Deacon Jim Van de Voorde, 57, known by his children as, “Deacon
Dad,” serves the pastoral needs of All Saints Church in Manassas. But before
that, he has and continues to serve his wife, Frances, and their seven
The couple, married for 33 years, say they are “blessed with
(the) gifts of vocations” as three of their daughters have taken religious vows
as a sister, a lay consecrated woman and a nun.
“I think sometimes when people see my family they think my parents told us we should be religious. I don’t remember them ever saying that. I remember them saying — we want you to do whatever God wants you to do because you’ll be happiest.” Sister Mary Grace of Jesus
“It’s a mysterious thing,” said Frances. “The way it was nurtured
was from us trying to live a sacramental life.”
The “sacramental life” that the Van de Voordes prepared for their
children was through different “opportunities.” Of course regularly receiving
the Eucharist and confession were important, but also instilling the
availability for community service and quiet meditation in front of the Blessed
Sacrament “to cultivate listening to God for whatever His call might be,” said
Jim was ordained by Bishop Paul S. Loverde Jan. 17, 2015. When he
inquired about the permanent diaconate program in 2001, it had been suspended. Bishop
Loverde re-established it in 2005. Jim applied and was accepted in 2010.
“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to serve at the parish and the
diocese,” he said.
Since his ordination, he has assisted at All Saints through
baptisms, homilies, catechism, administrative work and jail ministry while keeping
a flexible schedule with his consulting business.
“The bishop told us your first responsibility is to your
marriage, second to support your family and third to the diaconate,” he said.
Sister Allison Van de Voorde, 29, the third eldest child, is with
the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother in Spain. The religious vocations
of her sisters Beth and Grace were expected by their family, while Allison’s was
“We were almost like twins,” said Beth, who is a year younger
than Allison. “I would talk about being a nun and she would talk about being a
During her junior year of college at Ave Maria University in Ave
Maria, Fla., she took a short mission trip to Ecuador in 2008. There she worked
with the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother.
“All that time (she) didn’t want to give up being a mother,” said
Beth. “But in that mission trip she realized how these sisters are mothers.”
After graduating from Ave Maria in 2009, Allison entered the
novitiate of the Servant Sisters’ community in Madrid. She made her final vows in
August and is serving in Valencia, Spain.
Beth Van de Voorde, 28, is a lay consecrated woman with Regnum
Christi. She works with the Campus Ministry at Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta and is
a member of the local committee of RC members.
At a young age, she felt “drawn to the consecrated life,” “met
several nuns” and even went on a “nun-run” — a tour of different convents. The
orders didn’t offer what she was seeking.
In 2004, Beth planned to have a party the night before her sister
Allison’s prom. Some of her classmates declined the invitation because they
were going on a three-day silent retreat. Beth abandoned the party planning to join
“I really treasure the memories of that retreat,” said Beth.
There she encountered lay consecrated women from Regnum Christi
and was inspired by their relationship with Christ.
After graduating from Seton School in Manassas in 2006, she attended
Mater Ecclesia College in Greenville, R.I. She made her final vows as a lay
consecrated woman with Regnum Christi in 2008, following two years of temporal
Though she doesn’t wear a habit as her sisters do, Beth defines
her vocation as having the same essence, “total belonging to God, while being
in the world but not of it.”
Sister Mary Grace of Jesus
Grace, 22, now known as Dominican Sister Mary Grace of Jesus, is
the fifth child and remembers thinking about religious vocations at the age of 5.
“For sure seeing my sisters’ response to God was an encouragement
for me to do the same,” she said. “And seeing them respond so generously
reinforced the fact that God will make me happy.”
By the time she was a senior at Seton, she visited each of her
sisters in their religious communities, yet each one didn’t feel “monastic
enough.” Meanwhile, she had entered into a deep internal prayer life, which helped
her determine what she wanted — the contemplative life.
As others students in Sister Mary Grace’s class were preparing
for college, she was writing letters to convents. The first convent to respond
was the cloistered nuns at St. Dominic’s Monastery in Linden. In September 2012,
she graduated from high school and entered the monastery as an aspirant. She
started her postulancy in March 2013. Last February, she made her temporal vows
and is expected to make her final vows in 2021.
Though Dominicans are known for their preaching, Sister Mary
Grace recalled how when she pointed out the irony of a Dominican monastery
being cloistered to her superior, she was told, “We preach by our silence.”
“Even if nobody knows about me or sees me, I hope that my life
says that God is worthy to be praised,” said Sister Mary Grace.
With the family scattered across the world — the eldest, Luke,
32, in Japan, and Sister Allison is in Spain — it’s difficult for all nine to
gather. Their love, support and humor is still present as the second eldest
son, Peter, 31, who is married, is quick to comment that marriage is also a
sacrament. The religious sisters nudge at their youngest brother, Jude, 20, to
become a priest, but their parents want him and the youngest, Marcie, 14, to
finish school while they “discover what God has for them,” said Frances.
“I think sometimes when people see my family they think my
parents told us we should be religious. I don’t remember them ever saying
that,” said Sister Mary Grace. “I remember them saying — we want you to do
whatever God wants you to do because you’ll be happiest.”