vocation - Related Content

I have no magic words

Thursday, November 3rd 2016 3:16 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Traveling across the country, meeting a variety of people in and around the world of discernment, I encounter two questions—open ended, probably pervasive in all aspects of life—time and time again:

“How long will this take?”

“How will I know?” 


Photo credit: moguefile.com

And I've actually been faced (more than once) with the plea, “Can’t you just tell me what to do?” 

Of course, I have no direct answer to provide to a discerner of religious life, no magic words to give. Discernment carries mystery within it. It’s not a step-by-step process that if followed will yield a nice shiny product of a vocation. It’s the industrial model that one has to let go of. Each step is different and what worked for someone else may not work for you. There is no assembly line cranking out one-size-fits-all discernment t-shirts.  

Timing is another open-ended aspect that varies from person to person. Comparison is not helpful. You may have started a discernment process at the same time as someone else and their movement may appear to be faster or slower. But it’s not a competition. Running or dragging your feet to keep the same pace as someone else is not an authentic experience. Trees, each having within itself a sense of when it’s ready to let go of its leaves, are an excellent example of this statement. Two trees of the same variety planted side by side sometimes have totally different timings; one drops its leaves early and the other may hold on for a few weeks longer. In the end they will both move on in the season, just not dependent upon each other. It is humans who place judgment on the difference.

Questions to ponder this week…

Are you more concerned about the getting there and the need to know the answer than participating in the unfolding of your discernment experience?

How are you comparing or competing in your discernment? 

Are you finding more questions? Click here to view resources for discerning religious life.

Awake and ready in discernment?

Thursday, December 1st 2016 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Why is it that when we are excited about tomorrow it’s impossible to fall asleep? I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve watched the clock move slow as molasses towards morning and birthdays and holidays; community celebrations and time with family and friends. This past Sunday, as a church, we entered not only a new year but a season of waiting. The old adage circles in my mind: the more you wait the better it will be. While I am sure this is true sometimes, I can also be impatient and yearn to know now. My favorite Advent song is Patience, People by John Foley, SJ. It reminds me that how I wait is just as important as the waiting. 


Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Advent has a dual focus of anticipation and action. It takes a lot of hard work to prepare your heart for Christmas; more than fragrant words of holy intention. Making space takes effort. Under the softened warm glow of preparation is the commitment to make things happen. 

On the first Sunday of Advent we hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew, each offering insight into this time of eagerness. Isaiah is the prophetic alarm clock awakening sleepy believers. With strong words he clamors above the din of lukewarm following. His message streams across divisions calling for unity and inviting us to walk in the ways of the Lord. Reverberations ring as the call for change clashes against the comforts of routine and acceptance. 

Where do you find yourself as you reflect on the sword and the plow? Are you willing to pound your sword into a plow to cultivate ground for your discernment and co-create with God?  

In the Gospel Matthew also shares sage advice: don’t be distracted and caught unprepared; be ready. When waiting, it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus. There may be less time than you think. 

For all the wisdom and guidance Isaiah and Matthew provide, what is your attitude, in discernment, as you wait on God? When was the last time you pleaded with God to show you the way … "Now!"? Did you shout in anger? Threaten with an ultimatum? Storm away; frustrated because your discernment seems perpetually unresolved? 

And so, this Advent, I invite you to take the opportunity to prepare your heart, to welcome the wakeful nights of uncertain discernment you’re experiencing right now. 

Are you willing, in this moment, to wait?


Listening with a discerning ear

Thursday, May 26th 2016 4:05 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Brick house
Photo credit: Flickr

This is the time of year that many people move into a new house or apartment. Winter has passed and spring is slowly giving way to summer. I have noticed the abundance of moving trucks on the roads. Each time I have moved into a new home I spend the first night aware of each bump, clang and creak as I am not yet familiar with the sounds in my new environment.

