Tag Archives: vocation

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.

Deacon Tom’s Homily: My Vocation

Before I begin I want to let you that I am not very comfortable with my homily today.  I say that not just because I do not like to talk about myself and because my call was very simple, but, and meaning no disrespect, because I am not happy with the program called by name because it appeared to me at first that the only vocation we have to be concerned about is priesthood.  And apparently I am not the only one who felt that way because we now have called by name II which addresses deaconate, religious life, and lay ecclesial ministry, but what about the rest?  In my humble opinion when our church begins to really consider the role that each of us was called to at our baptism and let each baptized person, male and female, answer that call the life of our church will continue to struggle.

Vatican II, 50 years ago, recognized the need to involve the laity in the life of the church, started to do so a little, but we still continue to hinder the laity, especially females.  Thank God, it appears that Pope Francis is trying to bring the teachings of Vatican II back to new life.  Lets pray that it happens and works.

My call happened many years ago, 65 to be exact, on the day of my baptism.  However it was years later before I heard the call.  My life as a child was one of following what I thought was a call to become a priest.  After graduation I followed my dream and soon learned that it was just a dream.  I understand it now, I didn’t then.  I moved on and still thought I heard that call and thought of going back to the seminary but knew it wasn’t the call.

It was then that I started to understand that this call thing was all about love.  I fell back in love with God, prayer, and sharing that love.  In the summer of 1972 God’s call to love and to serve, lead me to one of the greatest gifts that I could have ever imagined, this beautiful girl named Kathy.   Yes, I heard the call; we married in May of 1973 in the Lutheran Church in Watertown, NY.  As our love continued to grow stronger and stronger my love for God and neighbor did the same.  The second gift came with the birth of our first daughter, Kathy.  My role as a husband and father changed when we moved to Ogdensburg, back to my place of birth, and I began cooking at the Seminary.  It was there that my eyes were opened and I felt God urging me to again answer my baptismal call.

The young men discerning priesthood would talk for hours asking me if their call was real.  Telling me how much help it was for them just to talk, just to have me care and listen.  A dear friend, Fr. Paul Kelly, a professor at the seminary, would stop in my office in the kitchen, close the door, open a cold beer which I always had on hand and say is spiritual direction still open?  It was Paul who said to me God’s call just might be to deaconate.  Kathy and I talked and prayed and agreed that I should at least inquire.  We did and formation began.  Then gift number 3, the birth of daughter number 2, Angela.  Formation and formal classes on weekends continued and on the day of our final class on the Sacrament of Baptism, gift number 4, our daughter Teresa was baptized.

So here we were, ten years married, three beautiful daughters, and the call to ordination just months away.  Again I questioned because I had to promise that if my wife was to die I would not remarry.  I panicked, had I been in this position before?  Yes, that was one of the reasons why I left the seminary.  I talked to my bishop and expressed my concerns and in his kind and simple way he said: “Thomas, God will speak to you then the same way he does right now.  Cross that bridge when and if you ever get to it.”  That was good enough for me and on October 1, 1983 my name was called, I stood and said: “Present” and my wife, Kathy stood and said: “And I give my consent” and the Sacrament of Holy Orders was conferred.  Following the prayer of consecration by the Bishop I was vested in stole and dalmatic by my wife and former pastor.

Vested as a newly ordained deacon, I went and knelt before the bishop and he placed the Book of the Gospels in my hands and said: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are.  Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”  My sisters and brothers, thirty years later I stand before you as Christ’s unworthy herald, as your deacon, I ask that you always listen for God’s call and know that the best way to answer it is by living these words of Jesus that I try to practice in my life: “Love one another as I love you.”