Called to religious life and FSPA 50, 60 and even 70 years ago, our 2018 jubilarians are celebrating and contemplating. Show Me a Sign asked Sister Marla Lang — who embodies 60 years of ministry in education, community leadership and spirituality — to reflect on her discernment journey.
SMAS: How old were you when you first knew that you wanted to be a sister? How did God get your attention?
Sister Marla: I was 13 years old and my 8th grade teacher Sister Mary Louis, an FSPA, invited me to consider becoming a sister.
SMAS: How did your family and friends react when you told them about it?
Sister Marla: My parents made it clear to us as children that they wanted us to become whatever we desired as long as it was about being “good” to ourselves. They were very affirming.
Sister Marla Lang, 1958
SMAS: Did you explore or visit different communities before choosing FSPA?
Sister Marla: Another community invited me to visit but just didn’t entice me. They were too formal, I sensed. After much pondering, I knew making final vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration was a true calling for me. It remains so today.
SMAS: As you celebrate your jubilee, what do you recall as your most memorable moments as an FSPA?
Sister Marla: I truly enjoyed each ministry and each ministry prepared me for the next one I was led to:
- I taught grades 3 through 8 full time for 11 years and then was asked to serve as a school principal and director of religious education, K-adult, for 10 years.
- Those 21 years invited me to say “yes” to serving as a parish director in the absence of a resident pastor for 12 years.
- All of these experiences led my FSPA sisters to ask that I serve eight years as community president.
- Now, all of these ministries have enriched me to be with others at a spirituality center as a soul partner to many (serving in spiritual direction).
Today, Sister Marla ministers as the outreach coordinator at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin.
SMAS: What has been the most unexpected part of your life as an FSPA?
Sister Marla: I never dreamed I would be called to serve as the FSPA president. I grew up as a mid-Wisconsin farm girl. It almost took my breath away to be a part of three other leadership teams (with 10 sisters) — the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. Together we were engaged in reconciliation FSE, OSF, FSPA process and companioning of an African Province of Sisters. The sharing of all this took place in Assisi, Italy before 365-ish Franciscan community leaders. It was a challenge and a blessing beyond my imagining.
"It almost took my breath away," shares Sister Marla (pictured here, center) of her role with Franciscan communities gathered from across the globe to celebrate the Cameroon Common Venture -- Franciscan women of Africa.
SMAS: What advice would you give to a woman discerning religious life today?
Sister Marla: It is a gift of challenge and blessing beyond imagining when you put your whole self into your calling. Tending to discernment of the call requires prayer, guidance and openness, plus risking the goodness when found.
*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.