For years, long-time friends and St. Philip Neri parishioners Helen Hausknecht and Sally LaSalle of Metairie yearned for a deeper Catholic prayer life.
One day while in the sacristy after Mass, LaSalle asked Hausknecht if she had heard of the Holy Family Institute. When they realized they had independently been reciting the Holy Family prayers suggested by mutual friend Charlotte Ducote, they knew it was time to act.
Over the past nine years, the two have studied toward consecration as a layperson in the institute, a branch of the Pauline family of vocations, which includes five religious congregations and four lay institutes.
On Aug. 20 – founder’s day for the Society of St. Paul and the Pauline family – Hausknecht and LaSalle took perpetual vows to the Holy Family Institute at the Pauline Bookstore chapel on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie.
The Vatican-approved Holy Family Institute is open to Catholic married and widowed persons as well as engaged couples. Its mission is to evangelize and be witnesses to the Gospel through imitation of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in their secular lives of family, work and various ministries in the church.
Nervous on day of vows
Hausknecht was a bit nervous before Mass celebrated by Jesuit Father Robert Hagan, but when Daughters of St. Paul Sister Julia Darrenkamp told her about her own jitters before her vows, it calmed her. LaSalle’s emotions welled as she professed “a life of chastity, obedience and poverty chosen by Christ, by his virgin Mother and by St. Joseph her spouse” during the vows.
“Sally and Helen, what you are doing today is not for show, but for service,” Father Hagan told them. “You have to be ready for humble service as you take this step, because you had to prepare for this step.”
Father Hagan reiterated how Jesus didn’t come from a priestly class. His ancestry was ordinary people, just like them. Father Hagan sees active involvement of laypeople in the church as the fruits of Second Vatican Council’s universal call to holiness. One doesn’t have to be a priest or religious to be holy.
“It’s important to have devout lay people in the church who are truly pursuing holiness,” he said. “Holiness takes many forms, such as lay vows to the Holy Family Institute.”
Working toward vows
Surrounded by her children, Sharon and Benny Hausknecht, Helen Hausknecht said her faith deepened as she listened to audiotapes, prayed and wrote reports to Society of St. Paul Father Tom Fogarty, delegate director of the Holy Family Institute in Canfield, Ohio.
Taking lay vows is not the same as taking religious vows, though it is similar. Candidates spend roughly six months in postulancy, two years of novitiate and five years of temporary vows, said Father Fogarty.
“The institute’s vows confirm what is already there in the marriage – poverty and the sharing of goods; chastity – the fidelity to one’s spouse; and obedience to the civil and church laws,” Father Fogarty said. “It affirms the promise of marriage and strengthens the marriage.”
Father Fogarty said the professed live regular lives, committing to two, 10-minute periods of prayer each day and an examination of conscience.
“All the rest of their life, the vows are lived in and through their regular family life,” he said. “It’s not in addition to it. Family life in itself calls for the exercise of all the virtues – patience, kindness, forgiveness, understanding, you name it.”
The institute officially began in Italy in 1973 and has been active in America for about 20 years, Father Fogarty said. More than 4,000 people worldwide, including 20-25 in Louisiana, have taken vows to the Holy Family Institute.
Hausknecht said her family life strengthened as she incorporated all she learned about St. Paul’s life of perseverance – being thrown into jail numerous times but getting out – and belief that the future of humanity was linked to strong families.
“It’s a matter of living our vocations,” she said. “First of all, we are mothers. This is just extra.”
Sharon Hausknecht said her parents made sure she and Benny had Catholic school education, and that serving the church was always a part of their lives. Her father Ben, who died in 2009, was a permanent deacon, and her mom was an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and helped with the homebound.
“She has always been a model of faith – she and my dad both,” Sharon Hausknecht said. “They always showed us the right way to live and they lived their faith. They always found a way to serve.”
LaSalle, who is married to Taylor LaSalle and has three children, said before she started studying with the Holy Family Institute she would make small strides in her faith but then would relapse. She thought if she had a clear roadmap to follow that she would progress. And, she has.
What she’s gained through her studies also has been helpful in her life. She was thankful for the opportunity to take lay vows and be “united in prayer” with others worldwide.
“We’ve reached our goal, and I have to continue growing to live the way the Lord wants me to,” she said. “We will pray for families and the world. I feel like we have a long way to go, but with the Lord’s help, we’ll get there.”
For more information about the Holy Family Institute, call (330) 533-6646 or visit www.vocations-holyfamily.com
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.