Labouré Aspirant Norvilia Etienne is interviewed by The Tablet

By Melissa Enaje

“Yes, there is a vocation crisis, but we have to realize student loans are a substantial inhibitor to our vocations and the people wanting to give their lives,” said Norvilia Etienne, a college student in her final year of study at Queens College.

Last February, the parishioner from Holy Family, Fresh Meadows, petitioned to enter the religious community of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. After evaluation, she was accepted into the order. Except there was one catch – she must be free from any financial debt, including student loans, before she could enter as a candidate.

“I want people to know that it is a problem, first of all,” Etienne said. “It’s a problem and it’s affecting a lot of people who are wanting to become religious.”

A 2012 study by CARA for the National Religious Vocation Conference found that while most religious institutes have a written policy or accepted practice on educational debt, 70 percent of the religious communities where more than three candidates had educational debt reported turning someone away. In the same study, 80 percent of those communities asked potential candidates to delay their application because of debt.

Not all religious institutes have the capacity to take on the educational debt of candidates and according to the same study, some assume the debt and pay it off over time or ask candidates to defer their loans. A small number pay interest on the student loans until the member professes perpetual vows.

When Etienne graduates next spring, the unpaid debt from her undergraduate degree would pose a potential roadblock to joining religious life. So her Benedictine Sisters introduced her to The Laboure Society, a non-profit that helps people who want to join religious life or the priesthood by raising funds to pay off their loans.

Sitting inside a booth at a Fresh Meadows diner, the rising college senior displayed characteristics most students portray during summer break – easy-going, calm and hungry for adventure. Her laugh was infectious as she dived her fork into a vegetarian omelet as big as the hat on her head.

“It’s $60,000 dollars,” she said. “That’s what I’m gutting for. It would be great if I had one benefactor write me a $60,000 check and then it would be over! I can enter the convent!”

The price tag comes from a fundraising pool that averages the amount each candidate must strive to reach even if they owe more or less money. Etienne is one student in a class of 17 whom their diocese or religious community has accepted, but who lack the financial freedom to enter. With assistance from The Laboure Society, their donations will be doled out among the class and applied to students’ loans over a set time period.

In an email to The Tablet, Laboure’s Director of Admissions Maritza Sanchez stated that their organization assisted candidates from a variety of backgrounds including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, lawyers, teachers, therapists and even artists.

One wonders what goes through the mind of a college student who not only has her final year of studies to undergo, but on top of that, must raise thousands of dollars to join an order of singing, and Billboard chart-topping, Benedictine nuns?

It’s simple: hope.

“I just want to enter,” she said. “I just want to give my life to Him and whatever amount anyone could give would go a very long way.”

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Labouré Alumni video from the Dominicans!

A MUST WATCH! See Brother Francis Mary, Brother Cornelius, and Brother Vincent Mary (three of our Labouré alumni) discuss the life-changing impact that our program had on their vocations. We have assisted six Dominican Vocations in the Eastern Province alone in the last three years. Thanks be to God for their vocations! “Laboure was a real blessing to me because it allows you to see people believe in your vocation and that’s a real affirmation…” -Brother Cornelius.

Learn more about the Dominican Friars -Province of St. Joseph >

This ex-Detroit football player is vowing to become a nun

Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press

She was a punishing fullback who saved teamates from blindside hits. Now, she saves people from sin.

Sister Rita Clare Yoches, formerly Anne Yoches, will make her final vows to Jesus Christ on June 30 in Toronto, Ohio.

Just over a decade ago, she was a punishing blocker for the Detroit Demolition, the now-defunct professional women’s football team that won championships in droves. Before that, she was a tough point guard at Detroit Mercy who liked to party.

Yoches’ religious journey can be considered unconventional. How many nuns can say they knocked someone out of a game with a perfectly placed block? Or won four consecutive national titles?

For years, Yoches sacrificed her body for the sake of her team. Then she sacrificed her old life for the sake of God, vowing to live in “chastity, poverty and obedience” for the rest of her life.

“I think (my football career) is foreign to most people,” said Yoches, who changed her name as part of her conversion. “(It’s) just like being a nun is foreign to a lot of people too.”

