Sr. Delia Sizler reflects on her experience of living a consecrated life
By Mary Stone
Pope Francis opened this special year, which extends through Feb. 2, 2016, with a letter underlining the aims of the Year of Consecrated Life, namely to “look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope,” in order “that consecrated men and women would be witnesses of communion, of joy and the Gospel, and go evermore to the peripheries to proclaim the Good News.”
“I am counting on you ‘to wake up the world,’” the Pope emphasizes in his introductory letter.
Sr. Delia Sizler, SC, a vowed member of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, is one such individual living out her consecrated life in the Diocese of Juneau. Recently, Sr. Dee (short for Delia), shared her thoughts on Pope Francis’ directive to those living the consecrated life, to ‘wake up the world!’
“The world today has become ‘numbed’ – we are over-stimulated” she relates. “We just don’t have the excitement and Spirit that comes from God as much as we should have if we were in a more balanced world.”
She goes on to describe what she sees as a longing and a sleepiness in many people today. “We want something else, but we are in a trance-like state… As baptized people we all need to be awake. Any vocational call is a call to be awake and to respond to it. We are all called to be holy.”
What is the consecrated life? According to one Catholic vocations website, “The Consecrated life is a gift given by Christ who chooses a person individually to respond to His great love in a special relationship. He asks that person to leave some aspects of the world (such as marriage and following secular goals) to put themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters.” (www.kckvocations.com)
Sr. Dee is emphatic that, for her, consecrated life is ‘organic’ – constantly growing and changing in order to continually respond to God’s call.
Sr. Dee came to Juneau after having spent many years of living in community and ministering as both a teacher and counselor. She has her M.Ed. in Counseling and nearly 50 years of practical experience in the field of pastoral counseling. After taking a year off from her Sisters of Charity duties to care for her sister (who died from cancer in March of 2010), Dee was ready to take a risk and respond to God’s call in a new part of the world. The Sisters of Charity has a small group of associates in Juneau who had repeatedly invited Sr. Dee to join them, so in July of 2010 she finally agreed. In Juneau, she has been on staff at the AWARE shelter as a relief advocate for women and children seeking safety from domestic violence, and now operates her own practice—Family Pastoral Services—where she ministers in counseling and mentoring with a spiritual focus. She is not employed by the Diocese of Juneau, but receives support from her religious community and resides in the diocesan convent on Douglas Island with Sr. Marie Lucek, OP. They are two of only three consecrated women religious currently residing in our diocese. This September, Sr. Delia Sizler will be celebrating her Jubilee anniversary – 50 years of consecrated life.
Looking back on her 50 years of life as a religious sister, she reflects,
“The vocational call to the consecrated life prompted me as a young woman, and it still lures me. The spirit of God in me is, for me, intimate and infinite. It’s a response to love.”
Living out this “testimony of faith, holiness and hope” (Pope Francis’ Statement on the Year of Consecrated Life) began for Sr. Dee as a young girl. She was able to attend Catholic schools as a child in Ohio, and she remembers asking her mother to wake her up early so she could walk up the street to Mass. “I was always drawn to the Eucharist.”
“For me, faith is about believing and trusting in God’s providence – that God provides…. Standing in that, it makes me willing to take more risks, risks that are a way of responding to the grace of the call.”
Her first risk was in responding to the vocational call as a teen, despite having a boyfriend at the time and reluctant family support. “It didn’t feel to me like I was doing anything brave, I was just following where I was being led…. ‘I’m ready to go; pick me, God!’” she laughs.
She continues, smiling, “Once, soon after I arrived in Juneau, I was kayaking on Mendenhall Lake with a group and sharing a double kayak with a young woman who was 8 months pregnant. I remember thinking, ‘God didn’t get me to this point to let me die in this situation!’” Inspired by Sisters of Charity founder St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and the young women pioneers of her newly formed religious order, Sr. Dee recognizes that risks grounded in faith are often necessary to follow God’s call. She points out Sr. Blandina Segale—a member of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who was a missionary, educator and social worker in the American West in the late 1800’s—as one such example. Sr. Blandina is currently being considered for canonization.
A holy relationship
“I try to be in right relationship with the world, with creation, and with others both familiar and unfamiliar… as I listen for God in prayer, and through participation in and through Church. For me, holiness is growing in that relationship,” explains Sr. Dee.
Her Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati community share this journey by hosting webinars and online retreats for their sisters and insisting Sr. Dee return to their motherhouse in Ohio for renewal once a year. Her local Juneau Sisters of Charity associates meet regularly as well, and share in the charism of charity furthered by St. Elizabeth Seton.
“For me, healthy families are so supportive of my current vocation. When other people live their vocational life well, I feel supported (in my consecrated life). For example, just at Mass today, a deacon and his wife were in the row in front of me, and they were holding hands. And I just felt joy!”
A future of hope
Sr. Dee sees her consecrated life as being one of openness to creativity as well.
“We talk a lot about God’s will, but what we miss out on is God’s creativity—an equal part to God’s will.”
“If you’re hoping for a better world, and all the things that are being done are not making things move ahead in that direction, then you have to be creative.”
In 2013, Sr. Dee was invited to join the board of Haven House, a local effort to create a safe home and community living place for women newly released from prison. After an extended zoning debate, they finally have a permit to operate.
“This has been a challenge of justice for us and a real education for me. I’m working with people from a variety of faith backgrounds, am learning the Juneau political language and process, and more about the deplorable lack of assistance for those returning to society from serving prison terms. Yet, in the spirit of our Margaret George, I must “hazard yet forward.”
She hopes that by creatively cooperating with God’s grace in her life, and through experiencing a sense of community, she can make the world a better place.
“We can do more together than we can apart. That’s part of a hopeful future—pulling together.”
What God begins, God finishes
“I see the religious life as organic—it’s not a (static) thing—it has to let go of things in order to grow,” Sr. Dee gently asserts. “Some women’s religious communities are dying. They are becoming like the seed that falls to the ground and dies – it becomes new life. All the good that they did is living out there, in all these magnificent ways. If you really believe in the Gospel, you have to see these things.”