Welcome to our summer Lay Member Series on the Blessed is She blog! This week, we will hear from several different members who are lay members of various religious orders. We’ll learn about their walk with Christ, their vocation, their discernment and formation process, and what it looks like to live out their vows in the framework of their primary vocation or state in life.
Today, we chat with Molly Durbin, a member of the CSJ Association.
Tell us a bit about your journey with Jesus.
I am a “cradle Catholic.” It would be safe to say that my journey with Jesus began when I was really young. I am 24 years old and I’m sure the Lord has felt every single minute of our journey together. From what I have been told, the early days were great. My mom would serve at Mass and my brothers and I would sit in the pew and actually behave. As I got older, things got harder. I grew further away from the Lord.
Looking back, I think I struggled with being Catholic or really anything that my family identified with because I struggled with who I was. I grew far apart from peers my own age and felt very alone. We just didn’t have the same interests. The parish we attended was not a good fit. All of these emotions peaked my sophomore year of high school when an athletics coach told me, “You’re just not good enough.” Ouch.
After that, I transferred to Catholic school. In the winter of my junior year, I was invited on a trip to see the Pink Sisters in Philadelphia, PA. I absolutely loved everything about it. I was fascinated with the way they lived their life and the fact that their habits were pink. The next day I started casually exploring more about Sisters.
I spent the better part of eight years discerning religious life. My last two years in High School, my entire college years, and a couple of years after. I thought that, since no man seemed interested in me, I was destined to be Sister. I was set aside by God to glorify Him and love his Son by living into that vocation.
I went to college at a secular university and did my best to live like the convent was where I was headed. I strove for it. That was my goal. Sometimes my commitment would waiver, but my faith never did. As I visited convents and met with my spiritual director, it became clear that the convent wasn’t where I was called. On both good days and bad I repeated the same prayer, “Lord, whatever You do with my life, please make this worth it.” I prayed it every single day for the duration of my college experience.
One day, I got my answer. In my heart, I heard a challenge from the Lord. “If you trust me, quit your job.”
I immediately went upstairs and quit my job. The only question I had was, “How am I going to explain this to my parents?”
I had bills to pay. I had a ton of things coming up that would require money, like applying for a graduation audit. Fortunately, they were receptive but put a time frame on it. “You have until June for God to help you find a job or you’re coming home, Molly.” Yikes.
I had been applying to jobs for what felt like a lifetime. I received rejection notice after rejection notice. I had interview upon interview and nothing came through. I knew the voice I heard was the voice of God. I had no doubt. I just had to wait.
One day, I got an interview for a job that I really really wanted. I interviewed and got a second interview, and so on. Now I’m here, and I couldn’t be happier.
What first drew you to the CSJA?
They serve a wide range of needs. If there is a need, there is probably a Sister of Saint Joseph. The Sisters primarily work in healthcare, education, and service to the poor.
However, you can still find them in other areas like social services, foster care, race relations, and politics.
What are the charisms and motto of your order?
The language from the CSJ Association flyer articulates our charism beautifully:
The CSJ Association is a community of women and men who in association with the Sisters of St. Joseph seek to be conformed to Jesus Christ in his love for God, for all people, and all creation. Associate members journey with the Sisters of St. Joseph by living the charism of unity in their daily lives by uniting neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God.
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How did you know you might have a call to this order? What did the discernment process look like?
I knew I had a vocation to this order when I visited the Motherhouse. I continue to feel a joy when I visit—words don’t do it justice. My actual discernment process isn’t one of drama. I didn’t have a vision, or a dream, or a Eucharistic miracle. I was just openly seeking God’s will for my life and found myself here.
Were there any particular tools you found useful in your discernment?
There are so many things that I did seasonally through the eight years I spent discerning, and some that I continue to this day. The most important tools we have in discernment are the Sacraments. As you go through your discernment process, and then move into your vocation, the number one priority should be participating in the Sacraments. The Lord may place daily Mass on your heart. He may call you to encounter him in Adoration. Maybe He knows that because you’re conversational, He sends a spiritual director into your life.
My discernment was fluid and I used different tools at different times and in different seasons. It is okay if you do, too.
