Joy is at the center of religious life

3 mins read

Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR

Father Sheridan

Visitors to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, often tell university president Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, that they “have never experienced anywhere the joy that they encounter when they engage our students and members of the university faculty,” he said.

Father Sheridan credits that to living in the truth of the Gospel through vibrant liturgies on campus, the integration of faith and reason in the classrooms and the inclusion of the university’s Catholic identity in daily campus life. That charism attracted him to the Third Order Regular Franciscans of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Father Sheridan has a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and a juris doctorate in law from the University of Pittsburgh. He practiced law in Pittsburgh and Sacramento, California. He ultimately was called to a vocation with the Franciscan Friars and ordained to the priesthood in December 2006.

He finds joy as a community member in sharing prayers, ministry, meals, recreation and discussions about the many ways that God works in their lives. That joy is a witness to others on campus.

“It’s contagious,” he said. “It’s something that people want for themselves and, in turn, desire to share with others. Joy comes from knowing the will of God and doing it. We can choose to let other people or circumstances control our day or our thoughts, feelings and emotions. But the more we choose not to let them, the more we are willing to sacrifice seeking pleasure to overcome those things, the more we will give priority to our relationship with Christ and discerning and living out his will for our lives. That is true joy.”

Brother Philip Wodzinski, OCSO

Brother Philip Wodzinski, OCSO, enjoys hiking in the 2,200 acres of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit near Conyers, Georgia. Some of the monastery property lies within the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area.

Although the monks are cloistered and for the most part observe silence, visitors to the monastery are welcomed to the gardens and forests, the abbey church, the gift shop and the visitors center, where they can learn about the life of the Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance, known as the Trappists.

Brother Philip felt drawn to their lifestyle years before he realized he had a calling.

“I worked at a machine shop out of high school and became a pastry chef and baker,” he said. “Looking back, I always kind of felt a certain call that I wasn’t able to identify as a monastic vocation. It just developed within me through a stronger prayer life through the years. I always had a sense of the importance of silence and solitude. … Our lives are spent so closely together just living and praying. Each of us has gifts and God-given abilities that really bring joy when we serve each other.”

He’s the manager of the bakery that produces goods for sale on site and by mail order, and for holidays he bakes something special for the community. He serves as a cantor and assists the elderly monks in the infirmary, doing small things like cutting their hair.

“When we are in solitude we realize that we are part of this community,” Brother Philip said. “The great thing about monastic life is the sense of balance of a really ordered life.”

Sister Linda Campbell, OSB

Sister Linda

Joy is what attracted Sister Linda Campbell, OSB, to the Benedictines when she felt a call to the religious life. Sister Linda lives at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Phoenix.

“The sisters really seemed to be happy,” she said. “They enjoyed not only their prayer life, but also the way they interacted with each other and with those they served.”

Sister Linda entered the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana, in 1966. She taught elementary school, high school and college, worked in parish ministries and is now prioress of the monastery in Phoenix, which she helped found in 1998.

“There are two of us in vows, and 90 oblates run the ministries,” she said. “We have a thrift store and an organic garden where volunteers help raise food that we share with a women’s shelter and a food bank.

“Reaching out to others in need, our daily prayer life and following Scriptures and the Rule of St. Benedict keeps us pretty much on the side of joy and peace,” Sister Linda continued. “That helps us to stay on task in recognizing God’s gifts and how we can serve him. It’s important to reinforce how much God loves us, and that comes from the people we meet and interact with.”

There’s room in her life for the joy of fun, too. She likes to play golf, enjoy good movies and hike in Arizona.

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.