After a few weeks I become quite accustomed to the sounds and somehow block out what was once so startling. Only when guests arrive and mention some of the sounds do I realize how comfortable I have become.

  stacked moving boxes
Photo credit: Flickr
In discernment, sometimes the clangs and creaks we hear are distractions that easily lead us away from focusing on what is in front of us. It is a gift from God to be given the grace to listen for the guidance we need to lead us to the next steps on our discernment journey.

The passage 1 Kings 19: 1-18 has served as a touchstone for me in discernment. It is the story of Elijah listening for what he is to do next. Sometimes we have to wait in a state of contemplative silence to really know what it is that we are to do next. Rushing after something that makes a lot of noise? Remember, it may just be a big noise without substance.

As you walk in discernment this week, consider the noises in your life that lead you away from God. Are you chasing distractions?     

Discerning Religious Life? Consider the power of a good question…

Thursday, June 21st 2018 12:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor


We learn by asking questions…lots and lots of questions.

Recently, I was on an airplane across the aisle from a young child traveling with his parents. He was about four years old and bursting with questions. One after the other he would ask questions of his dad and, with great interest and patience, his dad would answer each of them.

Airplane in sky

Photo credit: Pexels

At the end of the flight another passenger turned to the father and remarked how he enjoyed hearing his conversations with his child. Then the passenger turned to the child and said “I think your new name should be ‘Why,’ because you have a lot of ‘why’ questions.” The parents laughed and we all went our separate ways. I walked away impressed by how this four-year-old was already navigating the vast world around him, even at 30,000 feet! 

The value of questions you have in discernment

When someone wants to learn more about membership with our congregation, we receive and answer some common questions time and again. Let’s take a look at the most common questions to arise during discernment of religious life.

What are the sisters’ ministries today?

I remember asking this question of congregations I wanted to research further, during my discernment of religious life. The goal was to see whether my interests and areas of expertise would fit within the congregation’s ministry. It was a way for me to prioritize potential congregations. My hope was to shrink the list from hundreds of congregations down to a few, so that I could research them in depth. It helped, but over time, I discovered there were other aspects to consider.

Now as the Director of Membership, the information I offer includes more about the congregation’s spirituality, mission, prayer life and community living. Many congregations have similar ministries, but each of these particular aspects affect how ministry is conducted. For example, Franciscans, Dominicans and Ursulines are rooted in education, yet how they teach is different. To see evidence of this, just ask former Catholic school students to describe the congregation of sisters who taught them. You will hear how the type of congregation influenced their education. Differences also arise in the celebration of patronal feast days and core values. Each congregation has its own “sub-culture” in the wider scope of religious life within the Catholic Church. If you have a relationship with a few congregations and they have similar ministries such as education, ask about the different ways they serve that field. Here are some examples.


How does this congregation define educational ministry?

As you discern religious life, you want to make sure you are aligned with the congregation’s philosophy of educational ministry.


Is it possible to observe or volunteer with a sister for a day, to witness ministerial life?

Spending a day with a sister is a valuable way to get a sense of what it is to be a member of that congregation.


High school students spend day volunteering with Sister Lucy in organic garden

High school students spend the day volunteering with Sister Lucy in the FSPA organic garden.


Do women religious in this congregation serve outside the U.S.?

If you are interested in a ministry abroad, you may want to seek out congregations with sisters who serve outside the U.S. If, however, you would prefer to stay stateside, this question enables you to hone in on communities that focus on serving in the U.S.


Do sisters from this congregation work in public or private school settings?

Perhaps you have a preference on what kind of schools you’d like to serve. This will allow you to find the appropriate fit for your personal calling.


Do these sisters work in bilingual classrooms?

If helping immigrants, refugees or other students who speak English as a second language, you may want to ask this question to find a community that works in bilingual classrooms.


Asking the right questions will help you find the right community for your religious life


Each answer will show how congregations differ. Consider how these nuances will play a role in your ministry. Is there room for your own growth over time? Can you transition to a different grade level or into a different ministry with education experience? Is there flexibility?


