Mother Assumpta Long on Divine Courtship
ANN ARBOR, Michigan, 13 FEB. 2004 (ZENIT).
Each woman who is destined to
be the bride of Christ as a religious sister has her own love story to
So says Mother Assumpta Long, superior and one of the four founders of the
Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
After many years in the religious life and witnessing a more than tenfold
growth of the Sisters of Mary over the last seven years, Mother Assumpta
has seen God's ongoing "courtship" with her fellow sisters, novices and
those discerning their vocations.
She shared with ZENIT her thoughts on the challenges those women face in
answering his call.
Q: How do vocation prospects today differ from, say, a generation ago?
Mother Assumpta: In past generations most young women entered the convent
straight from high school or perhaps after a few years of college.
Presently it seems that more discern God's invitation to become a
consecrated religious after obtaining a degree and spending a few years in
the work force.
God operates mysteriously in his own time with each soul; there is no
To one young woman he gives the grace of knowing she is destined to be his
bride while in school, permitting her to give the gift of her youth and
innocence at a young age; whereas to another, he gently pulls on the
strings of her heart after she has sought to make her way in a career,
realizing that no matter what riches, professional success or fulfillment
the world may offer, she will never be truly fulfilled until she gives
herself completely to him.
In our community we have young women from both ends of this spectrum and
all along the middle.
It is an amazing realization for a woman that the personal qualities,
gifts, talents and experiences God has bestowed upon her are actually
gifts for her to utilize in her new family, the religious community. Every
young woman who enters religious life is a priceless gift and she touches
and affects the community uniquely and irrevocably.
It is amazing how uniquely he calls a woman to be entirely his; while
there are several general characteristics which seem to point to a
such as love of the Church, liturgy and sacraments, devotion to Mary, love
of Eucharistic adoration, etc.
love stories between God and the souls he chooses for his own are as
unique as each individual religious.
One thing is constant: God's immense gift of love fills the heart and
floods it with all the graces necessary to echo the fiat of the Blessed
Virgin Mary at the Annunciation: "Be it done unto me according to thy
The Church as a wise mother gives young women who are considering
religious consecration a precious gift: the time of novitiate. Youth are
generous, enthusiastic and fervent, but sometimes the initial enthusiasm
can wane and it becomes apparent that the road to holiness lies along
In the novitiate, a young woman can test her vocation by living the life
day in and day out. She has time to pray and to listen to God's voice.
Aside from discernment, this time is also invaluable in filling any gaps
in an individual's religious formation, for example, the catechism,
Scripture, theology, etc.
At the end of the novitiate, the young woman is free to make vows or
return to the secular life. There should be no stigma if a young woman
decides to leave the community, if she deems that God has created her for
another vocation than religious life. She should be commended for having
given it her best effort.
Q: Amid rising secularism in North America, what is it that most attracts
women to a religious vocation today?
Mother Assumpta: Young people are unwavering in their desire for truth,
real love and authenticity. Amidst all of the glitter, toys and noise the
world holds as "must-haves," youth intuitively know that they are merely
trifles, and want the real thing
Women often remark that they seek to join communities that have a communal
prayer life, including daily Mass, common recitation of the Divine Office
and the rosary.
In our community's experience, our particular emphasis on devotion to
Jesus in the Eucharist and to Mary, the Mother of God, often attracts
young women who want to make a daily Eucharistic holy hour as we do. We
also make the St. Louis de Montfort Marian Consecration, which especially
attracted several sisters.
Other elements young women have told me that they look for are fidelity to
the Holy Father and the magisterium of the Church, the witness of a
religious habit and balanced community life of prayer, study, work and
a family in which true fraternal charity is manifest, with all of its joys
People often remark that they are extremely attracted by the genuine joy
of the sisters. There is a peace and joy that radiates from the core of a
woman's being when she is striving to achieve holiness along the path that
God has destined for her.
True joy is present even in the midst of difficulty, pain or suffering; it
is a grace and gift of God to the soul who is genuinely trying to follow
his will for her life, in all of the daily tribulations as well as the
Q: What special challenges do young women face if they want to pursue a
religious vocation? Are their families generally still supportive, as in
Mother Assumpta: Some women are debilitated into indecision by the desire
to have a tangible sign that they have a religious vocation, preferably
one that is big, neon and flashing the message: "I want YOU to be a
God's invitation is often subtle and merits quiet prayer and
contemplation. Remember that the prophet Elijah discerned the Lord's voice
in the gentleness of the wind. God speaks to us in ordinary events,
persons and situations.
Years of indecision may invariably end up forcing a woman never to act and
thus turn her back on her potential vocation. God is patient, but the
temptation of waiting "one more year" can turn into endless years, and
suddenly, it's too late.
Another difficulty many young women face is debt from college education
loans. As a larger number of women are discerning their vocation to
religious life after they have attained college or graduate degrees, they
have not had sufficient time to completely repay their educational debt.
Religious communities may have difficulty in accepting a young woman with
The Lord is wondrous in his ways, and so we must trust him to help women
find means to eliminate their school debt in order to embrace their
vocation, whether it is assistance from their families, parish, charitable
organizations or generous benefactors.
Family reactions to a woman's vocation are varied and range from viewing a
woman's vocation as a blessing all the way to downright opposition. There
are sacrifices that both a woman and her family make in embracing a
God is never outdone in generosity, however, and even the most resistant
parents often experience an abundance of graces that flow from their
daughter's vocation. Once they see their daughter transformed into the
woman God intended her to be from all eternity, radiating the joy and love
of Christ, they more easily accept the separation.
Many sisters find that they have a deeper, more genuine relationship with
their families than they had prior to entering the convent.
Q: What is the best advice you could give to a young woman thinking of a
Mother Assumpta: Pray, listen and act. If a young woman truly wants to
know and do God's will for her life, and if she opens her heart to his
answer and listens, he will guide her.
Spending quiet prayer time with the Lord in adoration is one good way. I
would suggest that a young woman ask Our Lady to guide her
is the perfect exemplar of receptivity to God's will. Having recourse to
competent spiritual direction is always helpful.
Once a young woman has a fairly good idea that the Lord may be calling
her, she must act on that inspiration. She should begin communicating with
religious communities, for the Holy Spirit will guide her through these
Lastly, a vocation must be tried and lived over a period of time. As I
mentioned earlier, a woman who enters religious life and is truly open to
the Lord's graces will know if it is her vocation or not.
Q: What is the best advice you could give to families to encourage
vocations among their children?
Mother Assumpta: The best gift parents can give their children is to live
their married vocation with great love, joy and fidelity; in this domestic
school of charity children learn to choose the good and the true, and to
embrace their vocations willingly.
Instilling a deep love and reverence for the Church, her sacraments,
priests and religious in children gives them a solid foundation of faith,
love and fidelity for life. It also helps them to be open and to respond
generously to God's will for their lives, whatever it may be. Prayer on
behalf of children and their vocations, and teaching them to pray for
their own vocations is an investment well made.
Having exposure to priests and religious is also helpful in encouraging
vocations. Parents should be supportive and underscore the fact that God
creates each person for a purpose, here on earth and in heaven, and gives
the soul all the helps and graces necessary to make it to heaven in the
particular vocation he has planned.
The great mystery and adventure is discovering what God's will is and
doing it with joy.