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Pope Francis wrote "Responding to God's call means allowing Him to help us leave ourselves and our false security behind, and to strike out on the path which leads to Jesus Christ, the origin and destiny of our life and our happiness."  Are you being call to a life as a religious woman?  If so please feel free to send an email to Sr. Janice Bemowski
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Living the Vows Today

Sr. Jackie Bates Final Vow Service July 26, 2014

Living the vow of chastity is living a life rooted in God's love. Chastity guides me in my intimate relationships with God and others. I try to witness to the priority of God in my relationships. This involves every part of my life: the way I eat and drink, work and play, sleep and rest, speak and remain silent. In community life it involves fidelity, tenderness, humility, forgiveness, sensitivity and welcome. Chastity is my response to God's desire to make a home in my heart. I feel an ever deepening call to be still and to wait for God without anything to show, to prove or to argue. It's letting go and letting be, that surrender to God's love.

The vow of obedience calls me to a deep listening with my whole being and discerned response. I listen to the voice of the Spirit within me, life itself, community and the person in front of me.  I find that to listen with my whole being I have to take some time alone for personal reflection and consideration. This allows me to be more open and sensitive to the ways God calls me to be together with others.

The vow of poverty calls me to a surrender of my love even as I recognize my own poverty that blesses me. I am poor and can, therefore, be hospitable when I know in the very core of my being that everything is gift. I am poor when I embrace my own darkness as truly mine, and yet know that I am loved; when compassion transforms my word and needs; when I am able to se the nothingness in all things and that leads me to an authentic hunger for God; and when I embrace others in their poverty.
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FAQ: National Catholic Sisters Week

What is National Catholic Sisters Week?

National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW) is a dedicated celebration of Catholic sisters intended to raise awareness of their vital contributions, both past and present. It is a national campaign that culminates annually from March 8 to 14.

When is National Catholic Sisters Week?
The dedicated week is March 8 to 14 every year.

Who is it for?
National Catholic Sisters Week is for everyone. Every American can be inspired or empowered by Catholic sisters. Our audience spans all ages and creeds, from seniors to Baby Boomers to teens, including Catholic sisters, parishes, colleges, and religious communities. NCSW is also geared to young women who grapple with major life decisions and explore their spirituality; they can draw great strength and wisdom from Catholic sisters.

What is the purpose?
National Catholic Sisters Week is intended to broaden awareness of Catholic sisters, whose lives and ministries often remain behind the scenes. The hope is that those who learn more about women religious will be inspired and compelled to engage in self reflection, service and simple acts of kindness. We also envision an outcome in which more young women consider religious life because they have been exposed to it through a personal relationship.

When did NCSW launch?
National Catholic Sisters Week debuted in March 2014.

How does NCSW relate to National Women’s History Month?
National Catholic Sisters Week is an official component of Women’s History Month. It was authorized by Molly Murphy MacGregor, co-founder of National Women’s History
Project, who was educated and deeply influenced by Catholic sisters. In 1981, Women’s History Month launched as a single week. By 1987, U.S. Congress formally expanded it to the full month of March.

Where is NCSW housed?
The National Catholic Sisters Week team is headquartered at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., the largest college for women in the nation. The private liberal-artsuniversity was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1905.

Who’s in charge of NCSW?
The National Catholic Sisters Week team is led by two executive directors, Sister Mary Soher, OP, and Molly Hazelton, who share an office on the campus of St. Catherine University. Their talented staff includes media professionals and student interns. NCSW is supported by a $3.3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.


Where is NCSW happening?
National Catholic Sisters Week is designed to be celebrated across the country. Check out the NCSW website ( for information and event listings. If an event hasn’t been planned in your community, we encourage you to host one. The website offers an array of ideas to spark your creative juices and resources to help organize and publicize and event.

How can I participate?
Any time you tell the story or share the good work of a Catholic sister – whether through a one-one conversation, a blog post or a tweet – you are participating in NCSW.  Participation is as simple as engaging online with NCSW. Follow our social channels to stay informed. You can also participate by attending an NCSW event or hosting your own, however big or small, in the spirit of celebrating women religious.

