By Deirdre Darr, Executive Director of the Shrine of St. Therese
Since the building of the Shrine of St. Therese there was a hope that a community would live and work at the Shrine. Originally, it was hoped that a few of the Sisters of St. Ann would live in what is now the Caretaker House; that plan was never realized. Over the years there were attempts to establish a community, but for various reasons the plans never materialized into a community. Interestingly, I only discovered this history after I asked former Caretaker Jeanne Jordan if it might be feasible to have a community of live-in volunteers at the Shrine; she’d had the same idea. Clearly, the Holy Spirit was at work giving clues about the direction in which the Shrine should move. Last fall when Jeanne and Jack Jordan announced that they would be retiring in March 2015 after 8 years of service to the Shrine, it seemed like a good time to try to make a community happen.
The development of the program is owed directly to the Holy Spirit. There is a lot of work to be done at the Shrine and it is too much for one or two people to accomplish, so having extra help seems like a no-brainer, but what could the Shrine offer the volunteers? This is where the Holy Spirit broke into my prayers and thoughts about this idea: establishing a community for prayer and discernment was the answer to my question. This seemed like a good answer, but would it really work? Later that week I read a study from the Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) which stated that young people are more likely to enter the priesthood or religious life if they have the time and space to discern God’s call. Okay, Holy Spirit, prayer and discernment it is.
I’m not suggesting that every person who enters the program will become a priest or religious, but hopefully, they will have the opportunity to converse with God about vocation. Where do my gifts intersect with the world’s great needs? If the Shrine can give the time and space for a young person to ponder that question, then the program is a success. That is how the Volunteers of St. Therese (VST) were founded and on June 7, 2015 the Shrine welcomed its first volunteer: Kislia Miller.
The mission statement of VST is: The Volunteers of St. Therese work together caring for the Shrine of St. Therese property and grounds while living a simple life in intentional community, discerning God’s path. Kislia and future VST will assist the Caretakers in the day to day running of the Shrine: preparing cabins for guests, gardening, snow removal, cleaning the grounds, and all the other jobs that must be completed. Currently, the Volunteers live with the Caretakers; the hope is that the program will expand and a new house will be built on the property to house the VST. Prayer and discernment are an important aspect of the program. Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours will bookend the day and the Volunteers are to spend time in prayer and reflection each day. Based on the spirituality and prayer practice of the Volunteers other devotions may be added, like the Rosary or Eucharistic Adoration.
The VST program would be a great option for someone who is finishing a “traditional” service year, like the Jesuit Volunteers, since it allows time for reflection and integration which isn’t always possible during a service year. It would also be a good option for someone who is considering a change in life such as a new career direction. And, it would be a great opportunity for someone who needs the time and space to discern a call to the priesthood or religious life. There isn’t an age limit to the program and it is open to Catholics or someone seriously discerning joining the Catholic Church.
Please keep the VST in your prayers. Since this is the first year of the program, we need all the prayers we can get. A few tangible ways to help the VST would be to introduce them to other people in the community, invite them for a hike or camping trip, or sponsor them to visit other parts of the Diocese.
If you or someone you know might be interested in the program, please contact the Shrine: firstname.lastname@example.org .