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Kelsey Porada

About Kelsey Porada

Kelsey is a co-founder of Imagine Sisters, and a recent Loyola University Chicago graduate with degrees in English Creative Writing and Psychology. She now attends graduate school at Franciscan University for her Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She enjoys dancing, giraffes, sunlight, and flowers, and wants to spend her whole life serving Christ's Church. AMDG!

Two Sisters Can Change the World

Written by Daniela, a young woman preparing to enter religious life this month.

“For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1 20-22

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My walk with Christ thus far has truly been one of surprises. He has called me to come closer, to go deeper, and to trust more fully in his love and grace. The world, however, does not foster this intimate relationship. I’ve learned that many times throughout discernment, we can lose heart and feel as though the seed that was planted in our hearts is being threatened by surrounding thorns. Yet God, in his infinite goodness, sends people into our lives to water this fragile seed.

Last summer, my friend Marie went on a mission trip to Albania and stayed with a religious community in Shkodër. She left home with an openness to do God’s will and I was greatly inspired by it. I realized that I too had this desire within me. But what exactly did God want?

As I came to understand through prayer, all he wanted was me, just as I was. That summer I felt his presence as he pursued and continually reminded me of all the ways that he loved me. It was more than a sentiment or an emotion; it was the reality of the Father who goes in search of his children, and rejoices as they return to his embrace. And what I found in his embrace was endless mercy and love, far beyond what I could understand. When Marie came back that summer, things were different. We were filled with true peace; and joy that was constant even in the midst of life’s trials. We prayed, laughed, cried, and encouraged one another to follow Christ, wherever he may call us.

That fall, we went on a discernment retreat to a convent in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Before the retreat even began, we found ourselves kneeling before a little grotto behind the Motherhouse (divine providence or trespassing…?) As we sang before the statue of Our Lady, we were filled with the grace to go in haste, and not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word that was sown into our hearts.

Marie is now back on mission in Albania (and has been accepted for entrance!) as I prepare to enter the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist this fall. We thank God for blessing us in great abundance with one another, and even more brothers and sisters who heard the word, and were commissioned by the Spirit to proclaim it to us and to all they encounter.

My prayer for those discerning will continue to be that you may carry the word within you, and by joyfully answering “yes” you may witness to it with your life like Our Mother Mary.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.” John 15 16-17

His grace and peace be with you!

See you in the Eucharist,
Daniela

My Jesuit Journey with St. Edith Stein

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by Stefanus Hendrianto, SJ.

August 9th is the Feast Day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also known as St. Edith Stein, who was martyred on that day in 1942 in the Auschwitz concentration camp. St. Edith Stein is especially dear to me because she is the one who constantly prays for me in my life journey, especially in my journey as a Jesuit.

I heard the name of Edith Stein for the first time when I attended a retreat with a group of Indonesian Catholic young adults at the University of Washington Catholic Newman Center in Seattle. The retreat facilitator was an Indonesian Carmelite priest and he recommended for me to read the life story of a Carmelite nun, named Edith Stein. At this point, I had no clue as to who she was; I imagined her as a dull old nun who wears a dark habit, and, so, I was not interested to check her life story.

A few years after the retreat, I entered the religious life as a Jesuit Novice in the Oregon Province. I entered the Novitiate on October 11, 2009, the day of the Canonization of St. Edith Stein. Pope John Paul II canonized her on October 11, 1998. Little did I know that this was not only a simple coincidence, but rather, a sign of abiding grace in which St. Edith Stein had been praying for me long before I entered the Novitiate and she would continue to pray for me in my journey on the religious path.

