Sister offers advice to young people considering religious life

Published: April 28, 2016

AQUINAS PHOTO / EMMA BLACK / SISTER MARY Anne Foley speaks about the 14th decree at the “Jesuits and the Situation of Women in the Church and Society” talk at The University in 2015.

AQUINAS PHOTO / EMMA BLACK / SISTER MARY Anne Foley speaks about the 14th decree at the “Jesuits and the Situation of Women in the Church and Society” talk at The University in 2015.

SARA MYERS
Staff Writer

At the Masses this past Sunday, the Rev. Don Williams of the Diocese of Scranton was present to discuss vocations.

As a Jesuit university, several of the faculty members are priests or religious. One such faculty member, Sister Mary Anne Foley, reflected on her vocation and journey to becoming a sister.

Foley said that she attended Catholic schools for most of her education, and that even in elementary school she could imagine doing the things her teachers were doing.

In high school, she described her teachers as “strong, creative women,” and felt called to their congregation more than others.

Foley often tells people that why she stayed is much more important than why she entered. The women who were in the process with her, she said, supported her for who she was and made her feel like she was exactly where she needed to be. “I felt at home; I felt like I could be myself and my companions encouraged me to be my best self,” Foley said.

When asked what she would say to someone who was unsure if they were being called to a religious life, Foley advised that they spend time with people who are living that kind of life and live with them for a time if possible.

Though people may often feel nervous about speaking to members of a religious community, she explained that speaking to them does not rope a person into that life, nor does living with them.

Foley said there were many women who explored the possibility with her congregation but chose to go in a different direction.
“We’ve had many, many women over the years who explored the possibility with us, often by living with us, and made a different decision, and that really was fine,” she said.

She gives this advice because otherwise people may be chasing an ideal, and people in religious life are far from the ideal. She also described the religious life not as an occupation, but as a particular way to journey to God.

“Religious life in itself is a way of having companions on the journey to God in a particular kind of way,” Foley said. “Most religious do some work outside of their living situation, but the work doesn’t define who they are.”

She clarified that the priesthood is different from the religious life because in being a priest defines a person’s work, and not all priests will live a religious life, though some – such as the Jesuits – do.

While the religious life is not for everyone, it can provide a family with whom you can journey to God in a unique way.

Contact the writer: sara.myers@scranton.edu

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