical love, which spills out to all his people through the love that fidelity to our vows engenders.
Lopez: What is the future of religious life? Sisters were once the backbone of education and medicine in many places. Obviously, it’s a different world today.
Sister Joseph Andrew: Exciting! That’s my short and sure answer. Religious life will always be a great adventure for those who embrace their Marian “yes” when invited to this life by Christ. Perhaps the fact that sisters are fewer in the educational, medical, social services and charitable institutions of the Church today is a good reason to write and publish a book about religious life, don’t you think? Our community is being blessed with many intelligent, talented, young, dynamic women whose hearts burn to continue Mary’s “yes” through the totality of their response to the divine quest. Perhaps they will be refilling the ranks left empty through a confusing and difficult time of Church history. We pray — and believe — that these young women will bring a spiritual, maternal warmth into so many corners of the world that are crying out for authentic love today.
I must believe that we live in the dawning of the best days of religious life. How can we ever thank God that he willed us to live in this particular day and age — this holy springtime so potent with Marian receptivity! Mary’s “yes” re-echoes in our hearts and in the heart of every young woman who kneels before the Church today, asking holy mercy and the acceptance of her vows to Christ. How do I see the future of religious life? As an ongoing rush of what I daily see in my own beautiful community of youthfulness, zeal and radiant love. The future will be better for each Marian “yes” made in the tender heart of a woman who knows Christ has claimed her as his own.