Shortly after I accepted the position of director of Vocations in 2015, I attended the annual national conference of vocation directors. At the event I attended a presentation that was led by some representatives of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. As these sisters spoke to the large assembly, which comprised mainly of vocation directors for diocesan priesthood, they reiterated several times over that ministry and presence of women religious plays a crucial role in the inspiration of those who have vocations to priesthood. They also expressed how many priests have discovered their vocation because during their youth, religious sisters have encouraged them to consider priesthood, and have prayed fervently that God guides and assists them in responding to His call. Hearing this encouraged me to reflect on my own experience growing up at St. Margaret Church and School, and recall how I was inspired that the presence and vocational witnessing of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Upon recalling this I was able to attest to the presenters' message and say that I too, in my own vocation, have experienced the inspiration that comes from the presence and witnessing of women religious.
The longer I have reflected the clearer it has become to me that all of the vocations in the Church exist in relation to one another, and that none exist in isolation. Over the years, our diocese has been blessed with the ministry and support of several communities of religious orders. Many religious sisters have provided invaluable service in education, health care, and service to the poor and countless other forms of outreach, and numerous lives have been touched by them. These contributions have reminded me that in my work as director of vocations, I must never forget the relation between diocesan priesthood and those of women religious.
From time to time I am asked if the Office of Vocations can be of service to those who are discerning vocations as women religious. While the office is primarily geared for the vocation of diocesan priesthood, and each order has a vocation program of its own, I am always willing to be of as much assistance as possible to those with related vocations. For women who may be discerning a vocation to religious life I recommend a few resources that are made available through Vianney Vocations. These items are not specific to any particular religious order, but give some general guidelines for discernment and for determining to which order a woman might be called. One item is a brief pamphlet entitled "Is this a Call?", and the other is a book entitled "Discerning Religious Life" by Sister Clare Matthiass, CFR. There is also a video called "For Love Alone" that was produced by the CMSWR that is helpful for discerners or for a general audience. Other discernment resources can be found at CMSWR.org.
Another question that I am sometimes asked is how many young women from our diocese have recently entered religious orders. One year ago I did not know the answer off hand, but grew very interested. I decided to do some research to find out how many there are and which religious communities they have joined. To my delight, realized that there are currently 11. Since many of them have joined religious communities that are not located within our diocese it is more difficult for news about their joining such communities or making significant milestones in their vocations to reach us here in Buffalo, unlike for the ordination of our priests and deacons. This disadvantage does not however make them any less worthy of our acknowledgment and prayers, especially since their offering of their lives to God ought to inspire all of us, and particularly those who might be discerning such a vocation. Furthermore, this news is especially valuable to us since these women have come from our homes, parishes and schools here in Buffalo.
The delight that I felt after determining that there are 11 women from our diocese who have either entered religious communities, or have made significant milestones in recent years, I have decided to feature them in this story. I ask all of the readers to pray for each of them, that they may continue to persevere in their vocations, and that their witnessing may continue to inspire us all. The following profiles have been attained after my best efforts to account for all women from Buffalo who have entered religious life in recent years. I apologize if there are any who are not accounted for here, and I ask that you contact the Office of Vocations at 716-847-5535 to inform me of any applicable women who have not been acknowledged. I also ask that you offer special prayers for all of the woman religious during the National Vocation Awareness Week (Nov. 4-10), and also on Feb.2, 2019, which is the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life.
Sister Mary Catherine Brown, SV
Born Lauren Brown, Sister Mary Catherine joined the Sisters of Life in 2016, and is currently at their motherhouse downstate in Suffren. This past August she completed two years of her novitiate, and is now at the level of apostolic novice.
Sister Kateri Marie Benedicta of the Cross Burbee, SOLT
Born Barbara Burbee, and originally from Lockport, Sister Kateri entered the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity in 2006. She made her first vows in 2006, and her final vows in 2014. After joining she ministered on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. There she worked as both a schoolteacher and with the community's aspirancy program for young prospects. She is now in Detroit, where she continues teaching middle school math and science, and has played a role of the opening of a new convent.
Maria DeSanto has recently been accepted by the Carmelite Monastery of Ada (Parnell), Mich., where she plans to enter as a postulant in January 2019. The Carmelite mission is to pray for the Church, priests and souls throughout the world. She joyfully anticipates this step in her vocation.
Sister Maria Christi Delaney, FSGM
Born Katrina Delaney, and having grown up in St. Gregory the Great Parish and School, Sister Maria Christi began her postulancy with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George. In 2013, she began her novitiate, and in 2015 became a junior professed. At this level she renews her vows privately each year, and will make her final vows at a time to be determined. She currently lives at the motherhouse in Alton, Ill. Her work and ministry have centered around teaching, and she is assistant director/teacher at a day care center.
Sister Mater Cruci Corde Affixa Ganzenmuller, SSVM
Born Erica Ganzenmuller, Sister Mater Cruci joined the Servants of the Lord in Brooklyn. She first joined the community in 2007, and made her final vows in 2014. Being a member of a cloistered community, her vocation is lived out largely in silence prayer, work and study.
Kathleen began living her vocation of consecrated virginity on April 16. Consecrated virgins live out their calling by remaining espoused to Christ as they live in the world.
Sister Dominica Hooper, OP
Born Andrea Hooper, the daughter of Deacon Mark and Linda Hooper, joined the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 2009, and professed her final vows in July of 2017. As a graduate of Detroit Mercy as a civil engineer, Sister Dominica teaches math and physics. She had taught at Dominic Savio High School in Austin, Texas, and now teaches at Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor.
Sister Ann Florence Leaderstorf
Born Kristen Leaderstorf, and daughter of Deacon Marc and Delphine Leaderstorf, Sister Ann Florence, along with some other women formed a community that would eventually become the Marian Franciscans of the New Evangelization. In August of 2017 Sister Ann Florence along with two other women were received into their novitiate by Bishop Richard J. Malone, whereupon they were vested in their habits. For the past year Sister Ann Florence has been completing her novitiate with the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church in Baltic, Conn. Her plan after that is to return to Buffalo to continue her novitiate in Buffalo while doing ministry of missionary discipleship.
Sister Emily Beata Marsh, FSP
Coming from the Marsh family of Bemus Point, Sister Emily Beata began her postulancy with the Daughters of St. Paul in 2007. After joining she wrote a children's book about St. John Bosco and one about Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque. She then went to Rome for a year of preparation for perpetual vows. Sister Emily Beata made her final vows earlier this year with Bishop Edward M. Grosz officiating. She now serves in Alexandria, Va., as a national vocations director for her order. Also, her younger sister Monica has spent a period discerning a vocation with the Daughters of St. Paul.
Sister Maria Grace Thielman, OP
Born Mary Kate Thielman, Sister Maria Grace joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tenn., in 2014, and professed her first vows in 2016. She is currently finishing her master's degree in secondary education at Aquinas College and serving in a Catholic High School.
Sister Frances Marie of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Wenke, CP
Born Nora Wenke in Olean, Sister Frances Marie entered postulancy with the Passionist Nuns of Whitesville, Ky., in 2014. She made her first vows last year, and is expected to make her final profession in 2023. Her vocation is that of a cloistered life with her main apostolate being prayer. Also, her oldest brother is a Conventual Franciscan brother.