National meeting of the US Conference of
Secular Institutes

September 28-30, 2018, Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ

Thirty delegates met at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, from September 28-30, 2018, for their national meeting of the United States Conference of Secular Institutes (USCSI). Vice-president Father George Hazler of the Voluntas Dei Institute gave a reflection on the theme: Accepting Acceptance – Being in the Present Moment. He reminded us that God accepts each person unconditionally, just as one is at the present, but most people have difficulty in letting themselves be loved. Too often one concentrates on past failures or future “should be-s” instead of encountering God’s love in the present. This was followed by Holy Mass and a social.

Saturday morning began with Morning Prayer. The keynote speaker for the weekend was Father Ralph O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations at the United States Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB). His presentation was inspired by the Synod for Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment which was held at the Vatican October 3-28, 2018. He stated that Christ is still calling “enough” vocations but do we hear his call and respond? Witnessing to youth and accompanying them one on one is so important to fostering vocations to the consecrated life.

At 10:00 am the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix and Episcopal Moderator of the USCSI, celebrated Mass with the conference participants. After a southern banquet and time for institutes’ meetings, we gathered at 2:00 pm for a continuation of Father Ralph’s presentation.

Young people considering religious institutions are now using a different way to connect. We hear: I can take care of myself or I am spiritual, not religious. Often a historical quality is absent, we don’t have the sense of where do I come from and where am I headed collectively…. So from what we received, what can we give on to help meet these challenges?

Next, a panel of four institute members who are in the formation process shared how their institute’s charism helped them discern their vocation. Panel members included Joan Patten, Apostolic Oblate, Elizabeth Rockwood of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, and Prachi Shah who is pursuing the foundation of a new institute based on the Cistercian spirituality. Candidates of the Schoenstatt Fathers presented via technology. The question posed to panelists was “What are the strengths and attributes of your institute’s charism to accompany youth on their way to faith and discernment?”

Joan Patten’s key words: Be available, authentic and accessible. Betsy Rockwell, widow and grandmother, wanted to consecrate the rest of her life to God but her age was against her. She wrote to several secular institutes and the OMMIs responded and she has found her place by perseverance. The Schoenstatt Fathers’ seminarians are led to a covenant of love with the Blessed Mother and a living contact with their founder father. Prachi Shah who feels called to found a secular institute based on the Cistercian charism, recommended 4 “D”s to help young people find their vocation: desire, dialogue, discernment, and docility.

On Sunday morning we attended the parish Mass and were very welcomed by the congregation. The business meeting re-elected Marcia Vinje as president, approved printing a brochure listing vocation contacts, discussed letters from the apostolic nuncio, Congregation for Consecrated Life, Conference for Vicars for Religious, and heard a CMIS update.

Jessica Swedzinski, Secretary