As a Jesuit novice, I had to make the Spiritual Exercises, a thirty-day, silent retreat developed by St. Ignatius Loyola. I read a lot of books during those thirty days; one of the books that I read was the life of Edith Stein, which I picked randomly from the bookshelf in the Novitiate living room. I was amazed to learn from Edith Stein’s biography that she was not a dull old nun like I Edith-Stein-3imagined, but rather, an intelligent and stalwart woman. What inspired me the most was Edith Stein’s struggle with her family’s opposition when she decided to enter the Carmelite Order on October 14, 1933. Edith Stein’s mother especially was devastated with her decision to enter the Carmelite convent because she saw her daughter’s decision as a betrayal of her Jewish heritage. Similarly, my mother was devastated when I told her that I wanted to join the Jesuit Novitiate. I grew up in a traditional Confucian family in which the eldest son is responsible for carrying on the family name and lineage and presiding over ancestral rites. Thus, my decision to join the Jesuit Novitiate was also a betrayal of my family heritage.

After the long retreat, however, I did not try to keep my friendship with Edith Stein alive. Slowly I began to forget her as my dear friend; nonetheless, she continued to pray for me during my Novitiate training. Having spent two years in the Novitiate, I pronounced vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and, then, I moved to philosophy study at Loyola University Chicago. Soon I found that philosophy is not an easy subject. Many philosophical writings contain abstract vocabulary and vague concepts and also I had difficulty finding a good mentor who could help me to learn some basic philosophical concepts. In the midst of frustration, Edith Stein came back to my life and she rescued me from the stormy sea of philosophy.

Every Jesuit makes an annual 8-day silent retreat. After the end of my first year of philosophy study, I made my 8 day silent retreat at Gonzaga Jesuit community in Spokane, Washington. The sixth day of my retreat was the feast of St. Edith Stein. During the daily mass at the community chapel, Fr. Brad Reynold, a Jesuit who was celebrating the mass, mentioned that Edith Stein was a brilliant philosopher of her time; she was the protégé of Edmund Husserl, the father of phenomenology. Nevertheless, Edith Stein did not achieve a successful academic career because she was a Jew and a woman. Fr. Reynold’s homily reminded me that I have a good friend, a brilliant philosopher, St. Edith Stein who has been praying for me throughout my philosophy studies. After my 8 day retreat, I went back to Chicago and resumed my philosophy study. I began to read many philosophical writings of Edith Stein, and, indeed, she has helped me rekindle my interest in studying philosophy. By the end of my philosophy study, I was still struggling to understand philosophy; nonetheless, thanks to St. Edith Stein, I have developed a great interest in studying philosophy.

I am fortunate to have a dear friend like St Edith Stein. She was with me during my discernment to enter the religious life as a Jesuit novice. She was there for me when my parents strongly opposed my decision to enter the Jesuit Novitiate. She was walking with me during my 30 day retreat in the Novitiate and my entire Novitiate experience. She extended her support and prayer during my philosophy study and I believe that she will continue to pray for me in my journey as a Jesuit. St. Edith Stein, indeed, brings an abundance of grace to me and to all who know her.

 

~ Stefanus Hendrianto is a Jesuit Scholastic currently doing his regency at Santa Clara University, where he teaches at both the Law School and Political Science Department.

“Go, sell what you have…” by Mabel, a young woman entering religious life.

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Getting compliments on your personal belongings takes on a whole new meaning when you’re about to get rid of everything you own. In recent months I’ve made more than one loose acquaintance — including my doctor — very uncomfortable when I eagerly asked, “Do you want it?” after they told me they liked something I was wearing.

A good friend who is also hoping to enter religious life this summer put it so well: getting rid of your belongings in preparation for religious life is like standing on a precipice looking into eternity with everything that has always distracted us suddenly behind us. There’s nothing left: just me and the Great Unknown. In fact, as he pointed out, everyone will end up at this moment at some point in their lives, we’re just getting there a little earlier.

I keep running back to that scene in the Gospel, when the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He has kept all the commandments, but he knows there’s something more. And Jesus looks at him, loves him, and says, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk. 10:21). The young man’s reaction — going away sad because he had many possessions — has always broken my heart. In the past few years especially I’ve found myself wanting to shake him. You’ve just been offered the world, I want to shout at him. How can you walk away?

