Call to serve: Consecrated men and women dedicate their lives to God’s people
New director of the Office of Consecrated Life shares insight into beauty of vocation
By Mary Powers
“I can clearly see God’s nurturing throughout my life,” reflected Dominican Sister Diane Aruda, the new director of the Office of Consecrated Life for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, as she reminisced about her vocation and her current role.
Sister Diane’s vocational journey began in high school. Growing up surrounded by family in the Bay Area, she attended a coed Catholic high school in Oakland. When the time came for the senior retreat, the girls experienced a vocations talk with the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, who were teaching at the school, and the boys went with the Franciscans.
“I can’t specifically remember what was said during the talk, but I felt as though God was calling me to listen and consider religious life,” recounted Sister Diane.
She tried to ignore the call, but it didn’t work, and so she began to explore a vocation to religious life. After praying about next steps, she decided to enter the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.
“I loved our sisters in high school because they were themselves,” she said. “They each had their unique personalities, but they were always doing activities with us in addition to teaching. I was comfortable with them. So I explored a vocation with them.”
When she told her mother about her decision to enter the order, she was supportive and not totally surprised. She told Sister Diane that she had prayed to have children, having struggled with many miscarriages, and promised God that “if I can have children, whatever they want to do in life, I will support them. I will let them be who they need to be.” Her father was supportive, but cried initially when she told him.
From her graduating high school class, five women entered religious life; four joined the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose and one entered the Holy Cross Sisters.
Upon entering, she joined 14 other women in discernment. Throughout formation, 12 of the 14 women stayed in her “cohort” or class. Eleven remain today and they still stay in contact, always supporting each other, gathering each January in person to catch up, pray together and have an enjoyable weekend.
When it came time to choose a ministry, Sister Diane was educated and prepared to teach, since she had taught catechism in high school and enjoyed the experience.
Her first assignment was in Patterson, California, teaching at a Catholic school. “In those days, Patterson was still a town that was predominately Portuguese,” she said. “I am Portuguese, and so before I arrived, they already knew that the sister coming was Portuguese. When I went out on walks, the people in the town would come out of their houses and talk to me. It was a wonderful experience.”
From there, Sister Diane continued to say yes to God’s call in her life, moving into leadership positions. She taught in Santa Barbara for four years and took on the role of principal for the next seven years. While serving as principal, she was asked by the director of schools for the congregation to serve as the director and supervisor of their elementary schools in California, Oregon, Mexico and Germany. She served in that role for 10 years.
Sister Diane then got the call to move to a new position within the order to accompany and mentor the sisters in temporary profession, eventually moving into further leadership roles within Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose for the next 21 years.
After taking a short sabbatical and earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology, she was approached by Presentation Sister Rosina Conrotto, the previous director of the Office of Consecrated Life, about taking her position. Sister Diane had served on the Council of Women Religious for the Archdiocese of San Francisco for a few years and, after talking with her congregational prioress, agreed to become the next director.
Office of Consecrated Life
The Office of Consecrated Life, based out of the pastoral center in San Francisco, is focused on serving and supporting professed religious and consecrated persons in the Archdiocese. This includes 36 congregations and 300 sisters, as well as consecrated virgins and hermits—two other vocations within the consecrated life of the Church. In the future, Sister Diane hopes to expand support for religious brothers.
The ministries in which each congregation serves includes education both in Catholic schools and faith formation programs, medical professions, serving the poor, spiritual direction, pastoral work and parish administration. Support provided by the Archdiocese for the religious congregations includes assistance with housing, immigration status, ministry questions, administrative support and training.
The director is also the staff support for the Council of Women Religious in the Archdiocese. Rather than serve as a governance body, since each religious congregation governs its members, the council comprises women from 10 to 15 religious congregations who serve as contacts for their community and serve the needs of the religious in the Archdiocese. They help plan the Mass for religious jubilarians each year and the barbeque for the homeless each spring.
“They are very generous,” said Sister Diane. “They are very committed. They have years of experience.”
The Office of Consecrated Life also assists with questions from those discerning vocations to consecrated life, helping to connect them with spiritual directors and pointing them to religious communities they may be interested in contacting.
What advice would Sister Diane give to those discerning?
“First, find a good spiritual director,” she said. “You need a companion, someone who will listen to the movements of your vocational story and then support you in that accompaniment.
Second, pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you.
In addition, she encourages those discerning to talk with religious and vocation directors of congregations that interest the individual. “Sit and talk about the reality of what it means.”
“If God is really calling you, you will get direction, but you have to listen,” she said. “You have to learn how to listen deeply.”
For a parishioner who sees someone they think would be a good fit for consecrated life within their parish, Sister Diane advises, “Develop a relationship with them and then just reflect with them and share with them why you’re thinking they would be a fit for consecrated life, because it isn’t necessarily that anyone has done that.”
Sister Diane has loved the Dominican way of life: the charism, ministries and religious community. God is a faithful companion drawing us into relationship and into service of God’s people. Prayer, study, community and service light the way as the vocation to religious life unfolds across time. It is a wonderful life!
World Day for Consecrated Life falls on Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and will be celebrated on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 11 a.m. Mass with Archbishop Cordileone at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.
Learn more about the Office of Consecrated life: www.sfarchdiocese.org/consecrated-life/
Mary Powers is the assistant director of communications and media relations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.