From the Pastor: Too Old to be a Religious Sister?
Throughout my priesthood, I have had many conversations with “older” women about how they felt called to the religious life but were turned away because they were too old. These older women ranged from their mid-thirties through probably their sixties when they finally tried to join an order or to at least (and at last) speak with someone seriously about doing so. I have sent quite a few of them to the diocesan vocations office, who turned them over to the “Vicar for Religious”. Never have any of them been matched up with an order of Religious Sisters who accept older vocations. Because of my cynical nature I am able to come up with quite of few scenarios in my mind as to why, over and over again, holy, prayerful, and faithful Catholic women would either be out and out discouraged from entering Religious Life late in life or else be pointed only to dying “hippie-protestant type” Religious communities and told that those are their only options, but I won’t go there at this time. Instead, I want to simply ignore what anyone else has done or said and simply ask that if there are any “older” women reading this who think/thought that they may be called to a Religious LIfe to contact me.
Why? I don’t know. What is the purpose? I am not sure. So why put the word out about this? Simply because. I have met a few women again recently with stories about how they feel greatly called to enter Religious Life and yet they don’t know what to do. They are “older” and have been told by family, friends and even priests and Sisters that it is just too late. The only orders that they were pointed to which took older vocations are more proud of not wearing habits than they are of being truly Catholic. I recently told one woman that I would be glad to try to put her in touch with another woman in the same boat so that they could at least see that they were not alone in this heartfelt desire and then, before that went anywhere, I was speaking with yet another woman on a completely different topic and somewhere in the conversation she blurted out a similar exasperated statement, “I always knew I should have been a nun!” And she was serious. How many more of you are out there? Let’s find out.
This is a call, a plea, an invitation, or whatever you want to call it, to any ladies who are in the same boat to get in touch with me (and with each other). Let’s see where it will lead, what can be done under the circumstances, and, hopefully, find out what to do about an authentic call to an “impossible” situation. Who should contact me? Well, let’s start out with the basics. You must be female. Yes, I know that is sexist and discriminatory. But this is for women who know that they are women. You “need not apply” if you are a male with some odd notion of “gender fluidity” and all of its various permutations. Discrimination based on sex is not evil in and of itself, believe it or not! You must be single. Truly single. Not married and legally divorced but still under the obligation of “‘til death do us part”. You must not have dependent children. You must honestly and sincerely feel called to Religious Life (which does not mean that you have a true calling, which is what a discernment process is supposed to examine more closely) rather than just being lonely and wishing that you had someone(s) to talk to or live with. As for age, well, since the “younger” ones can and should be looking in other areas, let’s say that “older” for our purposes starts at 35 and ends with the day before death. Next, you must be longing for a Catholic Religious Life, not a “catholic” (mostly in name only) community of social justice warriors who happen to every once in a while, when it seems convenient, pray to a non-masculine pronoun bearing god. Those who want the latter can already find acceptance in any number of “Religious” orders already, and, even if age 65, would be among the youngest in the coven, oops, I mean convent.
On May 8, the feast of Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces, it became very clear to me that I was to make this invitation right away, rather than to think it through first. For me, getting this message out two weeks later is still pretty quick! What the next step is will be determined by who, if anyone, responds and what their situation in life is. So put out the word. Email me at “FatherPalka@EpiphanyTampa.com” (without the quotation marks, of course). Give me a little background information to show that you actually read what I wrote and are responding to it. And, if you are able to make it, come to Epiphany for the 10:30 Mass on June 3, the External Solemnity of Corpus Christi. We will get together to talk right after the Eucharistic Procession that day. Our Lady, pray for us!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka