By JOANNE FOX
Michelle Heeren, a 2006 graduate of Remsen St. Mary High School and 2010 graduate of Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, professed her perpetual (final) vows, Sept. 14, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., with the order Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara’.
Sister Mary Consolation of the Afflicted, SSVM, began her seven-year formation in September of 2011. Her mission work has taken her to Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Jamaica and Canada; she is currently teaching religion to second, third and fourth graders and high school catechism on Sundays in Harlem, N.Y.
The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara’ was started in 1988 in Argentina. They currently serve in more than 30 countries including apostolate work in group homes for the disabled, poor and homeless. They also serve in hospitals, nursing homes, Catholic schools, parishes and religious education programs.
The daughter of Doug and Vicki Heeren of Le Mars – parishioners of St. Mary Church in Remsen – chose to pursue the religious life after being called in college.
“After teaching Totus Tuus in the Sioux City Diocese and being involved with other young people who were strong in their Catholic faith, I was encouraged to discern my vocation,” she said. “My last year at BCU, I continued to go to daily Mass and adoration each week. It was one night in adoration that I heard God say to my heart, ‘I want you entirely.’ I was afraid and excited and started visiting different religious orders.”
While looking for the religious order that would best complement her talents, Sister Consolation decided on the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara’. It is an order that is traditional in its charism, is missionary in spirit and maintains a full habit.
“I felt called toward more traditional orders and I was actually looking for a habit,” she said. “I visited several communities and after being told about the SSVM, I decided I wanted to visit them. I also didn’t know if I was being called to contemplative or active life and this order had both. I also loved that this order also had priests and brothers that worked alongside the sisters.”
Because Sister Consolation didn’t know of other women pursuing a vocation to the religious life, that was a challenge she faced during the discernment process.
“It was difficult to go outside the norm,” she said. “Luckily, I did have a spiritual director and Father Brad Pelzel, director of vocations for the diocese who was on campus and helped me a lot.”
Another difficulty for the college student was student loans.
“But God provided for me through working for the Probst family and the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations grant,” she said. “They do the fundraising for religious so that they can enter religious life. Their website is fundforvocations.org.”
Sister Consolation’s advice to anyone considering a vocation to the religious life is to “remember that if you are doing what God has created you and called you for, that is where you will be the happiest in life.”
“In rural Iowa, it can be hard to see the global picture, but after speaking with sisters from around the world, your mind begins to broaden,” she said. “I can tell you that the church needs holy missionaries, but we can’t ‘go out to all the nations’ (Matt 28:19), if we don’t promote the family and vocations in our own families.”