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Girls at FIAT Days camp get 'shoulder time' with religious sisters

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It could be described as a week of a thousand prayers — daily holy hours, Mass, a pilgrimage to the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, time alone with God. It also includes sports, games and giggles alongside 17 religious sisters in their habits representing different communities. 

Hosted by the diocesan Office of Vocations, FIAT Days is a five-day overnight camp for young women between the ages of 13 and 18 at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., July 8-12.

“The purpose is to build an intentional community for women who are open to the call of God, to lay the groundwork for whatever vocation they may have,” said Anne-Marie Minnis, diocesan vocations office event coordinator. “They have a lot of fun with others who are pursuing the same thing, they have shoulder time with religious sisters. It normalizes religious life and shows them they can have fun.”

Accompanying the 17 religious sisters are 110 girls and 20 young women discerners who volunteer.

The week began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, followed by a picnic for the girls and their families July 8. He encouraged them to say "fiat," or "Be it done unto me according to thy word," as the Virgin Mary did, and to not let fear or thoughts of "I'm not good enough" stand in the way of following whatever God might ask. Bishop Burbidge also said that in whatever vocation God calls us, we need to follow Mary's example in saying "Yes."

Bernadette Troup, a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge, said it was beautiful having Bishop Burbidge at FIAT.

Father Michael C. Isenberg, diocesan vocations office director, said he witnessed in the girls a realization of a desire for holiness. “The girls want to know where God is calling them in their life,” he said. “There is desire everywhere in the church for holiness and these girls are searching it out. We need sisters in the church.”

Lucy Shryock, a parishioner of St. Paul Mission in Hague, attended FIAT for the first time after being encouraged by a friend who attended last year. “I have learned that God does have a path he takes you on,” Shryock said. “You may make some wrong turns but he will always right your path and lead you where you are supposed to be.”

Sister Faustina Maria, a member of the Cincinnati religious order Children of Mary, likened the humble, hidden way that God became man in a humble Virgin. “You see in talking with the girls that God is working in their soul, and they are sensing a desire to give themselves and are thirsting for that authentic love,” she said. “They realize the world is empty in what it is trying to present.”

Attending FIAT camp gives the girls a taste of community life. Fiona Hill, a parishioner of St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg, attended for the second time and was able to ask deeper questions of the religious sisters. “To be with 110 girls, there are so many personalities and you get to see how you fit in,” she said. “It is a great way to prepare for the convent.”

Salesian of Saint John Bosco Sister Theresa Lee said it is encouraging and inspiring to see so many girls interested in pursuing religious life. “I’m happy for them that they have chosen voluntarily to be here,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see families so supportive of this vocation as a path of happiness.”

Sister Lee said she sees openness in the girls to whatever God is calling them to. “Naturally there may be some hesitation and nervousness, but there is a desire to know God better, to love him and sincerely seek his will.”   


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018