My name is Sister Heather Marie Deneen. I am a second-year novice with the Felician Sisters and I am guest blogging for Sister Desiré. The second year is called the apostolic year, and it is designed to help a novice discern where her talents can be best used in the ministries of the congregation. It also gives the novice a real-world community experience outside the novitiate house, where community can be really intense.
I will talk about my apostolic experience briefly. In January, I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and worked with our mission leader, Vicky. She is in charge of mission integration at Villa St. Francis, an assisted-living facility, and the Child Development Center of St. Joseph, both of which are Felician sponsored ministries. Vicky is in charge of making sure all employees are trained to uphold our core values of respect and dignity of the human person, compassion, solidarity with the poor, transformation, and justice. She also makes sure that these values are represented when decisions are being made and is in charge of Heritage Week (Oct. 4-10, the week between St. Francis Day and Blessed Angela Day). I learned a lot about our corporate ministries from her and the staff of both ministries; it can be very challenging to make sure our values are always upheld in our decisions. It is important to remind everyone at a Felician ministry they are not just doing a job but cooperating with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world!
My other experience was in Kingstree, South Carolina at the Felician Center. The Felician Center provides an after-school program, emergency food, assist with medical, dental, and prescription needs, visits shut-ins, and runs an affordable clothing closet where people can purchase gently used clothing for $2 a bag. I loved the ministry in Kingstree because I really felt I was serving as Christ served, and I loved the people I served and served with. Kingstree has a wealth of volunteers from many Christian denominations and they are so committed to helping us be Christ’s hands and feet in rural South Carolina. I also loved the unpredictability of the ministries. One never knows what kind of mood the kids will come from school in or who is going to come through the door to ask for help.
OK, this article is supposed to be about petitioning, so let me briefly describe what it is. As a woman moves through the different stages of becoming a Felician, before she moves on to the next level of formation, she petitions, or asks her provincial for permission to move on to the next level. The petitioning ceremony is usually preceded by interviews with the provincial minister and her councilors. They ask questions about how a candidate is growing in love with God, in prayer, in community life, and what her hopes are for ministry. My interviews went well and I really enjoyed talking with my Sisters. Shortly after, the petitioning ceremony confirms that the woman is fit to move onto the next step of formation, which for me is first vows.
My petitioning ceremony for first vows took place at the Immaculate Conception Central Convent in Lodi, New Jersey. It was a simple ceremony where I humbly asked Sister Christopher, the provincial, to be admitted to first vows. It started with a short hymn, followed by me asking for permission to make vows. A series of questions follow, reminding everyone I am freely choosing to answer Christ’s call to intensify my baptismal commitment as a Felician Sister. Afterwards, Sister Christopher gave me a message of encouragement, and I signed paperwork, making it official that I will be making first vows! The sisters who were around attended the ceremony as well as four of the provincial councilors and the entire novitiate house. They all hugged me and promised to pray for me as I start to plan my profession mass, await my first assignment, prepare to move, and spiritually prepare to profess vows. For such a short ceremony, it really is packed with graces, which I’m sure I will need all that I can get.
So, please pray for me as I prepare for first vows. I am excited to profess love for my spouse Jesus Christ, and to more fully become a part of the Felician community! Know of my prayers for all of you too.