Celebrating World Day for Consecrated Life
By Eileen Jevis
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:11-12).
This quote from prophet Jeremiah is one of Sister Katie Eiffe’s favorites. Sister Katie is the Vicar for Religious and Director of Synodal Planning for the Diocese of Syracuse. She has been a Sister of St. Joseph for 46 years.
World Day for Consecrated Life was celebrated throughout the diocese during Masses on Feb. 4 and 5. The Church recognized and celebrated those who seek an intimate relationship with Christ and have committed their lives to his service.
Sister Katie was 26 years old when she decided to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph. She was teaching at Rome Catholic High School and had become friends with the sisters there. After graduating from Rome Catholic, and returning to teach there after college, Sister Katie became a colleague and friend of the sisters. “What inspired me the most was that they were joyful women. I was drawn to their joy,” she said.
Those who feel they have been called to religious life begin the formation process to become a member of a religious community. Once candidates have been accepted, they begin theological studies and participate in their prayer life and mission. Throughout the initial formation process, which takes several years, novices — and the community — discern if this is what Christ wants for them before they profess their vows.
“Because of my life in community, I have been called to use my gifts in service to the people of God — the Church,” said Sister Katie. “I was invited to recognize gifts that I didn’t even know I had — gifts from God, to be sure, but gifts to be used for others.” Sister Katie was provided with an education to enhance those gifts, which allowed her to participate in several ministries. She served in the Office of Faith Formation for many years before being assigned as assistant coordinator of the Carondelet Hospitality Center at St. Joseph Provincial House in Latham. She was then called to serve as a member of the Province Leadership Team. “I have been gifted with deep friendships with many sisters and with wonderful lay colleagues with whom I have ministered — all who have become treasured friends. And through it all, I have grown in faith and deepened in discipleship,” she said.
Sister Katie believes that a call to vocation is an invitation, not a command. Her message to those considering a vocation is to know that they are loved unconditionally by God and that God wants them to be happy and joyful. “God has given us gifts to be used in service for others,” she said. “The key question is ‘what vocation is God calling me to?’” Sister Katie said she’s not worried about the number of religious vocations. “God will call whom God will call. If one is not called by God to this vocation, one must respond to the vocation for which he or she is called — whether it be marriage or single life.”
The needs of today are the same needs the world has always experienced — that human beings need to be loved, affirmed, gifted, clothed, fed, educated and provided with work that affirms their dignity as human beings, explained Sister. “After all, we are all children of God.”
What would people be surprised to learn about someone who has chosen consecrated life? “I think some people would be surprised that those who live religious life are real human persons. We laugh, we cry, we love, we get angry, we fail, we try again, we need forgiveness, and we need to forgive,” said Sister Katie. “We have the same struggles as any other human being. We are all in this together — loved by God and invited to live life to the fullest.”