Students from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Grantsburg, participated in the May tradition of crowning the Blessed Virgin Mary with a wreath of flowers. Pictured (left to right) are Whitney Myers, Blandina Ayohua-Hernanedez, Aiden Ayohua-Hernanedez, Emma Swanson, Farah Flanagan, Deacon Stan Marczak, Lucas Swanson, Luis Ayohua-Hernanedez, Stephanie Ayohua-Hernanedez, Matthew Meier, Fr. Dennis Mullen, Jace Brown and Branson Flanagan. (Submitted photo by Mary Hinrichs)

One of the Missionaries of the Word who helped lead the retreat is from the Diocese of Superior. Sr. Maria Lucia Stella Maris was born Anya Gadamus and grew up in Ashland.

It was a joy for her to be back in the diocese where she grew up. She shared that the Lord had reminded her during the Saturday night adoration of how he was fulfilling her own prayers as a high school student. It was also a gift for her to realize she was able to be part of his answer to her own prayers.

Her vocation story is rooted in the very theme they preached to the youth, the freedom of the children of God.

“My vocation has flowed from encountering the Lord’s gift to me of being a child of the Father,” she said, struggling a bit to find the words, admitting how tired she was after the full and active retreat.

Even though she particularly identifies, as a professed sister, as a spouse of Christ, Sr. Lucia said, “that too flows from that first gift that was given to me at my baptism.”

She and Sr. Bernadette both entered the order as aspirants in September 2012, during the foundational phase of the community, under the guidance of Bishop David Ricken. In May 2014, the Missionaries of the Word were formally founded as a Public Association of the Faithful, destined to become a religious institute, and Srs. Bernadette and Lucia entered the novitiate. They both professed their first vows in April 2016 and are preparing for their profession of final vows on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 2020.

Speaking about vocational discernment, the sister clarified, “Discernment, like anything else in the Christian life …it’s for the Lord. If the end goal is for Him, then the process is, too.” She confirmed that discernment can be a cause of fear, of not getting it right, of making a mistake.

She followed with, “It goes back to being a child of God.

“The basis of our life is the reality that we’re drawn into the life of the Trinity (at Baptism). We enter with a total dependency on him. If we go into discernment as something we’re figuring out ourselves, there’s still a sense of control or managing.

“It has to be a total abandonment to his love,” she said; “Wherever that leads; but at every step to say ‘I am yours.’

“When we’re in his hand there are no mistakes. He uses everything, and He’s not afraid of our poverty like we are.”

She encouraged discernment to be carried out in the context of the Father’s love. As such, it can be followed “with confidence and not as an intellectual process.”

She also encouraged fighting the temptation to compare vocations. Commenting on one of her biological sisters, who is married with three little children, Sr. Lucia said she rejoices in and is blown away by the beauty of that vocation.

“Let them remain distinct, as there can be a danger to live one as the other,” she said; “they are distinct, yet both dignified.”

Speaking of the conscious renewal need for the faithful living of any vocation, Sr. Lucia said, “The response is not just once in the past. The renewal is daily.”

She said as they dress each morning, there is prayer to accompany each piece of their habit. The prayer uttered as she puts on her crucifix is: “Jesus, I love you. I will follow you wherever you go. Go in search of souls at any cost to myself and out of pure love for you.”

Every morning she is reminded, “I am one with Jesus by my profession, but that intimacy comes on the cross. The love of a Christian, but particularly of a religious, has to be crucified love.”

Following Christ, the cross is where He can be intimately found. Like Mary who received the apostle John at the foot of the cross, the Missionaries of the Word through their charism of discipleship, make themselves available to receive from God those He is asking them to walk alongside.

Sr. Lucia confirmed the role that prayer plays in all of this – discernment and discipleship.

“Without daily prayer, nothing would happen … Prayer corrects our vision,” allowing one to see where God is leading and depend on His strength and love to follow Him to the end.