Online ‘Vocation Match’ helps women explore 10 communities

Photo Caption: A screen grab of a Facebook post by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery promoting the Midwest Vocation Match.

By: By Jennifer Willems

ROCK ISLAND — It’s one thing to be attracted to consecrated life. It’s another to know what makes each religious community unique and which one might be the best fit for a woman as she lives out her call to follow Christ.

To get the conversation started, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery have developed the Midwest Vocation Match. The web-based tool offers 21 questions to help women explore their preferences on a variety of topics, including prayer and lifestyle, and then suggests one or more of the religious communities in the Upper Mississippi River Valley for a closer look.

Women who are just starting to discern tend to be private about it, according to Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB, vocation director for the Benedictines. “It takes courage for them to even approach the vocation director and say out loud, ‘I am thinking about becoming a religious Sister.’ That’s a big step.”

The Midwest Vocation Match gives them the time they need to make that kind of public statement to someone, she said.

In addition, many people don’t understand the difference between the communities and what it means to be Benedictine, Dominican, Franciscan or Carmelite.

“I would say I was in that camp. I think that’s why it took so long to find the Benedictines,” Sister Stefanie explained. “You just assume they must all run pretty much the same and do the same things.”

Through the Midwest Vocation Match women can discover if they lean more toward monastic life, which will keep them close to home for a common life of prayer and ministry; apostolic life, which gives them the option of living in smaller groups and working at greater distances from the motherhouse; or cloistered life, which means devoting oneself almost entirely to prayer within the convent.

The 10 communities listed on the website are the ones whose communication directors have collaborated over the last 12 years as Sisters United News. Susan Flansburg, communication director for the Benedictine Sisters at St. Mary Monastery, said working with this consortium helped her to understand the communities in a deep way and make the vocation match as helpful as possible.

The communication and vocation directors of the other communities have reacted very favorably to the site, which was developed my Mandle Design.
Flansburg said in vocation work it’s not a matter of competition, but of “joining hands.”

“Would we like to add more members to the Benedictines? Sure. We would love it,” she told The Catholic Post. “But they have to be the right fit, because they’re not going to be happy if they’re not the right fit.”

At the end of the quiz, inquirers not only get the names of religious communities, but a hot link to each community’s website and the name and contact information of the vocation director.

“I find that’s where a lot of inquirers start,” Sister Stefanie said. “They look at the web pages and watch our Facebook pages and any of the other social media we have going out there. You get some who have read our website from front to back and inside out.”

In addition to the Benedictines, the Midwest Vocation Match includes the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport, Iowa; Dominican Sisters in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin; Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family, and Trappistines of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, all in Dubuque, Iowa; Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton, Iowa; and the Carmelite Nuns of Eldridge, Iowa.

For more information, visit Midwest Vocation Match. Information about the communities that have members serving in the Diocese of Peoria can also be found in Vocations 2015, which was inserted in the March 15 issue of The Catholic Post.

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