“I want to be a sister,” said the little girl who approached Sr. Lucille Madura, CSFN. Sr. Lucille had just arrived at the first full day of the HERE I AM LORD National Vocations Conference at St. Patrick’s Parish in St. Charles, IL and had taken her position at the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth booth.

The young girl’s voice was so quiet her words barely reached Sr. Lucille’s ears. As hundreds of other middle school students sang rafter-rattling music in the sanctuary, this sixth grade girl stood quietly next to Sr. Lucille at the CSFN booth.

“Do you know what community you’re interested in?” Sr. Lucille asked.

The young girl didn’t know yet.

Sr. Lucille told her about the CSFNs and asked her to look at all the other vocation booths at the conference. She also suggested the young girl pray about it.

“Maybe not today, but at some point, it will come to you,” Sr. Lucille said.

The girl walked away with a rosary pouch, handmade by CSFNs, a few prayer cards and a brochure.

During the conference’s small group discussions, Sr. Theresita Donach, assistant national vocation director for the CSFNs, answered students’ questions. In groups of eight or ten, the young students gathered around “Sr. T” and listened to her describe religious life.

“Now’s your chance. You can ask me anything you want to know about being a nun and no one will ever know. And, no, I don’t sleep in this,” she said, pointing to her veil. A few students giggled.

Some young people stayed with safe questions like, “Who’s your favorite saint?” or “Why did you become a sister?” Others got more adventurous with their questions.

“Do nuns ever have fun?” asked one middle school boy who filled an awkward silence with genuine curiosity.  

“I’ve been kayaking and I’ve done kickboxing,” began Sr. Theresita, listing her many fun adventures and favorite TV shows.

As many religious sisters, brothers and fathers shared their vocation stories in keynote presentations, small groups and one-on-one, some of the preteen students slouched, squirmed and gazed off in the distance, an expected response from a crowd who might be more comfortable texting with friends than chatting with vowed religious. Yet others, like the young girl who approached Sr. Lucille, listened with a different attentiveness, perhaps, discerning God’s small voice in their hearts.

Seeds were planted among the young conference attendees, even among those who were counting the minutes until lunch. Only God knows what vocation will blossom in their young hearts.

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The HERE I AM LORD National Vocations Conference was founded in 2003 and is the largest parish-based vocation conference in U.S. The conference allows young people an opportunity to develop an understanding that “marriage, single life, religious life and priesthood are all vocations in the eyes of God and the Church,” according to the conference’s website. Over four days, hundreds of middle school students, high school students and families explore vocation fair displays, listen to religious education programs and talk with vowed religious. For more information and to see photos from the 2017 conference, visit the HERE I AM LORD National Vocations Conference Facebook page.

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