A young women’s group is being held in Biddeford to help those attending discern if they wish to enter religious life. Courtesy Photo

BIDDEFORD — “We believe these sessions allow Jesus to touch these young women’s hearts on their journeys of discovery.”

As Sister Elaine Lachance, SCIM, describes the success of a growing initiative in Biddeford, she draws from six decades of religious life as a member of the Good Shepherd Sisters of Quebec, who have been active in educating area children since the late 19th century.

Along the way, she has picked up her share of incontrovertible facts, including the motivation behind FIAT.

“The Church and the world need strong, faith-filled women, whether in marriage, religious life, or single life,” she said.

FIAT is a discernment group for high school and college women who want to learn more about religious sisters and who may be discerning this vocation for themselves.

“Fiat” is a Latin word that refers to Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

The goal of FIAT is to help the young women grow in faithful discipleship and personal holiness to be better able to discover their own vocation from the Lord, with a special focus on the call to religious life.

The group meets on the second and fourth Friday of each month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Joseph Convent on 409 Pool St. in Biddeford. The next meetings are Nov. 8 and 22.

“It was at the request of two high school juniors that we initiated the sessions,” said Sister Elaine. “These gatherings were so helpful and appreciated by the participants that, last year, they asked for two sessions a month, one ‘focus/serious’ session and one social gathering. So that’s what we will be doing!”

The sessions feature interaction with the sisters, including sisters of other congregations. The young women who have taken on leadership roles in FIAT continue to meet other high school girls interested in attending the sessions. The group has even started an Instagram page (@fiatmaine) which already has close to 100 followers.

As the young women converse with the sisters, who impart wisdom gained from traveling down the same road the young women are now, it’s hard to figure which group is enjoying the time more.

“These sessions are truly life-giving and hopeful for everyone,” said Sister Elaine. “We rejoice and give thanks to God for blessing us with such wonderful young ladies. I believe God is still calling people to religious life and I remain hopeful for our future.”

Hope that has been rewarded in recent months as three young women from Maine entered religious communities:

Charis Smith of Auburn (now Sr. Mary Elizabeth) is a novice with the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Gower, Missouri;
Mary Catherine Eddyblouin of Bristol is now a postulant with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and
Isabel Sanclemente of Fort Kent is now a postulant with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Many other women in our diocese are currently discerning religious life,” said Fr. Seamus Griesbach, director of the Diocese of Portland’s Office of Vocations. “There are now three discernment groups for women that meet regularly across our state in Biddeford, Auburn, and Waterville, and a fourth is in the works up in the County.”

The Office of Vocations will be working with these local discernment groups in the coming year to explore opportunities for women discerning a religious vocation to come together for days of reflection or retreats.

For more information about the discernment groups or discerning your call, visit www.portlanddiocese.org/vocations or call (207) 775-1128.

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