“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buecher
College is the time that you are supposed to discover who you are and what you are called to do with your life. You are faced with all of these different options: what the world is telling you to do, what you want to do, what other people want you to do, and what God is calling you to do. Sometimes these things line up or they converge somewhere, and other times, much to your disappointment, they don’t. It is because of this that discernment is so important in college.
My sophomore year in college I was entrusted with the care of a very new idea at my university parish, a discernment group specifically for women. We had a men’s discernment group, but we had not quite gotten the women’s discernment group off the ground. We finally had a group that was dedicated to helping college women ask those tough questions and shine light on possibilities that many women may have never considered, or did not have an encouraging atmosphere to consider them in.
Our goal is to help women answer their call to holiness through whatever vocation they are called to, yet at the same time we want to shine a light on the beauty of religious life. We started out by working with a sister in our diocese and had meetings once a month. During those meetings we looked at how women discovered their vocations, we read stories about people who were currently discerning, and we Skyped with sisters and learned about their communities and charism. In addition to that, we went on retreats together, we frequently met for prayer, to watch movies, or just to discuss where we were in our faith journey.
We got to a point where we wanted to encounter these different communities and not just hear about their charism but experience them as well. We wanted to get out of Oklahoma and see what religious life was like in action. Due to this, we planned our very own Nun Run. Our goal was to go from Oklahoma to Maryland and back over nine days and visit eight orders in five states. It was quite a large undertaking for a discernment group that was only a few months old, but we felt that this was where our discernment needed to go. We realized that this was a huge trip to plan and that it would take a lot of work, and so our motto was a quote by Mother Teresa, “God has not called me to be successful; he has called me to be faithful.” For three college students to plan this trip not knowing where we would get the money from, how we would get there, and even if other women would give up their entire Spring break and go along with our plan, we knew that our planning had to revolve around being faithful to God’s will and not necessarily totally oriented around the outcome. If this trip affected one person by giving her the chance to meet orders she had never met before or by just sparking a tiny thought—then it was worth it.
We were surprised by the outcome of our planning; our entire parish rallied behind us and helped us with the trip! Many people were inspired by the fact that young women wanted to visit religious orders and that there were people even discerning. We had a great response in women who were interested in coming with us as well. So, the first Saturday of our Spring break at 6AM, nine ladies piled into two cars and started our drive to our first destination, St. Louis, Missouri.
During our Nun Run we met so many women who desired a radical relationship with God, and to dedicate their lives to the service of others. We saw women so dedicated to Christ that they gave up what the world would call freedom, in order to live a life of true freedom through the Eucharist. We met women whose apostolate involved being mothers to the world, women who dedicate their lives to preparing the elderly to stand before Our Maker with no regrets, and we visited a religious family whose goal is the evangelization of the culture through the prolonging of the Incarnate Word. When we returned from our trip we realized that this was an experience that we wanted to bring to a larger group of people, therefore we decided that for the next year the women’s discernment group would pair with the men’s discernment group and put on a vocation festival for our Archdiocese. During this weekend we brought orders in and recreated the experience that we had for a larger group of high school and college students in Oklahoma.
Our discernment group is built on seeking out God’s will. Everything that we do is a leap of faith towards a much greater cause than ourselves and it is a process. We started out with an idea and a hope that maybe just one person would show up to a meeting or sign up to be emailed. College is the time for discernment and the time to develop a relationship with Christ. An important part of that is developing that relationship within a community. It has been a process, it has been a struggle but also, it has been one of the most influential parts of my discernment process.
“It was not you who chose Me but I who chose you.” John 15:16