From Service to Sisterhood
Exploring the connection between volunteerism and vocations
Catholic Volunteer Network recently launched From Service to Sisterhood, an initiative that seeks to strengthen the vitality of congregations of women religious through the development of volunteer programs. This new project is possible thanks to the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
In Volunteer Introspective, our recently commissioned Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study of alumni of faith-based volunteer programs, 37% of the 5,051 individuals surveyed reported having considered a vocation to religious life or priesthood. Of those, 27% stated that they had "very seriously" considered it, with another 35% indicating that they had "somewhat seriously" considered it. Perhaps even more interestingly, 48% of those who have considered a vocation to religious life or priesthood did so "during (their) volunteer service."
Additionally, Catholic Volunteer Network has an established relationship with women's religious congregations throughout the U.S. Currently, 49 of our 215 member programs (23%) are sponsored by communities of women religious. These 49 programs last year placed nearly 2,000 volunteers in full-time service throughout the U.S. and around the world.
We’ve found that a year of volunteer service leaves a deep impression on those who serve. Many begin to think more seriously about their vocation and some answer the call to religious life during their time as a volunteer. Religious congregations that sponsor full-time volunteer programs, or serve as placement/community living sites, have a unique opportunity to encourage and support these young adults as they discern their vocation. In 2014, Catholic Volunteer Network began a new program to take a closer look at the connection between volunteer service and vocations. We are calling this initiative From Service to Sisterhood.
Congregations of women religious who are planning to launch new volunteer initiatives can apply to CVN for support in the form of seed funding. Grants of up to $45,000 are awarded to congregations every fall. In addition to the seed money, the directors of successful programs are matched with a mentor who will support them in this new project. Applications for the next round of funding are now available.
Discernment Resources and Vocation Stories:
Those discerning the call to volunteer service or religious life can now find a wealth of resources on Catholic Volunteer Network’s Exploring Your Vocation Resource Center. This resource center also includes a growing number of discernment stories from individuals whose service experience lead them to answer the call to vowed life.
This grant/program has been a real shot in the arm for our Congregation as it encourages us to Dream and invite others in ways we had never thought of. - Sr. Mary T. Naccarato, PBVM, Director of If I Could Be of Service – Presentation Sisters Service and Outreach Programs
While we may no longer be available for active service in our former ministries, especially in the ministry of education, sharing this simple ministry of loving presence makes our congregational mission and charism burst forth with energy and new potential. As we touch these young people and envelop them in our mission, they in turn, become conduits to carry this mission out into places where alone, we could never take it.
- Sr. Michele Vincent Fisher, CSFN, Director of Holy Family Service Corps
It is important to the integrity of our program that we offer our volunteers a holistic experience when they are with us. We support them in every way possible to integrate their service experience, community living, personal prayer, and family history into their lived experience of life. The very nature of this holistic experience gives volunteers time and space for personal prayer and reflection upon their vocational call. - Sara P. Marks, Director of Franciscan Volunteers: No Risk, No Gain
"The track from volunteering to vocations" by Sr. Janet Gildea, reported on our Symposium held in July 2014. The article appeared in NCR's Global Sisters Report.
If you have any questions regarding this initiative, please contact: Katie Delaney at firstname.lastname@example.org.