But here I am, faced with a similar invitation, and every day there’s a little twinge. That little porcelain boat from the Dollar Store my sister gave to me for Christmas back in 1991 — it’s a silly trinket, but I’ve carried it around for years, and I admit to a tremor at the thought of letting go. The baby blanket my five-year-old self used to use as a royal robe when playing dress-up … my books and my piano … so many of things we take for granted, right down to the use of that comfortable word, “mine.”

Yes, even letting go of “my” friends is proving to be a lot harder than I ever expected (and I never fooled myself that it would be easy).

God doesn’t ask any of us for halves. That’s what I’m facing in so many concrete ways right now. When he asks us for everything, he means everything. (And by the way, he asks all of us for everything.) He pushes us past the point of comfort, even past discomfort, to that place where the tears start and we cry, “But I can’t!”

This isn’t relegated to those of us discerning religious vocations. We’re all called to this. It’s part and parcel of the Christian life, dare I say, of being human. When you feel you’ve done enough, you’re wrong. There’s no such thing as “enough” for the soul that’s marching towards heaven. The question should always be, “All right, Lord. What now?” Because we can’t give him everything in one action, once. We’re temporal creatures, constantly moving from one minute to another, so giving our all must also be a temporal thing, an act repeated at every moment until we finally reach eternity.

And when you get right down to the nitty-gritty doing of it? It’s epic.

– Written by Mabel, a young woman entering religious life this August.

Imagine Sisters – A Discerning Woman’s Perspective

 

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Written by Dylana, a young woman entering religious life in August.

The world has given us many gifts that are blazing milestones in our culture; most notably, social media and the internet. With these new avenues of communication we are more connected than ever. One tweet can reach up to 2,405,518,376 people. From 2000-2012, internet use has grown 566.4%. Almost all of the world’s population is on the internet. Pope Francis has even hailed the internet as “something truly good, a gift from God.”

We should be using social media to be a present a visible witness to “the hope that is within us.” (1 Pt 3:15) This is what the New Evangelization is calling us to do: reveal to the world its universal call to holiness. Each of us is called specifically and uniquely.

This is exactly what the Imagine Sisters Movement seeks to do. It shows women that following God does not require us to compromise our happiness. It shows parents that their daughters – if called to this life – will be mothers of many souls. It shows parishes how they can help young women who are discerning. But most importantly, it presents to the world Christ’s beacons of beauty, truth, and joy.

Imagine Sisters was instrumental in my decision to apply to the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco. They taught me that discernment was nothing more than living out the vocation that we have been given today. Without that lesson, I would still believe that holiness was something we prepare for, not something that we live.

We have had two years of service to the Lord and his people, two years of revealing the beauty of the consecrated life, two years of living out the call of the New Evangelization. For all this we give glory to God. Without Him, this movement would still be an idea.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and reveal to each of us how we are called to love you. Amen.

 

If you feel called to contribute to the work of Imagine Sisters, please visit our fundraising campaign here.

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Did You Know: The Imagine Sisters headquarters is officially moving to Steubenville, OH!

Imagine Sisters is packing up and moving to Steubenville!So in the past, our squad has been scattered across the country– Chicago, Cleveland, California, Detroit, New Jersey! We have been able to accomplish a lot via technology, but there is great value and encouragement in working together in the same place. So, we dreamed it and God made it happen: Imagine Sisters will, for the first time ever, be headquartered in one location! What does that mean for us? No more relying on dorm rooms, school libraries, and coffee shops to carry out our work; we’re renting a house! We will finally have an office room, storage for an Imagine Sisters warehouse, space for get-togethers with volunteers, and a prayerful, energizing environment in which to live and work. (We will also have a relic of St. Thérèse, thanks to our friends at the Institute on Religious Life!!)

