Vocations Promoted as St. Patrick Graduate Honored
April 27, 2017

ST. CHARLES—Students at St. Patrick School, here, were invited to imagine various possibilities for their future beginning at an all-school Mass on the parish feast day celebrating St. Patrick, March 17.

That future might include religious life, as one St. Patrick graduate, Sister Anna Joseph VanAker, explained after the Mass.

Earlier when commenting on the Gospel, Msgr. Stephen Knox, pastor, said St. Peter “was not having a good day” after hours of fishing had produced nothing.

But, “when he finally listened (to Jesus), they made this great catch,” he said. When Peter expressed that he is not worthy of Jesus’ love, Jesus response was ‘I’ve got a job for you,’ ” the priest said, adding, “All (God) needs is a humble heart, and He can do great things.”

After Mass, the parish and school honored one of its own, described by Msgr. Knox as “someone really blessed by St. Patrick School ... she heard God’s call.”

Sister Anna Joseph, a 2001 St. Patrick graduate who now is a Nashville Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, came forward after being introduced and was feted with gifts and well wishes from teachers and parishioners who know her.

She and Father Kyle Manno, parochial vicar, spoke to the students in junior high and older elementary grades a bit later that morning about vocations — what they are and why listening to God is a good idea.

Father Manno spoke to the boys, sharing his own vocations story. He told how he couldn’t come up with a good excuse to miss the 9 p.m. Sunday Mass at college, and there he discovered “a priest who loved being a priest and loved God.”

His faith, and eventually his vocation, grew from there.

Sister Anna Joseph, a teacher at St. Joseph School in Madison, Tenn., also spoke to two groups, younger and older girls, and with both she tossed a beanbag to individuals to solicit their responses.

She compared vocations to a wedding cake. At the bottom layer, she said, “we are all called to be holy — everyone gets a bite of that ... you’re going to be saints,” and got a few girls to talk about their confirmation saints.

The second vocations cake layer, Sister Anna Joseph said, involves service in the life of the Church, which can include becoming a priest, a nun or to be married.

She told them that many would be called to marriage and that God already has a guy in mind for them, “So you can start praying for him now!”

A third layer is “the vocation of your job,” another calling that would include the roles of mothers and fathers.

The “tiny top layer,” Sister Anna Joseph added, is “the here and now” of their current vocation to be students and daughters.

An early Here I Am Lord (HIAL) vocations conference at St. Patrick Parish had raised her own awareness of vocations, she said. “My favorite vocations prayer is ‘Help me to want what you want me to want.’”

When she was “sucked into youth ministry” at the parish, Sister Anna Joseph said it “opened my heart to learn how to pray ... When HIAL came, that was when I first met sisters” including the Nashville Dominicans.

Her vocation was assisted by her confirmation saint, St. Agnes, a Roman martyr, who, she said, “picked me” at confirmation. Some five years later, when in college and studying in Rome, she said she “spent a lot of time with (St. Agnes’) relics, and she made a big difference in my life from then on.”

Her choice to enter the Nashville Dominican community was encouraged by their work as teachers, that they have fun together, and, she said, “I also loved that they wear a habit.” She described the parts of her habit, its significance, and how it is blessed at a sister’s profession of vows. Other parts of her life now include an annual, one-week visit home, written (not emailed) letters, and her family of “304 sisters and one brother.”

“For each (person), that bottom layer (of the ‘cake’) is God saying, ‘I chose you first,’” Sister Anna Joseph said. “We can only love other people because God loved us first.”

The common vocation to be a saint “is also a promise to happiness,” she said. “Trust Him, He has a really good plan just for you ... discernment is a fancy word for listening to God. He’ll be very clear with you (although) sometimes you have to take a big leap.”

“My one piece of advice,” she said in conclusion, “is to make time in your life for some silence, so you can hear God’s voice.”