Discernment Question Series: How Do You Know You Have a Franciscan Vocation?

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

April 14, 2024

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sr. Marie-Kolbe Zamora responds to a discernment question raised by a young adult Catholic woman. Sister is currently serving Pope Francis in the General Secretariat of the Synod. She is originally from Houston and entered our Franciscan Community from Holy Rosary Parish.

“The fact that this office belongs personally to Pope Francis is the single only reason I presented the opportunity to the FSCC General Administration when Cardinal Grech initially contacted me about this job. We have a sentence in our constitutions in which we acknowledge the Holy Father as the highest authority in our congregation. This sentence is what moved me to know that I could not bury this opportunity, nor could I say “no” if it were to come to fruition. My service is, in fact, to Pope Francis. It benefits all kinds of other people and maybe the Church as a whole, but it is to Pope Francis.”

How do you know you have a Franciscan vocation? What makes that call unique?

Francis was a very concrete Gospel person. Keeping this in mind, it seems to me that the best response to the first question is: you won’t know if you have a Franciscan vocation until you “come and see”. Perhaps a person’s interest in a Franciscan community is the very first seed of a Franciscan vocation, but the best way to discern this is to make the concrete decision to “come and see”. It does not seem to me that one arrives completely aware of oneself as having a “Franciscan” vocation. This is an awareness that grows.

The beginning of my own awareness of a Franciscan vocation was the grace given me to prioritize relationships over correct ecclesial / doctrinal positions. Francis desired communion with his brothers and manifested this desire in remaining “small” (“minor”) so that in his person he would be a place of welcome for everyone. At the same time, Francis understood himself to be a thoroughly Catholic man, rooted in the Gospel that was preached in the Church, and rooted in the love of Jesus made visible in the Eucharist. In a Franciscan vocation, brotherly and sisterly communion is an ecclesial experience. We are aware of ourselves as having been anointed disciples of the Lord Jesus at our baptism and nourished each day in the Eucharist so that we might faithfully live as His disciples.

Francis’ desire to remain “small” is key not only to his desire for communion: it also opens the door to his desire to meet the Lord Jesus in the poor, to BE poor with the Lord Jesus. A Franciscan vocation is fascinated with Jesus’ poverty and how our own poverty (which exists at so many levels in ourselves and beyond ourselves) continues to be the privileged place where we encounter Him today. In 2024, a Franciscan vocation will desire to accompany those who are on the peripheries of both the church and society and so have no voice. In 2024, a Franciscan vocation will also desire to find ways to manifest communion with the environment, our common home, welcoming each creature as a sign of the Father’s love and providence. (Sister Marie-Kolbe is pictured with Sandra, a novice with the Community of  Franciscan Sisters of Siessen German Province.)

The world needs you. God calls you. We invite you.

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