Why Steubenville, OH? It was where the Lord naturally lead us. Amanda has already been living in Steubenville the past year, working in the development office of the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R and at Walgreens. Kelsey just graduated from college and is beginning graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Franciscan University is also populated with thousands of vibrant, young Catholics with so much to contribute to this Movement. So, what does this mean for all of you, who are part of the Imagine Sisters Movement? It means we can better serve you, with more collaboration, organization, and zeal for vocations to religious life!

Did You Know: Imagine Sisters is not actually run by religious sisters?

Nope, we’re not nuns! At least, not yet.  As we shared in our first “Did You Know?” blog, the Imagine Sisters Movement grew out of a university women’s religious discernment group–as a grassroots, lay movement. In the very beginning, Imagine Sisters was staffed primarily by two young women, a diocesan college seminarian, and a young Jesuit scholastic. The work was (and is currently) all done on a volunteer basis in our spare time, with spiritual support and guidance from many holy religious, priests and laypeople. Over the last two years, the Imagine Sisters team has both grown and shrunk, but the Lord has worked beautiful things in every phrase of our development. Today, Imagine Sisters is run by just two young women who really love nuns: co-foundress and leading lady Amanda Houska, 26, and co-foundress and backseat driver Kelsey Porada, 21.

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Typical closing remarks at the end of an Imagine Sisters work day!

Typical closing remarks at the end of an Imagine Sisters work day!

Did you know?

The Imagine Sisters Movement first took root in early 2012 within my young women’s religious discernment group at Loyola University Chicago. Over time, we learned that young women all over were feeling called to discern religious life, but were afraid or unable to express it. Meanwhile, perhaps due to the lack of media attention given to young sisters and thriving religious orders, we knew many other young women were unlikely to envision religious life as a beautiful, fruitful, and real option for their lives. Still others lacked support from friends and parents, and were lost and unsure of how to begin their discernment. Soon, it seemed clear that the call to religious life was on so many young women’s hearts, but nobody was talking about it!

So we decided to start a conversation. On March 19, 2012, our group held a dinner event on campus inviting students to meet fifteen joyful, inspiring, and young religious sisters. Religious sisters from several communities around the Midwest came to the event, giving talks and vocation stories while inadvertently spreading their joy and love of the Lord like wildfire. Discernment resources and t-shirts were given bearing our signature logo of a sister, and the word “Imagine.” By God’s grace, the event sparked much attention and discussion on the topic of religious life on campus. The event was professionally filmed and then edited by Dan Rogers into a short video clip, under the official heading: The Imagine Sisters Movement.

 

One Year Later – Kelsey’s Reflection

canyouimagineOne Rose. One Year. One Sister.

And God willing, many roses, years, and sisters to come!

Through the intercession of Our Lady, St. Therese, and the countless prayers of all involved in the Imagine Sisters movement, God has given us the grace to carry out this mission. Our mission? To bring the beauty of consecrated Sisterhood out into the world, especially by means of social media. Why? Sisters are visible signs of God’s love in the world – the “Light of Love” – and an encounter with a faithful sister, as with an encounter of God’s love, has the power to change hearts. Through these encounters, in addition to the great amounts of prayer and service, one sister can change the world.

We also believe that the Lord is truly calling young women to the Sisterhood more and more in the 21st century. Personally, this became very clear to me about a year and a half ago. I began to feel that relentless, nagging pull to look into religious life – wondering about my present state in life, Googling vocation stories at 3AM, falling more in love with the Lord… yet it all absolutely terrified me! (I didn’t even know any sisters back then!)

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Fruits of the One Rose Invitation

On October 1st, 2012, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, Imagine Sisters launched the One Rose Invitation, a campaign for the faithful to personally encourage young girls and women to consider a vocation to religious life.

The One Rose Invitation was inspired by St. Therese, the patron saint of Imagine Sisters, who said, “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses.” We asked everyone to think and pray about a young woman they know who they think would make a good religious sister. Then, on the feast, they were to let her know by offering her a single rose. The rose was a symbol of the invitation to consider religious life, as well as an acknowledgment of the beauty of that young woman’s soul.

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