We should all be as curious and brave as that little boy on the airplane, asking questions of his father. Questions bring clarity to what, on paper, looks simple. You may be surprised to discover that a congregation you weren’t sure about is the better fit.


How will you know if a vocation to religious life is a call for you?

Reserve your complimentary copy of “Discernment of Signs Along the Way: Your Story of Service in the Catholic Church,” a 24-page reflection journal with guides, questions and connections. Email membership@fspa.org or call 888-683-3772 for more information.


Honoring service, goodness

Monday, September 3rd 2018 8:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Image courtesy of Pixabay


May this be a day of relaxation, renewal and honor of our gifts of service to the world as we celebrate Labor Day.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.


Happy New Year!

Monday, January 1st 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Happy New Year to you from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.


Image courtesy pixabay.com

May the coming year be filled with inspiration as you discern your vocation.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

These are our own Meribah moments

Thursday, March 8th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


It’s common for many people to run away, hardening their hearts to a possible call to religious life. Fear, anxiety and worry are sometimes overwhelming and leave little room for joy, wonder, curiosity and trust. The invitation to discern may come as a surprise — perhaps in a comment from a friend or coworker — leaving you reeling at the possibility. This happened to me. Or, maybe you are sensing an emerging awareness in the stillness of prayer. It can be a confusing time. More questions than answers may swirl in your head like...what does this all mean? Why me? What will others think about me? Will my friends still hang out with me?


Image courtesy pixabay.com

Each of these questions has implications not just for those who choose religious life, but for all life. At some point everyone finds themselves asking
“Who am I and what do I want to do with my life?”

Today’s psalm is a great reminder about the attitude we carry when we enter into a time of discernment and how each of us choose to respond when the way forward is confusing or challenging. This passage recalls a time of discouragement for our ancestors in faith, a time when they put God to their own test. Sometimes in discernment we also test God in attempt to know exactly what life would be like if we made one choice rather than another. An attitude that says in its own way “Prove it to me God!” 

These are our own Meribah moments.

What better time of year than Lent to turn once again towards God, asking for guidance and courage to prayerfully consider all of the vocational choices that are possible. Considering, researching and exploring are not in and of themselves acts of commitment. There are many steps in discernment and there will be time to say yes or no along the way.

How can the invitation to discern help you develop your own heart of flesh?

What do you hear in the words of today’s psalm?

In honor of National Catholic Sisters Week (which begins today), Show me a sign will feature a series of reflections by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration surrounding the question "What inspires you about religious life today?" throughout the week. 

Resolutions and reflection in discernment

Thursday, January 5th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

“Optimism!” I declare to myself as I take in the sparkly white squares on my crisp, new desk calendar, making it officially 2017. As you turn away from 2016, perhaps scrolling to the new year on the screen of your phone, are you proclaiming your own resolutions?


Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Sometimes the desire to successfully create change can be so rigid (and possibly borderline unrealistic) that even just the thought of failure leads to waning commitment or the decision to drop the idea all together. We can also cause ourselves to stumble over blocks of fast change and instant results. The successful goals I’ve reached in my own life happened because of perseverance. It has meant holding myself accountable for my behavior, but doing so in a realistic way. Some days on the calendar are better than others, but when I sit back and review them altogether I see progress. Or even a path to it. 

I remember a time, when I was teaching, that I met with the school’s principal in my classroom for my yearly evaluation. She gave me positive comments but also posed a peculiar question: was there a word I continually leaned on to move the class into the next activity? The word, I knew very quickly, was “okay” (although I was previously unaware of how it had become my prompt for each direction). That afternoon I asked my students to be visual aids during one of my class periods; to raise their hands anytime they heard me say “okay.” They willingly did, providing me with real-time proof that “okay” was firmly, subconsciously, engrained in my vocabulary.

