By Beth Donze
Sister of Christian Charity Mary Kim Tran was out doing errands many years ago when a 4-year-old girl came up to her with a funny question: “Why are you dressed in a Halloween costume?”
Sister Kim explained to the child that as a religious sister, she was garbed in her community’s habit and veil.
About 20 years later, Sister Kim received an invitation in the mail from someone she didn’t know. Incredibly, that same little girl, now a young woman, was entering the novitiate and wanted Sister Kim to be present at her consecration Mass. Sister Kim had sparked her interest in a religious vocation.
With her firsthand knowledge of how a vocational seed could be planted in the most unexpected of ways, Sister Kim worked with St. Dominic Parish to spotlight vocations in a very visual manner. At the Oct. 29 Sunday Mass celebrated during the family-friendly time slot of 10:30 a.m., 10 St. Dominic sixth and seventh graders processed up the center aisle dressed as various men and women of the church.
The ensemble’s five girls portrayed a School Sister of Notre Dame, a Sister of Mount Carmel, a Sister Servant of Mary, a Daughter of Charity and a Sister of Christian Charity, while the boys portrayed a Jesuit brother, a permanent deacon, a Dominican priest, a Redemptorist priest and a diocesan priest.
“It gave us a sense of how it would feel and what it would look like if we were actually one of those people,” said seventh grader Mariah Malliett, the Mass’ “Sister of Christian Charity.”
“It definitely made me a lot more reverent then I usually would be,” Mariah said. “It made me feel like I was part of the Sisters of Christian Charity.”
Sixth grader Kameron Callahan said other than having to get used to the Redemptorist priests’ super stiff collar, he felt comfortable in the role.
“When I put the vestments on, it kind of gave me the chills,” Kameron said. “I learned how great it is to worship God, and it’s awesome!”
The student actors were prepared by School Sister of Notre Dame Marie Jo Lazzeri, St. Dominic’s religious director, and Karen Strom, the seventh-grade religion teacher.
Besides taking part in the procession, the costumed students served as lectors and gift-bearers. They lined up in front of the Communion rail at the end of Mass to have their respective roles explained by Sister Kim.
“The hint of a vocation comes when you’re young,” said Sister Marie Jo, who has planned similar vocations-themed Masses with her students over the last 27 years.
In addition to their weekly school Mass celebrated every Thursday, rotating grades of St. Dominic students work with Sister Marie Jo and their teachers to present the monthly Sunday Family Mass for the whole parish.
“We put a lot of work into our liturgies. It’s amazing how many parents come to the 10:30 Mass when their children are in it,” Sister Marie Jo said. “And the parents really participate. They love those Sunday Masses.”
Nearly a month after the vocations Mass, the young participants were still relishing memories of it. Some of the students, who got to meet and take selfies with their real-life counterparts after the special liturgy, said they hadn’t realized that priests, sisters and brothers had “regular lives” outside of formal worship and private prayer.
“I used to think they were closed off. But they’re super nice,” said seventh grader Collin Lormand, who played a Jesuit brother.
The students said their parents were proud of them for being in the Mass – one to the point of tears – and had voiced their support should their child one day decide to pursue a church-related vocation.
Seventh grader Avery Barfield was touched to have been loaned a cross that had been passed down through several generations of Mount Carmel Sisters.
“They were so excited to see us!” Avery said. “It really showed us that it is an option for how you can live your life, and it’s a good one!”
Seventh grader Caroline Clark was struck by how “very nice and humble” the community she was representing – the Sisters Servants of Mary – were.
When Caroline noted how “weird” it was to put on four layers of clothing and a veil, she was gently reminded by a veteran sister, whose dress code had been relaxed over the years, to stop complaining.
“One hour is nothing!” the sister said with a smile. “I had to wear a veil for 40 years!”