World Day of Prayer for Vocations: Stories of Mission and Ministry

April 21 is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. What is the role of women religious in our changing world? What can a vocation look like? We spoke to some of our Sisters in active ministry—Sisters Bárbara Gutiérrez, Liane Delsuc and Gillian Wallace, SNDdeN—to get a sense of the wide range of experiences that religious life contains. Through their diverse ministries and experiences, these Sisters all work diligently to make known God’s Goodness.

Sister Bárbara Gutiérrez, SNDdeN

Sister Bárbara works at the Archdiocese of Boston as the special assistant for ministerial personnel. Through this ministry, she offers much-needed support to clergy personnel, deacons and others seeking vocations. She loves working closely with her team, contributing to creating the “beautiful tapestry that is the Catholic Church in Boston.”

Through her work, she lives out the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to make known God’s goodness, work for justice and peace and stand with those made poor.

“Many of our parishes have direct services to people living in poverty, others have wonderful programs of advocacy for affordable housing and programs to welcome and help immigrants and refugees,” she shares. “This happens with the support of people like me who work at the Pastoral Center."

For hope in the future, she looks to the resilience and tenacity of the communities she serves. “I look at the success stories of immigrants and people living in poverty overcoming obstacles to become professionals, business owners or teachers. That happened over and over in the past and continues to happen today. For example, I see young people educated in Catholic schools become successful professionals, helping their parents and their community.”

Sister Bárbara loves her vocation and her ministry. She loves the strength that her community provides. She shares that she did not choose her vocation, but rather, she was called to it.

“I strongly believe that God talks to all of us. How we listen, how we discern and how we respond makes the difference in the decisions we make.” To those discerning a vocation, she advises courage. “Risk listening to God with the ‘ears of your heart.’ If ‘yes,‘ the path takes us to a radical, meaningful and beautiful way of life.”

Watch this video reflection of Sister Bárbara here:

Sister Gillian Wallace, SNDdeN

Sister Gillian is engaged in a ministry that has long been a mainstay of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur – education! She works as a religious studies teacher at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, California, striving to impart her students with a “sense of themselves and what they can do to care for themselves.”

“My colleagues and I focus a lot on the Hallmarks of a Notre Dame Learning Community and the story of our foundresses St. Julie and Francoise in the work we do,” she says.

“The world is ever-increasing in its diversity. Being a part of a learning community which itself is diverse is a great privilege. I really appreciate some of the conversations students have around not only the challenges they face, but ways to overcome these challenges and create systemic change. The latter ranges from wanting to pursue careers and make a difference there to raising their own families. Both are important and can lead to positive impacts in the future.”

The Hallmarks of the Notre Dame learning community are what drew Sister Gillian toward her vocation. Moreover, the diversity of our Sisters’ spiritualities and missions called to her.

“Being a Sister is primarily a God quest,” she shares. “Many Sisters I know experience God through different forms of prayer and engagement. This is really appealing since it leaves things open for me and anyone on this journey to explore what works for us.”

Her advice to those discerning a vocation is to get to know the Sisters of the order one is interested in, attend their gatherings, and shadow them in their ministries.

“Ministry,” she explains, “is a good place to witness the work in which one might themselves engage.” Since joining the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sister Gillian has served in ministry at a homeless women’s day shelter, a catering business designed to empower those struggling with addiction and homelessness and as chaplain of a county jail. She feels privileged for each of these experiences.

Sister Liane Delsuc, SNDdeN

For the past three years, Sister Liane Delsuc has worked at a shelter welcoming asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. She works to provide comfort, solace and material aid to people from all over the world who arrive seeking a better life.

This mission has proven to be extremely rewarding to Sister Liane. She enjoys contributing to an interfaith community, working in service to asylum seekers. The shelter is supported by donations and volunteers from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and beyond.

“It has opened up a whole new realm of ministry and sense of mission for many, many people,” she reflects. “I see it as a movement of the spirit.”

Sister Liane was drawn to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur early on. She recalls being attracted to the story of St. Julie even as a child. She sees deep parallels between her current ministry and the call of St. Julie to the Sisters.

“St. Julie herself was a person whose life was in danger. She knew what it was to be a refugee,” she says. “The people we are serving are those who have escaped for their lives.”

Sister Liane credits her experiences as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur with expanding her awareness of the realities of life around the world.

“The idea in our constitution, ‘to live simply and to all have enough’ is important to me.” Her experiences in vocation have taken her around the world, from impoverished communities in Peru and Los Angeles to meetings with international Sisters, and have shown her how deeply interconnected we all are, a lesson she carries into her mission each day.

Watch this video reflection of Sister Liane here: