Called By Name II: Reflections on Vocation by Sr. Sue Zemgulis and Kristine Rooney

My name is Sister Susan Zemgulis and I am a Dominican Sister of Peace.

Some immediately think…”Ooo so when did you get the call?” Probably when I was baptized, just like you, to grow in strength and faith into the best me I could be in whatever way was right for me. And for me, my path with God took me toward life as a religious sister. 

There was no lightning bolt to say “This is what I want you to do.”  In fact, many a night I prayed for one “If I could just be sure that this is what you want me to do.  I’ll do it.”  But God doesn’t work that way.

I grew up right here at St. Helen’s parish while attending Hillside, Van Antwerp, and Niskayuna High.  I made my first retreat at the retreat house up the street when I was twelve when they had something called a Come and Grow day.  That’s when I first met our sisters.  And then I volunteered there with other teen girls. Sister Carmel would say to us, “Now you can all grow up to be good Dominicans!”  To which most responded “ewe, yuck, no!”,  and to which I said “Teacher, carpenter, Dominican,  Who knows!”  So looking back I had an openness to God’s direction for my life.

At St. Helen’s I was in the first group of girl servers when that was allowed, I was in the youth group led by Margaret and Denis Brennan and then by Paul Solomini.  I had friends who liked those things too. Peter Riley, Patty Claeys,Mary Grover.  Sr. Presentation at St. Helen’s School got me involved in playing the guitar at children’s masses here and ultimately leading a children’s choir.  Back at the retreat house I now had a weekend job in the dining room and joined the choir there once I was going to be confirmed.

I had lots of people who supported me in exploring my spirituality as I kept going a little deeper.  My parents and I never really talked about me being a sister.  They did however, support all my activities – Do you all still have senior skip day?  Being #4 in the family.  My parents were well aware of this event.  They said to me, if you go to school on Senior skip day, we will let you take another school day off and help with the refresher day at the retreat house.  Such a deal!  And it was something I actually wanted to do.  But we never actually spoke about it, we spoke around it.  As I did with the sisters I was interacting with. When I finally told my parents, they were thrilled and I asked why they had never said anything.  They said because it had to be my decision.  That worked for me, but I don’t think that works for everyone.  I was able to see sisters as women of service who were normal human beings who laughed and cried and lived life as they worked for God.  Not everyone gets to have that opportunity.

Many of you know Sister Betsy.  She and I worked together in Troy before we were sisters.  Again, we shared our faith and our prayer. When we discovered we both were playing with the idea of religious life, it allowed us to discern together the questions, hopes and fears before us.  And yes, we became sisters of different congregations – I’m Dominican, she’s a Sister of St. Joseph because those were the paths that were right for each of us.

So all of that is to say, I am now back where I started here in Niskayuna, I am the Administrator at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center, and I get to see miracles everyday as we walk with people on their own journeys of faith with God.

I simply want to say, “Thank you!  Thank you for being a faith community who has helped form who and what I have become. And keep doing it!  Keep encouraging those you see at mass and at parish events to follow their hearts in whatever way God is calling them.”

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Good morning!  I am Kris Rooney, Pastoral Associate for Adult Faith Enrichment and Evangelization.  I am HUMBLED to be here to speak of my vocation, especially after hearing Father Bob and Father Michael in the first “Called By Name”, Deacon Tom last week and now the wonderful words of Sister Sue.  What could I possibly say about what I do as a vocation for our parish when I haven’t taken any vows like they have?

All I can say is…thank you.  Thank you for being here.  You are the reason that I am here.  I love this parish.  I love what this parish has done for me, I love the people I have met, I love the people I have grown to love.

I was not raised Catholic.  I went through the RCIA program and became Catholic at (then) St. Helen’s with the help of Father Hayes and Stan and Marion Zemgulis.  My husband Chris and I became more involved when we had children.  I attended the Parent and Tot Group with them, and I got to know some some wonderful women, including Helen Moon.  The more I got to know the people of this parish, the further I was drawn in.  Before I knew it, I had a job here!  But it is so much more than a job…it is a big part of my life…a VOCATION.

There is something about church that does draw you in.  Or maybe it is more that it draws you OUT of yourself.  That is why I mention the Zemgulis’ and Helen…these are lay people that were drawn out of themselves to serve others.  They were CALLED out…that is what vocation is.  It is a stretching of yourself to be MORE than who you thought you could be…in order to be there for others and ultimately…closer to God.

I serve YOU by offering opportunities for adult faith enrichment and evangelization. I have been blessed by getting to know many of you and hopefully I will get to know even more.  I feel the presence of Christ in this parish.  I see how our parish reaches out into the world through Christ’s presence.  We make a difference here.  I feel like the more I get to know each of you, the closer I am in getting to know Christ.  For any of you that serve our parish in some way, I’m sure you find the same thing.  You get something out of it.  It gives meaning to your life.  And it gives meaning to our church.  We become Christ’s presence in the world.

So thank you.  Thank you for being here.  Thank you for giving our parish the wonderful presence that it has.  Thank you for showing me what the body of Christ looks like.  I see it in all of you.  And perhaps you may consider how you may be called OUT to serve in a deeper way too.  Thank you.

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One response

  1. Reblogged this on vrichardram and commented:
    These are two remarkable women in our parish St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Niskayuna N.Y.

    Sister Sue is the Administrator at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center and Kristine Chase Rooney is a Pastoral Associate for Adult Faith Enrichment and Evangelization. She is head of the RCIA program which she also attended during her own conversion to Catholicism. She is the head of the Parish Blog and an amazing writer.

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