Why do you think the charisms of this order are useful to you in your path to sanctity?
At the heart of the ministry of the Sisters of Saint Joseph are service and intention. I didn’t realize how hard my heart was toward the environment or toward the poor. Living into the charism of unity has softened my heart toward my brothers and sisters in need and causes me to reflect on the impact my daily habits have on our eco-system & those in developing countries.
What is the formation process like? How long have you been a member?
The formation process is a year of monthly sessions where you gather with your regional group and your sponsor to cover 12 separate topics regarding the Sisters and their history, their ministry, and charisms.
I made my profession as an Associate in April of 2017.
What are the daily practices and other requirements/practices of lay members? How do those look lived out in your particular life and vocation?
There is one requirement the Association has outside of living the charism and that is to attend monthly meetings with our prayer group. Ways that I live out the charism in my life include being a Eucharistic minister, serving meals to the poor, weekly Adoration, and daily Mass when I can make it.
When I was in formation, we talked at length about temperament and how that makes all the difference in what you do. Joyful work is noticed by others and delights the Lord.
I’ll give you an example. I smile. A lot. I smile a lot at Mass, I smile at work, I smile when I make awkward eye contact with people. I just like to smile. When I serve as a Eucharistic minister at Mass, I do my best to smile at everyone who comes up for communion or for a blessing. One woman thought I did such a good job that she made it a point to stop me after Mass and thank me for being a Eucharistic minister.
I’ll share one more for good measure. Keep in mind what I just shared about smiling. This example comes from serving the poor. It was a colder, rainy day. We were wrapping up our leftovers to take to a local non-profit and cleaning the facility. Because it was rainy, I let some of my new friends stay indoors until we left. While I was sweeping the floor, one gentleman asked, “Are you actually enjoying yourself?” I couldn’t help but smile.
How has being a CSJA changed your own heart? What about your relationships with your family and friends?
I mentioned earlier that I had such a hard heart toward the poor without even realizing it. I also never took a moment to think about how my actions were indirectly impacting the environment and varying communities. This is painful to admit, but very true. I’ve always had a strong moral compass, but it was never tempered with concern for others. I practiced strong morals out of pride. While pride doesn’t go overnight (or two years), I am slowly learning to live a moral life out of love for another.
When it comes to my family, they have actually been really supportive. They attended my promises ceremony and serve alongside me when they can. My boyfriend (who isn’t Catholic) also attended my promises ceremony and serves alongside me as well.
What advice would you give someone considering a vocation to a third order?
Bring it to the Lord
If you feel called to more within your single or married state, pray about it. I used to hate that advice: “Pray about it.” I always felt like I was being dismissed. I used to think, “Prayer doesn’t solve problems. Action solves problems.” True and false. Prayer is how we connect with God. Action is how we build up the Kingdom. Prayer fills our cup while we actively pour into others. I promise you, you can trust in the Lord. He is good and He will provide for your needs. You simply need to bring them to Him.
Go on retreats
Did you know that you can go on retreats with Sisters specifically to gain insight into their order? If you didn’t, now you do. It’s a thing. Be mindful that the offerings of particular orders vary. What may be offered by one won’t necessarily be offered by another. Visiting the website would be the best way to learn more about what a particular order offers.
Another retreat you should look out for is a Diocesan Women’s Vocation retreat. These retreats are the perfect opportunity to ask about Third Order or Association opportunities.
Unpack your bags
Living out a vocation is not an escape, nor is it a bandage solution to a problem. That bag you carry about any lie related to your identity as a daughter of God will get heavier if not offered to the Lord.
If you have bags that need unpacked with a licensed professional, do that. There is absolutely no shame in getting the help you need so you can become everything you were meant to be.
Remember your identity
You are loved. You were created by a God who loves you, who has huge plans for your life, and who desires nothing more than your whole heart.Lay Member Series: CSJA #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Molly Durbin is a CSJA who is passionate about sustainability and Total Societal Impact. She spends her days in Corporate Learning and Organizational Effectiveness. She enjoys Ted Talks, iced coffee, Chick-fil-A, and Fall.