By Linda T. Gracey
Single Catholic women who believe they have a call to a consecrated religious life are invited to get a glimpse of what that life is like.
The Carmelite Community of the Word will host a 22-hour Religious Vocation Discernment event from 6 p.m. Sept. 5 to 4 p.m. Sept. 6 at its incarnation center, 394 Bem Road, Gallitzin.
Sister Linda LaMagna, a member of the CCW's Vocation Team, explained that the Carmelite community serves the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in a number of ways.
The sisters are teachers in elementary and secondary Catholic schools and minister in churches, prisons, hospitals and at the CCW's retreat center on its campus.
They operate a missions center for the poor in Fulton County, and travel to Haiti to support and work with the Little Sisters of the Incarnation there.
As pastoral ministers, they serve churches where they area needed, such as directors of religious education or leaders of evangelism initiatives.
They serve as chaplains at hospitals and prisons and work in campus ministry as well as ministering to guests at the retreat center.
"We are open to whatever talent you bring us," Sister Linda said, "and how to make that a ministry, not just a job."
For instance, Sister Linda is ministry coordinator of evangelism for the diocese as well as serving in pastoral ministry at St. Augustine Parish in Dysart and St. Monica Parish in Chest Springs.
Founded in 1971, the CCW was established as a religious institute of diocesan right in 2001.
The women work during the day and return to their designated homes to enjoy an evening meal together and to pray. In addition to the incarnation center, sisters share homes in Altoona, McConnellsburg, Ebensburg and Tyrone.
Each morning, the sisters pray again before attending daily Mass. Responsibilities for meals and the upkeep of their homes are shared as they are in any family.
Sister Linda stressed that the Carmelite community is active in churches and other ministries and is different from the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Loretto who live a cloistered life.
"We dedicate our lives to prayer, penance and service," Sister Linda said.
During the discernment weekend, the sisters will share about their lives and experiences.
Sister Linda said the sisters are holding the weekend as a way to introduce the "Year of the Consecrated Life" as proclaimed by Pope Francis for 2015 and to acquaint potential sisters with the community's way of living.
It will be the first discernment weekend held by the sisters in a number of years, but they are hopeful that the visit will generate interest.
Through an email, Bishop Mark Bartchak noted he has talked with a number of young men and women who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life with at least a dozen young women
who are considering a religious vocation.
Because there are various religious orders, he said he asks the young women what type of spiritual formation and service they are seeking and that many young women are familiar with the Carmelite Community of the Word.
Those who believe they are being called to the community need to obtain their own education and are subject to a period of discernment, a year of candidacy and two years of novitiate. Sisters take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.
Sister Linda said the vow of celibate chastity means having a single heartedness toward God.
"God is the center of my life," she said.
A vow of poverty means "living with total dependence on God," she said. "I don't own anything. I don't have a house. I have use of a car from the community."
The sisters' earnings are held in common and provide for hospital insurance as well as retirement and daily living expenses.
A vow of obediences means we are servants of God, the church and the community," she said. "We carry out the needs asked of us."
"God never stops calling," she said. "We are asking, might God be calling you?"
For more information, contact Sister Margie McGuire of the Vocation Team at 472-9457 or email her at margiemc12