By Megan Erbacher
The Message assistant editor
Vocation seeds are planted throughout our lifetime, according to Dominican Sister Catherine Stewart.
“Sometimes we’re aware of those seeds,” she said. “And other times they quietly move in our souls and are never noticed. Our yes to God is not a one-and-done. Yes is repeated over and over throughout our lives.”
On Nov. 6, Sister Catherine, principal of Westside Catholic School’s St. Agnes Campus in Evansville and a member of the Springfield, Illinois, Dominicans, delivered the keynote address during the 2023 Evansville Serra Club Vocation Awareness Luncheon at the Catholic Center in Evansville. Serra Club honored 37 eighth-graders representing 17 diocesan parishes. The program, which coincided with National Vocation Awareness Week from Nov. 5-11, recognized students for creating projects focused on different vocations, including priesthood, diaconate, religious life, marriage and lay ministry.
Each year, Serra Club asks students to create projects related to vocations. Serra Club President John East reported that 385 projects were submitted this year. Selected students are invited to the luncheon to receive an award. Winning projects were diverse and included board games, essays, a coloring book, a podcast, a three-tier wedding cake, a piano music video, posters and art projects.
East noted the program predates him, and he’s been a member of the Serra Club for 15 years. He joyfully shared his excitement that this year the club expanded its reach, and he welcomed Holy Trinity School in Jasper, who participated for the first time. He said the club plans to continue inviting more schools across the diocese to participate.
Bishop Joseph M. Siegel opened the celebration in prayer, and he offered a blessing over lunch. Bishop Siegel thanked students for their participation. He said vocation comes from a word meaning calling, and God calls each of us to a specific path in life. This call, he said, is listening to the voice of the Lord.
Bishop Siegel thanked all who took the opportunity through this program to discern and ask, what does God want me to do with my life?
The oldest of four children, Sister Catherine was born in Nokomis, Illinois, and grew up on a farm. She said it takes a lot of prayer as each person discerns his or her vocation. While she knew from a young age she wanted to be a teacher, and thought marriage and children would be her vocation, she also felt a call to religious life.
“But I didn’t want it,” Sister Catherine admitted.
She graduated from college and decided to continue her discernment while she taught for a year. But, one day at Mass, she again felt her calling to religious life.
“God only asks us to do two things,” Sister Catherine said. “No. 1, he asks us to let people love us. The second thing God asks is, can we love others?”
As a cancer survivor, Sister Catherine said she underwent nine months of chemotherapy treatment.
“During those nine months, I learned that living for today is the most beautiful thing we can do,” she said. “We don’t look forward to tomorrow. We don’t look for what is going to come next year. But we look at how can I best live today? And how can I meet the needs of the people.
“I treasure my vocation, the one that I didn’t want, and have found joy in that vocation,” she said. “That I get to listen every day to the needs of God’s people, and that I can say yes to God, I will meet those needs the best way that I can.”
Diocesan Director of Vocations Father Tyler Tenbarge, who also serves as chaplain and director of the Father Deydier House of Discernment, closed the program in prayer.
2023 Serra Club Vocation Awareness Winners
Good Shepherd Parish
Chloe Frazer, Davis Schnarr
St. James Parish, Haubstadt
Caden Newlin, Cale Ziliak
St. Wendel Parish, St. Wendel
Eva Bender, Reid Happe
Annunciation Parish - Christ the King School
Aiden Nolan, Ajay Srinivasan
St. Philip Parish, Posey County
Savannah Harris, Kade Norman
Holy Redeemer Parish
Waylon Baughn, William Reyes
Holy Trinity Parish, Jasper
Ella Schue, Ty Fischer
Corpus Christi Parish
Anna Schneider, Blake Townsend
Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Haubstadt
Mia Sefton, Tenley Beloat
St. James Religious Ed, Haubstadt
Adalyn Beyer, Chloe Mullenix, Libby Kate Roberson
St. John the Baptist Parish, Newburgh
Alex Folz, Lydia Greenlee, Brinley Rogers
St. Benedict Parish
Natalie Schulz, Owen Elpers
St. Bernard Parish, Rockport
Holy Rosary Parish
Anya Mauer, Madelyn Schnur, Mallory Swiz
St. Boniface Parish - Westside Catholic School
Abigail Pfafflin, Lauren Casavant
St. Joseph Parish, Vanderburgh County
Ruth Dickason, Bailey King
Annunciation Parish - Holy Spirit School
Orlando Bruin, Reagan Vaughn