Yoches, 38, didn’t find her religious calling until later in life, but she always has been an elite athlete.

Growing up in Dearborn, Yoches earned a full basketball scholarship to Detroit Mercy and played there from 1997-2001.

Nikita Lowry Dawkins was her head coach at Detroit Mercy, and she remembers Yoches as a hard-nosed player who never got tired.

“I often wondered if she was human or not,” Dawkins said. “She was great. She was good for our team.”

Yoches stayed in loose contact with Dawkins after her career ended. Which is perhaps why Dawkins was blindsided when she ran into Yoches during a game at Ohio State on Jan. 4. Dawkins, then an assistant at Minnesota, took a look at her old player, clad in a habit and veil, and asked:

“What did I miss?”

The news was shocking. Yet the more Dawkins reflected upon it, the more it made sense.

East Meets West In Sisters’ Viral Video Parody of Adele’s ‘Hello’ -Article from the National Catholic Register

Kathy Schiffer

Two religious communities in Ohio have collaborated to produce a video that parodies English singer/songwriter Adele’s “Hello” – showing that religious sisters can have a lot of fun while delivering an important message.

Adele’s Piano Ballad

Adele’s Grammy award-winning single “Hello” burst onto the charts in 2015, with her plaintive lyrics focused on nostalgia and regret. The song was an instant hit, reaching No. 1 in almost every country it charted in. In the United States, “Hello” debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, then held the top spot for 10 consecutive weeks. It stands as one of the best-selling singles of all time.

In interviews, Adele described the song as being about “all the relationships of her past,” including relationships with friends, family members and ex-partners. “I felt all of us were moving on,” she explained on The Radio 1 Breakfast Show. “…It’s not that we have fallen out, we’ve all got our lives going on and I needed to write that song so that they would all hear it, because I’m not in touch with them.”

Here’s the original video from Adele:

The Sisters’ Playful Version

And now, two Cleveland-area religious communities have borrowed and expanded upon Adele’s theme, coming together to produce a video parody that’s gone viral. The Mercedarian Sisters and the Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, a Byzantine Catholic women’s monastic community, have produced a YouTube video of their own which combines faith and fun, hope and humor. Only three minutes long, the sisters’ video gained 23,000 views in the first two weeks following its May 1 release.

Here’s their version:

The sisters’ video can be appreciated as just a silly song about a cookie – but on closer review, there’s something much deeper going on.

First, there’s the humorous “Oreo cookie” theme. In the Sisters’ video, an Oreo cookie with separate halves lies on a round table between the groups. The white and black of the cookie reflects the colors of the habits of the two communities. The sisters sing about how they should not be separated; and then symbolically, with just a few steps, they adopt the familiar Oreo pattern: Sisters in black habits on the outside, those wearing creamy white in the center.

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5 Helpful Tips for Making A Good Discernment

By The Daughters of St. Paul

1. Give yourself time to make a good discernment

Think of your discernment as a journey in which you will grow personally and closer to God. The best discernments aren’t rushed, but lived in openness and surrender to God.

What kind of a timeframe should you set? On the one hand, you don’t want to be stuck in indecision, waffling back and forth endlessly; but rushing isn’t helpful either. A reasonable timeline is a year to two years, although there are reasons for a discernment to last longer. Why so long? To put it briefly, you will need time to research, to pray, to benefit from spiritual direction, to grow in your relationship with God, to test your vocational choice. This is a lifetime decision you’re making!

2. Use the resources you have to learn more. God wants you to use your head as well as your heart.

Gather information and knowledge about what you are discerning. Talk to the real experts. If you are discerning religious life, gather information about several communities that appeal to you. Visit their websites and learn about how the sisters live, their prayer life, and their mission. Call a sister and ask for more information. Visit their community or make a retreat with them. Can you picture yourself living this life?

If it’s helpful, make a list of pros and cons. The length of the list doesn’t matter, but try to focus on which pros and cons are most important to you, and spend time praying about them.

3. Pay attention to what’s going on in your heart.

Even after you’ve weighed the pros and cons intellectually, you might need space and time to understand how your heart was moved. Did something particularly attract you, repulse you? Why? Did you feel at peace with one thing more than another?

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