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Magnificat House - House of Discernment, House of Community

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by Stephanie Roca | April 30, 2014

Every morning my alarm clock wakes me at 5:45am, and like most college students I pound the snooze button several times before I finally roll out of bed. However, unlike most college students, the first thing I do is toss on a sweatshirt and stumble into the chapel for Morning Prayer. In a tiny, carpeted room I am joined by other pajama-clad women, seated in a semi-circle around the tiny altar and tabernacle. It’s my turn to read.

As one accustomed to all-nighters and 8am classes, waking for prayer at 6am has probably been one of my greater struggles since I moved to Magnificat House. Yet it has also been one of the activities I’m most grateful for. When one is discerning the possibility of religious life, one needs to become accustomed to that which a religious community would commonly practice, such as the Divine Office. Yet not only this, but the Office also provides an opportunity for the house members to pray together as a community.

Magnificat House of Discernment* is a very unique place for women who are discerning religious life. Unlike a formation house, it is not run by one specific order of women, so it allows members greater flexibility in exploring the different religious groups available. Also, the goal of Magnificat House is not to deliberately transform the discerners into nuns, but rather to provide women an opportunity to discern that which God is calling them to be, and then to discern as a community.

This communal discernment was one of the aspects that attracted me to Magnificat House. While private discernment certainly has its place, there is something beautiful in surrounding oneself with a group that is actively discerning beside you. In the short few months I have lived here, it has been a blessing to receive advice and guidance from the other discerners, as well as to provide my own views and ideas regarding religious life and discernment. We assist each other in our journey and we form special bonds in the process.

Besides this, Magnificat House also provides us with a practical taste of community life. Dinner and Divine Office are shared activities during the workweek, so we take turns. Last week it was my turn to lead for prayer. Tomorrow it will be my turn to cook. We also divide the chores for the house, including upkeep of our own bedrooms. My friend Paige and Sr. Carmen are in charge of the kitchen. Margaret is in charge of the chapel. And I’m in charge of the laundry room.

Another unique facet of Magnificat House are the sisters. We have two live-in religious sisters who manage affairs of the house (rent, etc.) and serve as mentors to the discerners. Presently we have one sister in habit, and the other without the habit. This is to then provide the discerners with the easy opportunity to ask the mentors why she does or does not wear the habit. It also provides us with two different examples of what it means for a woman to dedicate her life to Christ.

At Magnificat House, a discerning woman is required to choose one of the sisters to be her mentor, with whom she meets at least once a month. She is also required to take a spiritual director. This can be a priest or member of a religious community, but he or she must have had training in spiritual direction. Attending Daily Mass is not required but strongly recommended. We also have community meetings once a week and host an event called Mmmm Night once a month (“Mmmmm” stands for: Magnificat House Monthly Mass Meal and More).

Other than these meetings, dinner and daily prayers, we as a community do not have any other required activities. In fact, another requirement of the house is that a discerner is either working a job or in school. Therefore, most of us are busy throughout the day.

But this is also good for us because we still have the chance to continue with our work or studies. As a senior undergraduate at Loyola, this has been wonderful because it allows me to continue my studies while discerning the next step in my life. Such is natural since discernment should not mean one stops functioning as a working individual.

According to the house bylaws, a discerner can only stay for six months to a year. The mentors then stay for two years. We will receive our new mentors and lose three discerners in June, so right now we are preparing the house as well as scheduling a possible farewell party. The discerners who are leaving were in fact the first three discerners for Magnificat House. The mentors were also our first. So this parting will be a great change for more reasons than one.

And yet, I am confident that whatever the future holds, the spirit of Magnificat House—a house that nurtures discerning women in a communal atmosphere—will remain unchanged. In this faith, I can look towards June with optimism for the future.

 

*Magnificat House is a house of discernment where women, guided by religious mentors and a supportive community, may live together for up to a year in order to deepen their relationship with God and to discern their vocational call. This program revolves around the established daily routine of the residents and includes prayer time, formation, spiritual direction, shared meals, and community living.
The house is located in the main building of St. Rita Parish at 2729 Lowerline St., New Orleans. For more information contact Sr. Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, O.Carm., Vicar for Religious for the Archdiocese of New Orleans at (504) 861-6281, or go to religious.arch-no.org and click on the "Magnificat House" tab.

Author information Stephanie Roca

Stephanie is a senior undergraduate at Loyola University New Orleans with a BM in Vocal Performance. She has lived at the Magnificat House of Discernment since January and will be graduating from Loyola on May 10, 2014.

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