Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Call Waiting Saying Yes to Ministry Sometimes Takes a Little Time

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Call Waiting Saying Yes to Ministry Sometimes Takes a Little Time

Article excerpt

Joyful noise filled the Dominican Convent in west St. Louis County one evening last week.

Sopranos praising God for "calling us now to live in your love" floated from the chapel to the entry hall. Raucous laughter rolled out from the library to form the bass.

The laughers: Two novices - nuns in training - who had reached middle age before entering the convent.

What set them hooting?

Admitting what they missed the most.

"My Halston hand cream," said Amelia-Marie Reyes, 52, who used to pay $25 a bottle for designer skin softener.

"My own car," said Nancy Jurecki.

Reyes and Jurecki are among many Americans of all denominations who heed the Lord's call at midlife - or later.

Among the indicators of the trend:

Most women training to be Dominican nuns are in their 30s.

The average age of Episcopal seminarians is 36.

Three of the 50 men studying to be St. Louis Archdiocese priests are older than 49. A special seminary, the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis., trains older men for the Catholic priesthood. The average age at the school is 43; 13 seminarians are 60 or older.

At Covenant Theological Seminary in Creve Coeur, more than a third of seminarians are 35 or older; 20 percent are in their 40s. The Presbyterian Church in America runs the seminary. Students come from many other denominations, including Southern Baptists.

Maturity and experience make older people welcome recruits at most seminaries. Congregations also like to hire seasoned clergy.

"It is very hard to have your spiritual leader be the age of your grandson," said the Rev. Dick Bormes, in charge of clergy deployment for the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri.

Many who make the ministry a second career gave thought to becoming a priest, minister or nun when they were younger. For nearly three decades, Bormes, 56, said he had denied his call to be an Episcopal priest. He thought he had a responsibility to support his family with more than a priest's salary.

He became a successful real estate salesman. He led the church youth group and worked at a food pantry and homeless shelter.

At 51, he entered the seminary. At first, his decision embarrassed his children. He said they felt that he was deserting their lifestyle and were ill at ease with his more public role in church services.

"I think they thought I would make them say grace in restaurants," Bormes said. He doesn't. And in the last six years, they have adjusted.

"It was such a strong call that I felt able to walk away from a very successful career," Bormes said.

The Rev. Linda Shugert, 53, had a similar experience. She is interim pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Wood River. Married and the mother of three grown children, she was always active in her church. But in her youth, women were ineligible for ordination.

In her 30s, she began asking herself "what God was calling me to be," and other church members began telling her to consider the ministry. …

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