The following story appeared in the April 30 Idaho Catholic Register.
Margot Loza, a former youth minister at Our Lady of the Valley in Caldwell, is studying and praying with Sisters from the Sisters of Mary, Morning Star, in Ghent. Minn.
By Gene Fadness
One might be directed along unlikely and unexpected paths toward making a decision to enter religious life. That proved to be the case for Margaret Loza. It wasn’t until after she left faith-based, non-profit work for a secular job and much of the world slowed dramatically down in response to a pandemic, that the Buhl native was able to decide on beginning a formal discernment process to enter religious life.
Since last September, Loza has been attending what is called the School of Life at the Sisters of Mary Morning Star in Ghent, Minn. The Order is loosely affiliated with Verbum Spei, the Order of religious brothers that will soon form a monastery at the Nazareth Retreat Center in Boise.
The School of Life offers the Sisters a year to study philosophy and participate in the communal life before deciding if they want to become novices. (Verbum Spei will be offering a similar School of Life experience at the Boise monastery for young men discerning a call to join that Order.)
Loza, 27, was raised in Buhl, graduating from high school there, before attending the University of Idaho where she had a double major in nutrition and public relations
Involved in the pro-life group at UI, Loza later went to Fredericksburg, Va., where she was a multi-media intern for Students for Life of America. From there she became director for Latino outreach at Oregon Right to Life and then spent about 18 months as a youth minister for Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Caldwell.
While in the Treasure Valley, she became acquainted with the work of Verbum Spei. “I always kind of knew that I wanted to try religious life, but I was so busy with my non-profit work, that I didn’t really take the time to seriously consider. Non-profit jobs really take a lot of time,” she said.
When she left non-profit work to become a paralegal, she had more time to ponder her desire to pursue religious life. Father Dominique Faure and the other Brothers with Verbum Spei were instrumental in her discernment.
So was the coronavirus pandemic. “COVID was such a blessing for me,” she said. “I know that sounds strange, but the time it afforded really helped me to discern. We weren’t able to go outside much, so it really forced me to contemplate.”
“When I finally made the decision that I wanted to give my life to Christ, the religious life was the obvious option for me,” she said.
Sisters of Mary Morning Star appealed to her not only because of its ties to Verbum Spei, but also because Loza was able, along with 12 others from Orders across the United States, to receive a grant from the Fund for Vocations. The fund takes over responsibility for student loans while the Sister (or Brother) is in formation and pays off any remaining balance after final vows. “I would not have been able to enter religious life if this option were not avail-able to me,” Loza said.
More important for Loza is the Order’s focus on philosophy and prayer. “Faithful to the tradition of the Church, especially the documents of Vatican II, and the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and of Aristotle, their formation allows them to read the Word of God as a living word and enter more profoundly into theology,” the Order’s website states. “We have a great love for St. John Paul II’s encyclical, “Fides et Ratio,” (“Faith and Reason”), Loza said.
Loza’s day begins with Morning Prayer at 5, then Lectio Divina (praying with scripture) followed by one hour of silent prayer, Adoration, and then class. That’s before breakfast. After breakfast, there is another class, study group, choir practice and Mass. Later in the day are chores like house cleaning and their current project of renovating guest rooms.
Like Verbum Spei, the Sisters of Mary, Morning Star, are a contemplative Order, but not cloistered. They are able to go out into the community, to visit family and have family visit them. Loza has come home to Idaho once since she entered the Order last September.
The Loza siblings are, from left, Bruno, Ruth, Margot and Sebastian. Margot Loza is studying and praying with Sisters at the Sisters of Mary, Morning Star, in Ghent, Minn. (Courtesy photo/Margot Loza)
Her family is “super supportive,” of her desire to explore the call to religious life. “I have the luxury of a younger sister who spent a year and a half with the Discalced Carmelites,” Loza said. Even though she decided after 18 months not to stay with the Carmelites, the experience was a valuable one and one appreciated by all her family members.
There are about 250 women now affiliated with Sisters of Mary, Morning Star, but only about 17 in the United States, according to the website. Currently, Loza is joined by about five others in the School of Life, ranging in ages from recent high school graduates to 27.
The four main aspects of the charism of the Order are prayer, fraternal charity, search for truth, and manual work. Their contemplative vocation calls them to a life of silent prayer centered on the mystery of the Eucharist, living fraternal charity in joy, mutual trust, and the gift of themselves to their Sisters.
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