August 28, 2021 Vita Consecrata Institute 2021 By Sr. Marie Isabel Seeking prayer, formation, fraternity, and a little fun, Sr. Mary Anthony, Sr. Benedicta Maria, Sr. Madeline, and I traveled to Virginia for two weeks to attend the Institute on Religious Life’s Vita Consecrata Institute (VCI) at Christendom College. What is VCI? VCI is a program of graduate level studies centered on the theology of consecrated life as it is lived in the mission and life of the Church. Religious from all over the country come to participate and develop a greater insight into the consecrated life as “a gift of the Father to His Church through the Holy Spirit” (VC, no.1). The program’s director, Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem., laid out the means used to achieve the spiritual goals of VCI at the opening Mass: Common religious observance. All of the religious participating prayed the Divine Office, a Eucharistic Holy Hour, the Rosary, and the source and summit, the Mass, daily in common. As the saying goes “a family that prays together, stays together.” In all of our prayer, with voices lifted in unison and in praise of Our Heavenly Father, we are more deeply connected to one another. We intercede for one another and for the whole world. As religious, we are professional “pray-ers.” What a joy to come together in our diversity of backgrounds and communities and live that vocation together! Classes, lectures, study, and reading. Our main reason for attending VCI was for the formation provided by the classes we took, one on Vatican II and the religious life, the other on the Scriptural foundations of religious life. Father Nelson highlighted that to enlighten the mind with Divine Truth enables us to better choose with the will. With contemplative listening to our lectures and praying with Sacred scripture, we have the opportunity to integrate the interior life with our studies. We grow in love as well as knowledge. I certainly found this to be true. Learning the history, progression, and effects of Vatican II, especially on religious life, increased my awareness and awe of the Holy Spirit’s ever-present guiding of the Church. Fr. Gregory Dick, O.Praem.’s class on the Scriptural foundations of religious life was essentially a class-long lectio divina. My heart was inflamed with love for Our Lord, His Church, and, most gratefully, the vocation He has called me to. Fraternal life together. How beautiful and varied the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and call! It brings to mind the words of St. Paul: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one” (1 Cor 12:4-6). Together, we had music, basketball games, ice cream (a personal favorite), kayaking, a trip to D.C., and a talent show to top it all off. It was so much fun meeting and living with the other religious attending VCI. I learned a lot from the experiences and stories of the other communities and was inspired by the vocation stories, trials, and triumphs shared. It was a vivid presentation of the Body of Christ in its richness. I am so happy to be a Sister Servant but am also so glad that other religious are who they are and live their own unique charisms. I also love meeting other people who love Jesus, for I love Him so dearly and meeting all of His friends warms my heart immensely. I want everyone to know Him and meeting others who feel the same always makes me so excited! How great a Savior we have! And He called us all. All in all, I look back at VCI as a wonderful time with memories to spare, love to share, and a Lord to thank for the opportunity!