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Magnificat house helps with religious discernment

Celebrating Mass, sharing dinner and discussing faith topics in a relaxed setting. What better way is there for adults to explore Catholicism?
The Magnificat House of Discernment, a place of where young women can observe religious life and learn about various orders, began these monthly evenings in October in a series called “Mmmmm...” – which stands for Mass, meal and more.

“We knew we wanted to do some kind of outreach, to reach out to other young people discerning religious life, ” said Religious of the Sacred Heart Sister Diane Roche, mentor/director of Magnificat House with Holy Family Sister Carmen Bertrand. “We also wanted to address the topics they were interested in.”
The initial two sessions have attracted young adults and religious, each gaining insight from their talks.

Ease of discussion
Approximately 25 turned out Oct. 25 to hear the history of religious life in the Christian church discussed by Dr. Tom Neal of Notre Dame Seminary, and experiences of living a monastic and apostolic life with Poor Clare Sister Rita Hickey and Dominican Sister of Peace Noel Toomey.

The second “Mmmmm ...” explored missionary life, with Msgr. John Cisewski, pastor at St. Katharine Drexel, celebrating Mass on the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. His homily emphasized how disciples such as St. Andrew believed in Jesus and spread his word. Without men like Andrew, who discovered Jesus and handed on his truths, there would be no Catholic faith today, he said.
Matt Rousso, a lay worker in Maryknoll Mission education office, set the tone by stressing how the “who” and “what” of mission work has changed.
“As a baptized people, all of us are missionaries,” he said, not just Maryknolls or priests or religious.
Rousso mentioned five distinct changes in missionary work, the first being that missionaries no longer bring God to people of different cultures but meet the God who is already present. Missionaries no longer impose their culture on the people they work with; they have learned to appreciate individual cultures. Mission work is no longer “doing things for poor people. Mission is being with people rather than doing things for them.”
And, mission is no longer just doing works of mercy such as feeding the hungry or giving water to those who thirst.
“Along with acts of mercy, we must be engaged in acts of justice,” Rousso said, and create an environment where people experience better justice.
The example of our lives
And lastly, Rousso mentioned, missionaries are no longer trying to convert everyone to the Catholic faith but encouraging people to live a life of the Gospel, following Jesus’ lead and proclaiming his good news. He said mission is Gospel, and we do mission work by example as we live our life.
Sister of the Sacred Heart Cecilia Dimaku from Nigeria reiterated Rousso’s words that everyone by their baptism is a missionary – a different view than the common notion that a missionary goes to a foreign country bringing the word of God.
She stressed the importance of enculturation – bringing the Catholic faith into a culture – and how she had to understand her own role for the last several years working at the Sisters of the Holy Family-sponsored St. Mary’s Academy.
She had to adjust her own view of mission work from thinking she had to be doing something directly with students instead of just being herself and doing her job in the finance office. A senior project made her realize her impact on the students as a consecrated religious.
“The problem in religious life is we stress the doing instead of the being,” she said.
 Sacred Heart Sister Judy Vollbrecht, who recently returned to the United States after more than 12 years in Haiti, talked about her missionary work in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Haiti.
A discussion period was held after the individual talks.
Magnificat House helps
Attending the most recent “Mmmmm ...” evening was Agnes Bitature, 47, of Uganda, a former sister with the now-suppressed religious order Intercessors of the Lamb.
 She is discerning where the Lord is leading her future life in the church, and is listening, praying and watching for direction. Bitature said Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux, executive director of the Department of Religious for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Sisters Diane and Carmen have helped her. She’s now connected to a spiritual director, and Magnificat House has provided a place to network with religious from many orders.
“Right now, I don’t know which way the winds are blowing, and I came to learn more about the various aspects of religious life,” she said. “I still believe I have the call. My vows are to God, and I continue to see that direction. His call is irrevocable. There must be some other place he wants me to go.
“Magnificat House has been very helpful, lifting me out of my confusion. I was really at a crossroads.”
A third “Mmmmm ...” session is scheduled Jan. 11 on the topic of religious vows. Dominican Father Charles Latour, principal of Archbishop Hannan High School, will be the celebrant.
            For details, email Sister Diane at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 227-3203. The House of Discernment is located at 2729 Lowerline St. at Walmsley Avenue in St. Rita’s rectory in New Orleans. Mmmmm is open to those 16 and older.

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