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Flying a Kite
A Reflection for the Year of Consecrated Life
(and for everyone who is called to put all into the hand of God)

One Sunday the weather was so beautiful that I decided to go outside and fly the kite I had made. With the wind just right, it flew marvelously and I was able to let out every inch of string, so that the kite was high above the trees—and it was beautiful, with light shining through the tissue paper and the bright red tail trailing behind against the blue of the sky.

After flying it for a while, I debated about what to do next. Should I reel it in? Or should I yield to the quixotic notion to cut the string and give it its freedom? Now you should know that it had taken me quite a long time to make this kite, and today was the first time it had flown really well; but finally it seemed that there was something appropriate to the moment in the gesture of letting it go.

So I did. I cut the string.

And of course my soaring kite immediately started to sink, because a kite won't fly without someone holding the string.

But then, as I watched . . . I was amazed to see the kite rise again into the sky and begin flying on its own, as if another hand had taken hold of it. What had happened, it turned out, was that a tree had caught the string, and the tree was flying the kite. I have had some beautiful moments of kite-flying, but that was the most beautiful of all, watching my kite fly after I had let go of it.

- - - - -

We read in the book of Ruth that the men in Naomi's family—her husband and both her sons—have died in the land of Moab, where the family has been living. So Naomi decides to return to her own country of Judah. But her sons have married Moabite women whom Naomi loves. She begs both of them to return to their families, rather than traveling with her to what would be a foreign country for them. She says to them, “May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me” (Ruth 1:8). One agrees, but the other, Ruth, who loves her mother-in-law very much, responds:

    Do not press me to leave you
    or to turn back from following you!
    Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
    your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.
    Where you die, I will die—
    there will I be buried.
    (Ruth 1:16-17)

So Naomi and Ruth leave Moab together and travel to Bethlehem.

In the loving faithfulness of Ruth we see a letting-go and a dying to self. She will be in a strange land, far from all she has known. Nevertheless, she says to Naomi, I will not go my own way, but I will go with you. And into this letting-go of self the power of God becomes manifest. Ruth, the foreigner, the Moabite, of a people often seen as enemies of Israel, becomes the great-grandmother of David, and is one of the very few women mentioned by name in Matthew's genealogy of Christ.

Ruth's faithfulness becomes a participation in the divine plan. She lets go—and as it happened with my kite— another hand takes hold and something beautiful is brought about.

Even so in our own lives, when we act out of love, commending ourselves to God for the future which we cannot see, and trusting that our future is Christ, another hand, a divine hand, is there to grasp us. As for Ruth, so for us, the power of God is there, and in a surprising way, what happens is far more beautiful than when we keep hold of the string ourselves.
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Year of Consecrated Life
The Year of Consecrated Life opens the First Sunday of Advent.

All Christians are called to union with God in love.  However, each Christian call has its own unique value for the Church and the world, and the living-out of that call has its own emphases, highlighting different facets of the same divine love and the same call to transforming union.

Since one Christian vocation is not interchangeable with another, this means that without Catholic sisters (or brothers or religious priests) there would be something sorely missing — but this missing element would not necessarily be the works we are now doing, no matter how important these works are. (After all, many of these are now being performed just as well by dedicated lay people.)  Just as the witness of married love is not based on the occupations of the spouses, but rather on living deeply the sacramental relationship of marriage — so the witness of religious life and the reason it is still indispensable to the Church is not based primarily on the jobs we do, but on the life itself, lived in depth.

By its very existence through the centuries, religious life proclaims:

  that what matters is God; and as Teresa of Avila wrote, “sólo Dios basta,” God alone suffices;

  that prayer is more powerful than bombs;

  that it is possible to live together in peace, even with people whom we did not choose — or might never have chosen — as companions;

  that communion with God includes communion with each other, expressed through presence, ritual, and the sharing of material goods;

  that possessions do not make us happy;

  that giving ourselves totally, as Jesus did, does not lead to annihilation, but brings us most surely into who we truly are;

  that grace and mercy abound in the struggle to be faithful to God’s call — and that when we inevitably fall short, grace and mercy abound, still and always.

