In celebration of National Vocations Awareness Week, Nov. 1-7, Sister Vivian Gonzalez, RMI, the newly appointed Episcopal Delegate for Religious Men and Women of the Diocese of Palm Beach, created a video with Father Daniel Daza-Jaller, Director of Vocations and Seminarians, showcasing the variety of religious men and women that live and serve throughout the diocese.
Part of Sister Gonzalez’s role as the Episcopal Delegate for Religious Men and Women, working together with Father Michael Driscoll, O. Carm., is to act as the liaison between the bishop and the religious of the diocese, serving as a communication center for these religious men and women and providing services and programs for their spiritual and personal growth.
For Sister Gonzalez, it is important that the faithful of the diocese recognize the presence of the religious serving in their communities.
“We have an incredible richness of ministry, service, charism, and love all around the diocese. For the most part, parishioners only know the sisters who work in their area and are not aware of how many others are also spreading God’s works and word. I hope this video will make the people of the diocese more aware of the presence of religious life amongst them.”
Sr. Gonzalez, with Father Daza-Jaller, hopes to prepare videos of each community explaining their charism and identity throughout the year. Today, there are 14 orders of male religious in the diocese, comprising 48 priests and five brothers; and 20 orders of women religious with 66 sisters, two consecrated virgins and one hermit.
Some of these religious serve on the Diocesan Commission of Religious of the Diocese of Palm Beach, first established in 1988, whose mission is to address the spiritual and personal enrichment of the wide ranging religious communities in the diocese. The commission acts in an advisory capacity to the Episcopal Delegate for Religious—Sister Gonzalez—in a spirit of service and collaboration.
Among the commission’s main goals, is to promote understanding of religious life and encourage vocations through the representation of different congregations, as well as various geographical areas and ministries of the diocese. In order to highlight the diversity of religious that serve on the Diocesan Commission for Religious, the Florida Catholic interviewed some of its members in recognition of National Vocations Awareness Week.
Teaching and Living the Gospel
Sister Margarita Gomez of the Claretian Missionary Sisters is a native of Madrid, Spain. She has dedicated much of her years to higher education and teaching the Gospel. She received a bachelor’s degree in Theology from the University of Barcelona, a master’s degree in Theology, and a doctorate in Ministry from Barry University in Miami and a licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In Florida, she served at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami as a professor of Theology. She came to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach in 1988, where she continues to serve as an adjunct professor for Sacred Scripture.
“Teaching others is not only an academic function but, a way to show them how to be disciples of Christ,” remarked Sister Gomez. “Teaching must go hand in hand with doing. The mind goes with the heart in order to enter an intimate relationship with the Lord.”
Designing a Path for Others
Sister Mary Roberta Conners, of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Art before taking the opportunity to study at the Art Institute of Chicago for a master’s degree in Fine Arts. She entered the Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse in 1965. In 1973, her foundress and a group of sisters branched off from that order and were given permission by Rome to form a new pontifical community named the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. She later ministered in Connecticut and Houston, among other cities, where she staffed Franciscan Graphics, a design studio that produced everything from brochures to billboards to building signage.
“There are many sisters from my community working in secular professions,” she said. “As a graphic designer, I was often in the marketplace where, besides producing designs to help communicate a client’s message, I could help support my religious order. There are countless avenues for evangelization in the secular world.”
Although she no longer primarily works in graphic design, Sister Conners continues to ‘design’ a way for others to encounter Jesus Christ at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary as part of the ongoing formation team for priests and deacons.
“A priest or deacon’s formation does not stop after ordination. We all need to keep on learning and striving for the Lord no matter the degrees we receive. My role as part of the ongoing formation team is to form that path to continued love and learning,” she said.
An Advocate for Life at Every Stage
For Sister Ann Dailey, of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirmed and a native of Washington D. C., the call to religious life came slowly, but definitely, as a result of her volunteer work with seniors at Sacred Heart Manor in Philadelphia, operated by Carmelites. She was received as a novice in 1963, and professed final vows in 1966. Her ministry has included many different roles in Carmelite nursing homes dedicated to the vulnerable and aging, and she was a prioress four times. Today, she serves Lourdes-Noreen McKeen Residence in West Palm Beach.
“The difference between Noreen McKeen Residence and other nursing homes is love,” she said. “We strive to love and practice strong hospitality to both the residence and their family. It’s part of our charism and advocacy for life that we should care for the elderly and infirm as a way to eliminate euthanasia and assisted suicide. Not many people can care for this vulnerable population, it can be difficult work but it’s always rewarding.”
A Heart for Family
Sister Barbara Becker of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin was born in Minnesota into a large Catholic family. She recalls fond memories of her childhood, helping around the family farm, taking care of the farm animals and attending a small Catholic school with 15 students at the most. After graduating from high school, she entered the Sinsinawa Dominican congregation, and two years later she professed her vows. Her studies were at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee, where she earned degrees in Education. For the next five decades, Sister Becker taught at schools in Florida and Wisconsin. In 2007, she went on sabbatical and began volunteering in an adult literacy program in Wisconsin before coming to Florida.
Sister Becker shared that it was in the eighth grade when she felt a gentle call of God through a teacher who one day explained that religious vocations were the fruit of a “good family.” This comment left an impression on Sister Becker, who works to be an extended faith family to the children of immigrant families at KinDoo Family Center in Indiantown, where she volunteers as a childcare coordinator.
“My community’s charism is very much about building a holy and just society through social work, seeking justice for the marginalized and teaching and preaching the Gospel. I carry this out through my work with the families of KinDoo Center. While the parents take classes that empower them to learn life skills, I provide childcare for their children. This is where my heart is.”
To learn more about the Office of Religious Men and Women of the Diocese of Palm Beach, contact Sister Vivian Gonzalez, episcopal delegate for religious at 561-324-9406 (cell, for text only) or email email@example.com. To view the vocations videos, follow the Office of Vocations on Facebook @PBVocations.
The complete list of members for the 2020-2021 Diocesan Commission for Religious includes:
Father Michael T. Driscoll, O.Carm., Ex Officio Member
Sister Vivian Gonzalez, RMI, Episcopal Delegate for Religious
Sister Barbara Becker, OP
Sister Colleen, Brady, OSF
Sister Mary Ann Caulfield, OP
Sister Mary Roberta Conners, FSE
Sister Ann Dailey, O. Carm.
Sister Anita Gabarczyk, CACh, Chairperson
Sister Margarita Gomez, RMI
Sister Judith Rimbey, OP, Secretary