Salesian Sisters provide valuable discernment tools for women
By Veronica Ambuul
COLORADO SPRINGS. In addition to their work in youth and young adult ministry, faith formation and other activities in the diocese, the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco have made themselves available to guide young women who are discerning vocations to religious life or consecrated virginity.
As a result of that availability, two women from Colorado took first vows as Salesian sisters in 2022, and several more are taking steps to enter other religious orders.
Since arriving in Colorado Springs in 2019, Salesian Sister Linda Gonzalez has served as Coordinator of Women’s Vocations for the Diocese of Colorado Springs. In that role, she continued the Samuel Group discernment program started by Salesian Sister Bernadette Mota.
“Samuel Group has been going on since Sister Bernadette’s time; we would have two separate groups for men and women,” Sister Linda said. “We’d invite a diocesan priest to guide the guys and we (the Salesians) would guide the ladies through that whole formation process.”
“It helps you clear out the clutter of your life and focus on what really matters,” said Salesian Sister Claire Ramos, who worked at St. Peter Parish in Monument and was a Samuel Group participant before entering the order in 2018. “They encourage you to attend daily Mass and eucharistic adoration in order to get that silence that you need to be able to hear how God is calling you.”
Salesian Sister Claire Ramos with family
Salesian Sister Claire Ramos is pictured with family members at her temporary profession of vows in San Antonio, Texas, in August 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sister Ramos)
The COVID pandemic put a temporary halt to the Samuel Group program, but in hindsight it was also providential, Sister Linda said.
“When COVID happened, things changed and we could no longer meet in person,” Sister Linda said. “So what we ended up doing was really brainstorming as a congregation: What do we do to help young women who are discerning in general? That’s when we created the Fiat Project.”
The Fiat Project is an online program facilitated by the Salesian Sisters that allows women from all over the world to meet virtually and learn about all vocations, not just religious life.
“The first half of the program is just discernment tools in general: How do I discern marriage? How do I discern in general? After that’s finished, we have a panel of married couples so that those who are possibly discerning marriage can hear from different couples,” Sister Linda said.
“The next half is discerning religious life. The goal is really to dispel a lot of the myths of religious life that young women generally have. Each woman is assigned to a sister, if they don’t already have a spiritual guide or mentor, to accompany them through the discernment process.”
Salesian Sister Shaila Mathai, a former parishioner at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, learned of the Salesian Sisters through a Capuchin priest who was leading one of the young adult ministry events taking place in Colorado Springs in 2017. Like Sister Claire, she also entered the order in August of 2018.
“The first time I went down to meet with them, I stayed after young adult adoration had ended and talked to the sisters,” Sister Shaila said. “I can’t remember anything specifically that they said that drew me to (the order), I just knew inside ‘this is it.’ I knew that was where I was called.”
Sister Linda has also been working with women who are discerning a vocation to consecrated virginity, which involves a vow of chastity but not living in a religious community.
“One of the big things that has happened in this past year is due to the fact that the diocese did not have an official process for women discerning becoming consecrated virgins,” she said. “We’ve been working very closely with Bishop Golka and developing an application process and looking at the formation program. We do have two young women right now, with whom I’m in direct contact, who are discerning that vocation. That’s been a huge endeavor, but also it’s a beautiful thing to have women inquire about that vocation and the Holy Spirit asking us ‘Well, where do they come in? And how does the diocese embrace this vocation?’”
Sister Linda will be departing Colorado Springs in August to take up her new assignment at the Salesians’ provincial headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. She will be replaced by Salesian Sister Quynh Pham as Director of Young Adult Ministry and Coordinator of Women’s Vocations.
Sister Linda said that she is optimistic that the number of women seriously considering religious life will remain on an upward trajectory.
“Fortunately, there’s been a huge development in college campus ministry, with a lot more sisters present at college Newman Centers, which I think has helped that process of discerning religious life,” she said.