Tag Archives: Called By Name

Name, By MariAN Brinker

“It’s spelled M-a-r-i-A-N because I’m a girl.”

“What? Marion’s a boy’s name?”

“Yep. It’s John Wayne’s real first name as a matter of fact.”

For millennials I should name Suge Knight, founder of Death Row Records. For the evangelicals I could name Pat Robertson, whose given name is Marion. Most male Marions are from two to three generations before myself like Mr. Robertson and Mr. Wayne.

What I leave out is that modern day preference for spelling seems to be “O-N” no matter one’s gender.

So goes my usual explanation of my name.

Marian is an adjective that stands for all things relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Raised a Roman Catholic, my name could have inspired me to Marian Devotions but, alas, my prayer life
is more spontaneous conversations in my head or pleading for answers or outcomes while attending mass. I wish I could have stuck with the rosary. I said many decades and visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio several times while waiting for the birth parents of both my children to select Adam and I as parents. I got the children, but raising them often means needing stress relief—something the rosary recitation could bring. I’m not a
believer in miracles per se, but I believe the more petitions one sends heavenward, whether personally or intercessory, leads to what our predominantly secular society deems as “good karma” happening.

As for following in the footsteps of the Virgin Mary, I fall way short. If, at 14ish, God had told me to bear his son, I’d say Yes out of fear of lifelong reparations for a negative response rather than faith. The trip to Bethlehem literally carrying Jesus on a donkey would have resulted in poor Joseph spending the trip home a victim of passive aggressiveness. If my adolescent son had stayed back at the Temple in Jerusalem while I commenced traveling on quite a way home
to Nazareth…. I would have been visibly fuming mad even after he told me he was doing his father’s work. Jesus would get an ear full all the way home. It would have been all about my feelings rather than his awakening to his call. I think, the closest I’d come to Mary is at the Wedding in Cana… I’d definitely request his miraculous powers to refill the pitchers with wine; I’d think of how much money the guests spent on gifts and not want to disappoint. I don’t
know how she bore witnessing her son’s crucifixion. That would break me. No, I don’t think being named Marian inspired me to be anything close to Mary.

I know my dad wanted me named after his mother. I have many qualities in common with my Nana. But my mother only relented to my name because it actually was her aunt’s name too, and she got Carroll as my middle name—another nod to her family lineage. I never knew my great aunt well, but I knew of her. She was the polar opposite of her sister, my grandmother.  And, the most we have in common is similar tensions between sisters.

Are name choices really reflections of parents whims more than what we become? I liked that my name made me unique in my generation. There was never another Marian in my class—
possibly none in any of my many schools. My first job at the local nursing home serving up pureed food on trays was the first institution that had FOUR Marians including my boss and myself. Marian was so old fashion, it worked as labels often do. That is, I tended to appreciate learning from the past and having old fashion values. I was never in a rush to take on most fads, quite content with what life had given me.

When the Atari craze broke in the 80’s, I played maybe three games of asteroids, found it utterly confounding, moved to pong, found it utterly mind numbing, and crawled back up on the couch with a book under an afghan crocheted by my Nana. She’d given me a historical novel based on the life of Sacajawea. I savored all 1000 plus pages of details, especially when ask to dust. To my mother’s disdain, I’d point out the fact that Native Americans found white
settlers obsession with cleaning absurd. “Dust returns.”

Despite being a buser, I’d choose to walk home from school in the two weeks at the start of school and end of the school year. (Those being the only two one wasn’t risking dying of frost bite in Vermont.) When given the chance to exercise, one should always keep mind and body sound. The worst word I ever used in my house was “sucks.” My mother relentlessly tried to rid me of this vulgar habit. We said “number one” or “number two” in our house if we needed to discuss our bathroom feats. My physics teacher was forever unable to praise my knowledge of his subject area, but in the class of nearly all smart aleck boys, he said he really admired that I never resorted to coarse language; I used witty zingers to deflect their verbal exasperation at my mindless questions or ignorant guesses at his questions directed at my eyes lower, hand not raised personae. Coarse language is a sign of a lack of vocabulary development was my mantra.

When it was time to drive at age 16, I bid my time making sure I mastered hill starts, two point turns, and lane changing on that one major highway 10 miles up Mill Hill from our village. I was to be a proficient Vermont driver, not an eager one. I was a bit naive. When I still hadn’t bought my first beer two months after turning 18, I huffed at my neighbor’s exasperation, carefully drove down to the convenience store with his money, bought a six pack, handed him
his change, the beer, and sent him on his way home. “Now can you just leave me alone?” I proclaimed before doing what was more important in life. I probably went back to studying for my finals for some time before I realized he didn’t turn 18 until November.

Uniquely Marian or not, you’re more than just your name.

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.”


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.