That experience provided me with an essential tool for dedication to successful change: awareness. It’s an elemental devotion in discernment too. What consciousness are you bringing into discernment of religious vocation? What purpose will such tools help you achieve? Community can provide inspiration in commitment if you are willing to share with others personal attributions that may inhibit your discernment resolve. That said, have faith in the support of God and your circle of friends and family when you try something new. Trust—on the days you feel like you aren’t measuring up to your discernment aspirations—in the power of prayer; in visual cues from those around you.

So this week, I challenge you to write a letter to yourself full of your hopes, dreams, ideas and goals for the year ahead in your discernment. Save the letter in a safe place and set a reminder in your phone to read it after the next 365 days. If a year seems to long, try a month or two. It’s a simple but powerful tool to remind you not only of resolutions, but also the inspiration and desire and resolve you felt when putting pen to that paper—your aspirations for discernment in 2017.

~ Each year, FSPA invites the community to gather on New Year's Eve at our Mary of the Angels Chapel for a Blessing of Time Prayer Serviceall are welcome! A table graced with time-keeping devices represents the year ahead. Clocks, watches and calendars are blessed as icons that remind us where and when we are to be as God calls us to minister. New Year's Eve is the perfect time to review what has been and lean into what may come in the year ahead. In this way, our mission of heralding the Gospel is always at the forefront of our hearts and minds.

It is what we are called every day, throughout each year, to do.


FSPA celebrates Blessing of Time in Mary of the Angels Chapel on New Year's Eve (photo courtesy of Sister Nina Shephard).

Thankfulness, flaming rolls and the illusion of perfection

Thursday, November 17th 2016 2:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Americans are hungry to dine on the tradition of Thanksgiving next week. It’s a race to the table as young and old vie for the seats closest to the food of their dreams. The stuffing. The cranberries. I especially look forward to the fluffy mounds of mashed potatoes and homemade rolls—carbohydrate bliss! While visions of these perfect dishes dance in the heads of guests who’ve arrived, the cook may be fretting over the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and battling against lumpy gravy. What happens if the turkey is inedibly dry? Should we all go home? In focusing mostly on the beautiful, bountiful food, is the purpose of the gathering lost on idealism and expectation?


Image courtesy freeimages.com

This question conjures one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories: the year my aunt nearly burned the kitchen down. Somewhere in the hurried process of transferring rolls from the oven to a paper grocery bag (in which she put them to keep them warm—do not try this at home!) part of it touched a burner on the stove and a fire broke out. The flames that shot through the kitchen were matched in height only by the screams of those in harm’s way. Logic was lost as my aunt created more oxygen by waving the bag to put out the flames. The fire was eventually extinguished and a gush of relief and laughter took its place. While the rolls were burned—resembling nothing like the golden brown expectation we all had come clamoring for—they were still good. And the heroic effort to put them on the table made them taste even better.

Sometimes in discernment, when visiting different congregations, we carry with us notions of ethereal utopia. (Perhaps sisters in the convent that float through the air rather than walk with their feet on the ground?) Yet observing the real, making those moments matter the most, requires leaving your illusions at the door. Letting go of the idea of perfection can also be freeing as you evaluate your own feelings about who you are and why God calls you to discern religious life. Open your Bible and read the stories of Moses, Jeremiah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Peter and others. God called on the most unlikely people to accomplish great tasks. And each person had to let go of their own perceived weakness to let God lead them to the next steps in their lives.  

When you visit a community, ask the members about their vocation stories and the ups and downs they’ve experienced. Look past the image of a sister you hold in your mind and take in the reality of the person who’s sharing the gift of who they truly are with you. (Click here to "Meet Our FSPA Sisters.") Ask how it is that they seem to remain joyful on the natural roller coaster ride that is life while living as a woman religious. You might find (as they most certainly do) that the deepest spiritual lessons we learn come from the realities that don’t resemble the superlative.  

What expectations do you have about the vocation you’re discerning?  

What illusions do you carry that are holding you back from knowing the truth?

Tour Chapels
Explore our Ministries