They’ve committed their lives to God with no regrets

By Patrick Butler | Contributor
Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ballet instructor Kerry Hubata, teacher Sonia Baldwin, Sister of Saints Cyril and Methodius Deborah Borneman, Brother James McDonald, and Father Andrew Torma don’t have much in common except they all lead “consecrated lives” in one form or another.

They were among more than 300 priests, brothers, sisters, consecrated laypeople and consecrated virgins at an annual Celebration of Consecrated Life Feb. 25, at St. Eugene Church, 7958 W. Foster.

This group took time from the event to talk about their vocations with the Catholic New World.

While there’s a growing interest in consecrated virginity, dating from the early church and revived by the Second Vatican Council, “it’s not an immensely popular vocation today,” said Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart Joan McGlinchey, archdiocesan vicar for religious.

She said there are six consecrated virgins in the Chicago area today, and another four waiting to take their vows.

According to the website of the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, “the vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the World is not a clerical or lay state of life, but a distinct form of consecrated life in the church.”

Hubata, the proprietor of the Evanston School of Ballet, thought she wanted to become a nun and tried three times to quit dancing and enter religious life.

“But every time I tried to give up dancing, it did horrible things to my personality. So I asked myself what God was trying to tell me,” Hubata said.

While she loved dancing and didn’t know of any orders of nuns teaching ballet, Hubata nevertheless wanted to make a vow of virginity as “a way of getting closer to God and the church,” she said.

When she learned 25 years later that the vocation of consecrated virgins had been revived, Hubata wrote to Cardinal George.

After an hour-long meeting he agreed to let her take the vow without the customary formation period.

Consecrated virgins are spouses of Christ, she said.

“It’s a huge responsibility. We pray the liturgy of the hours, try to get to Mass every day, and pray for the church and vocations,” said Hubata.

Making her vows in a public way has an effect on those around her, she said.

“I feel my connection with the church and the church to me is growing all the time. People who know me ask for my prayers. It’s very humbling,” she said.

Things were a little easier for Sonia Baldwin, a consecrated laywoman in an ecclesial movement who teaches religion to seventh- and eighth-graders at Everest Academy in suburban Lemont.

“I think God sought me out,” said the Regnum Christi member who worked for the archdiocese in her native Sydney, Australia, before coming here “wanting to do more for God for everything he’s done for me.”

Like Baldwin, Sister Deborah wanted to give her whole life to God, who she credits with steering her toward becoming a religious.

She was working in a veterans’ hospital when she began working with the poor, then got a job with the church.

“I wanted to live a life of abundant generosity,” she said, “Whenever I heard the hymn ‘Here I Am Lord’ I asked ‘What do you need today, Lord?’”

She said she has never had any second thoughts.

Neither has Christian Brother James McDowell, vocation promoter for the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers’ North American Province.

He said he became “enamored” with the legendary Irish teaching order while growing up in Butte, Mont., where the brothers taught.

“They were poor. We were poor. But they were joyful. I wanted to be an architect, but I figured that whatever the brothers were doing was what I wanted to do.”

Teaching is only a part of what being a Christian Brother is all about, said McDonald.

“It’s what you do outside of that. Living the Gospel values,” he said.

McDonald said he has a recent graduate from Chicago’s Brother Rice High School in formation right now, and another area graduate from St. Lawrence High School in Burbank, expressing serious interest.

But don’t let the seemingly small numbers fool you, McDonald said. He gets about 200 inquires every year from men who have obviously been talking to dozens of religious orders.

Missionary of the Sacred Heart Father Andrew Torma, is 37 years into his vocation and says he’s had a “very satisfying life” reaching out to people in ways he admits he himself will never know.

As his order concentrates less on overseas missions and more on stateside evangelization, Torma says one of the biggest challenges is bringing back people who have left the Catholic Church, often because of the sex abuse scandals or disagreements with some of the church’s beliefs.

“They may feel guilty some of their moral choices differ from the church’s position. Staying with it is growth, real growth,” he said.

After all, he added, the church is not a place for perfect people.

“That’s why I fit in,” he smiled.