‘Feels Like Home’: New book described as one-of-a-kind discernment tool
DAVENPORT, Iowa — In almost every vocation story Susan Flansburg has heard, when women who are discerning religious life find the right community they explain it the same way: “It felt like home.”
Her new book, “Feels Like Home: A Single Catholic Woman’s Guide to Religious Life in the U.S.,” aims to help more women find the way they are called to serve God. It offers information about the different types of religious communities, questions for reflection that were suggested by vocation directors, and resources for discernment, such as Scripture passages, books and videos.
Flansburg got the idea for the book while she was working for the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. In the 17 years she was there, she assisted with general communications, but said vocations was at the heart of everything she did.
“Over time, I came to understand that no one discerning had the least idea of what was available to her, the different types of communities,” Flansburg said.
Her hunch was confirmed by two retreats that included vocation directors from communities in the upper Mississippi River Valley, including the Trappistines, who are cloistered; apostolic communities, such as the Dominicans, Franciscans, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Congregation of the Humility of Mary; and monastic, such as the Benedictines. A panel discussion offered an opportunity for discerners to asked questions and develop an understanding of what was out there.
The book flowed from those experiences and conversations she had with vocation directors and many women religious, she told The Catholic Post.
“The most important thing for me was to connect with the vocation directors,” Flansburg said, emphasizing that the book is not about her.
“Even though I have the gift of writing, I have the gift of interviewing and listening, and the gift of following through with it, it’s not my story. It’s theirs,” she said. “Vocation directors are the ones who are on the front lines with these women.”
Flansburg noted that everything about it, down to the size of the slim paperback book, was suggested by them.
One of the vocation directors told her it would help to have a short, small book she could pull off of her shelf that wouldn’t feel overwhelming to someone who was discerning. “They all wanted it to be accessible,” said Flansburg.
That includes the price of the 111-page book, which is $12.99. She explained that this makes it possible to have several copies available.
In order to get a complete picture, Flansburg also talked with the newest members of various communities to learn about their vocation stories and experiences. The author introduces each type of religious life — monastic, cloistered, apostolic and missionary — with a main story about one Sister, provides a look at a day in the life of that community, and offers a brief series of questions and answers.
Anyone looking for more information will find a link to the National Religious Vocation Conference, which lists websites for religious institutes and dioceses.
Not all vocation stories follow smooth paths, however. A chapter called “Bumps on the Road” tells some of these stories.
FINDING NEXT STEPS
“If this book had been available to me, it would have saved me years of searching.” — Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB
“This is important because young women go to these people and don’t even know how to get the questions out,” she said. “If this book was available to them it would answer so many questions and help them to know what to do next.”
“If this book had been available to me, it would have saved me years of searching. I’m sure it will help you now,” said Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB, director of vocations for the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, in the preface of “Feels Like Home.”
Flansburg published the book through Amazon and it can be found by searching for “Susan Flansburg — Feels Like Home.”
When she isn’t writing books — she is working on a second one now — Flansburg writes for the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s Atlantic Midwest Province and other religious communities, and contributes to publications such as the VISION Vocation Guide and Horizon.