More on the Year of Consecrated Life
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Here are a few resources you might enjoy checking out:

“That, surely, is what we mean by consecrated life:
the daily intention and effort to live for God alone
and not at all for ourselves.”
(Ruth Burrows, Essence of Prayer)

- - - - -
The photo is of the chapel at the Chicago Cenacle.
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Are You Being Called?

I have been a Sister of the Cenacle since 1978. My vocation was a surprise to me, and has been an inexpressible gift. It has also presented me with challenges which I would never have believed I could handle, but the challenges have very often revealed the grace of God. Because of the mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit working in each person, our community life and our ministry never cease to be a wonder. I am currently part of the Cenacle community in Chicago.

Some of my Interests: 

I play several musical instruments.  
Music is for me an essential element in the spiritual life. I find that it facilitates an openness to the presence of God and the beauty of God's creatures.

I experience the importance of ritual in human life, revel in the beauty of the liturgical year, and am nourished by the mystery of the Eucharist.

Literature and other...

  • The role of women in the Church
  • The internet as a tool for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Discovering contemporary ways of living a contemplative lifestyle
  • Poetry


  • Emory University, Ph.D., M.A., French, 1972
    Dissertation: "L'Elément orphique dans la poésie de Baudelaire et la musique pianistique de Chopin"
  • Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, M.A., Theological Studies, 1984
    Thesis: "The Sacrament of Penance: A Reformulation of the Principle of Integrity"
  • Agnes Scott College, B.A., English, 1965


  • "Caught Up in God: Cenacle Journal" (a meditation/spirituality web page, updated regularly)
  • "Why Do We Gather: Religious Community and the Transforming Journey" (another version was published in 2007 in Review for Religious).
  • At Prayer with St. Therese Couderc: A Novena to the Good God. Chicago: Religious of the Cenacle, 1999.
  • "Consider Tradition," Commonweal (January 29, 1999).
  • "Unity and Uniqueness: the Perils of Consistency," Chicago Studies 31:2 (August 1992).
  • "Cultivating Uselessness." Review for Religious 51:2 (March-April 1992).
  • "The Communion of Saints: Lest the Journey Be Too Long." The Way 30:3 (July 1990). Reprinted in Memoriæ Vis: Essays in Celebration of Arthur R. Evans. Edited by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis and Erkmann Waniek. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993.
  • "The Prince of Darkness as an Angel of Light." Review for Religious 47:6 (November-December 1988).
  • "Openness of Heart and the Sacrament of Penance: A New Look at Integrity." Chicago Studies 25:2 (August 1986).

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In my role as Vocation Director for the North American Province of the Cenacle Sisters, I have the privilege of meeting many wonderful women, and sharing a part of their spiritual journey. I find more and more people wondering if religious life, or affiliation with a religious congregation, is where God might be calling them -- inviting them "into their future." For all, no matter where the journey eventually leads them, investigating this possibility turns out to be a very important part of their discernment. Much of my dialogue with people is centered on their relationship with God, past and present; what makes them happy and gives them that deeper sense of wholeness; and the call to be part of a spiritual community.

Vocation directors of all congregations are first and foremost "companions on the journey" rather than "recruiters." While we obviously feel that our way of living out of the gospel call is wonderful and we want to invite others to join us -- our first commitment is to helping women and men deepen their own relationship with God -- however and wherever that leads them.

Since the primary expression of our Cenacle ministry is retreats and spiritual direction, I feel doubly blessed in bringing this background to my particular ministry as vocations director.

I welcome your calls, comments and questions. I can be reached at 773-528-6300 or e-mail

Originally from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Sr. Janice Bemowski received an undergraduate degree in interior design and went on to work in Chicago both in designing and banking. Living in a condo and being part of urban life, Sr. Janice found herself searching even though her work and life were good. She had begun a process of discernment by enrolling in the pastoral studies program at Loyola, and by looking at religious life when she happened upon a retreat weekend at the Chicago Cenacle in 1988. She felt God was indeed calling her to something else and needed to trust Him enough to quit her job which she did at the end of the summer. In 1989 she entered a pre-novitiate program and later a formal novitiate on Long Island after completing her MPS from Loyola. She has served at Cenacles in Houston, Chicago and Minneapolis. As vocations director, she is currently working on many projects that share information about the Cenacle Sisters, Auxiliaries, and Affiliates/Companions. 
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