Marriage, family are true vocations, religious sister tells married couples

Jennifer Adam holds baby Zachary at the check-in station Saturday, Oct. 15, during the Together in Holiness conference, a daylong retreat for married couples and families at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

Together in Holiness conference, organized by St. John Paul II Foundation, draws attention to the value of domestic church

PLYMOUTH — Sixty married couples from across the Archdiocese of Detroit gathered Saturday, Oct. 15, to grow in holiness and to reflect on what it means to be the domestic church.

The “Together in Holiness” conference at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, organized by the St. John Paul II Foundation from Houston, was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship.

David Grobbel, marriage and family support ministry specialist for the archdiocese, invited couples to sign up to be part of marriage small groups within their Family of Parishes to continue to support one another, adding he hopes the conference will become an annual event.

“I hope that couples get inspired and energized and receive a little bit of formation and become excited and affirmed in their vocation of marriage,” Grobbel told Detroit Catholic.

Auxiliary Bishop Gerard W. Battersby accepts the gifts of the altar from a couple during Mass to begin the conference. Bishop Battersby offered a blessing for approximately 60 couples who attended the conference.
Auxiliary Bishop Gerard W. Battersby accepts the gifts of the altar from a couple during Mass to begin the conference. Bishop Battersby offered a blessing for approximately 60 couples who attended the conference.

The conference began with Mass, celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Gerard W. Battersby, who offered a special blessing to couples. Bishop Battersby said marriage and the family lie at the heart of unleashing the Gospel.

“I sincerely believe that if a renewal of the Church is to begin and be led in the renewal of the family, the domestic church, it will begin with a twofold recognition of a renewal of the identity and mission of each and every disciple and each and every family,” Bishop Battersby said.

After Mass, attendees were invited to listen to speakers, including Ryan Hanning, Ph.D., professor of theology and Catholic studies and a founding fellow of the San Juan Diego Institute, married couple Luis and Janet Diaz, and Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, co-foundress and vocation director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Sr. Joseph Andrew said one of the greatest treasures given to the universal Church by the Second Vatican Council is in Lumen Gentium — the dogmatic Constitution on the Church. In the document, the Church emphasizes the universal call to holiness, Sr. Joseph Andrew explained.

Paul and Andrea Spankie of St. Peter Parish in Mount Clemens pray as they hold their son, Theo, during Mass to begin the Together in Holiness conference Oct. 15 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth.
Paul and Andrea Spankie of St. Peter Parish in Mount Clemens pray as they hold their son, Theo, during Mass to begin the Together in Holiness conference Oct. 15 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth.

This call is non-negotiable; it is a responsibility for everyone, she said.

“This isn’t a ‘Whatever you feel like’ thing — this is your duty, my duty, our duty, to become saints, all the faithful of Christ,” Sr. Joseph Andrew added.

Sr. Joseph Andrew cited another part of the document about the duty of married couples and parents.

“Married couples and Christian parents should follow their own proper path to holiness by faithful love — notice how many times fidelity comes in here?” Sr. Joseph Andrew said. “Anybody can start and then conk out — but the saints continue. Fidelity is very, very important.”

The path to holiness for families is simple; the answer always revolves around the domestic church, which has existed since the beginning of Christianity, she explained.

Pope St. John Paul II later addressed the domestic church in his Letter to Families, saying the domestic church is highly effective at evangelizing, Sr. Joseph Andrew added.

Cheryl and David Trost of St. John Neumann Parish in Canton pray together during the conference.
Cheryl and David Trost of St. John Neumann Parish in Canton pray together during the conference.

“Throughout Judeo-Christian history, there’s been nothing more effective at evangelizing the culture than regular, everyday people,” Sr. Joseph Andrew said. “Now, you might say, ‘why?’ It sounds boring, ‘everyday people,’ but I love it. It means God can get you where he wants and where you should be. We are all everyday people living our lives in holiness.”

Sr. Joseph Andrew said her parents were an example to her and her brother and sister of how to live a life of holiness in the domestic church as ordinary people. Catholicism was the crux of her family, she said.

“My mom converted from Southern Baptist, and we grew up watching her do the housework with her rosary in her hand,” Sr. Joseph Andrew said. “My father was always carrying his rosary and always used his rosary. As kids, as a family, we would be out playing with all the Protestant friends in the neighborhood growing up in the South, and the windows would open in the house, and mom would yell out, ‘Time for the rosary, get in here!’ and it wasn’t debatable.”

After each rosary, her father would lead the family in the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and her mother would pray for vocations; both Sr. Joseph Andrew and her sister entered religious orders.

As vocations director, Sr. Joseph Andrew said she became used to young women coming to her believing that religious life was the “higher calling” over marriage.

“There is no religious life versus marriage,” Sr. Joseph Andrew emphasized. “It is, ‘What did God call you to?’ And that vocation is your holiness, and you won’t find it in another one. I think of my family and think nobody will ever be able to tell me that because I’m a sister, I’m anywhere holier than my parents. I would reverse that; I’m striving for the holiness I’ve found in my parents.”



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