Growing up in a Regnum Christi family in Atlanta, Georgia, Elizabeth Conklin was constantly surrounded by faithful lay members, Consecrated Women, and Legionaries – in fact, one of her brothers, Father Ronald Conklin, is a Legionary priest. Being raised in a culture of vocations, she herself has felt drawn towards the consecrated life for as long as she can remember, but this year, she’ll be doing the serious but joyful work of discerning a vocation as a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi.
Because Elizabeth has felt a quiet call to the consecrated life all her life, there was never one specific moment when her vocation became suddenly and undeniably clear to her; instead, Elizabeth describes the steps leading up to her discernment year as a “constant growing”, and an ever-expanding awareness of the continuous presence of God in her life.
However, a couple of experiences in Elizabeth’s life solidified for her the decision to enter into a formal process of discernment with the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi. “I remember sitting at a table with several Consecrated Women – I had another commitment and was supposed to leave, but something inside wouldn’t let me go,” recalls Elizabeth. “I kept hearing this phrase inside of me: ‘The consecrated women speak the language of my heart.’ Something about the way they spoke resonated with me on such a deep level, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
And just recently, Elizabeth’s decision to discern the consecrated life was further confirmed when she had the opportunity to attend the diaconate ordination of four Legionary brothers at Sacred Heart Apostolic School in Rolling Prairie, Indiana this summer. For Elizabeth, the celebration was a powerful witness not only to the selflessness and surrender required by the deacons being ordained, but also to the love and support they received from their brothers and sisters in Christ. “Seeing how these new deacons were so cared for by the Regnum Christi community, and what a joyful experience it was reminded me that when I surrender to Jesus, I am surrendering to Love. It brings peace to know that I have my Regnum Christi family always caring for me in countless ways,” says Elizabeth. “Being there just a few weeks before leaving for my discernment year was such a consolation.”
Elizabeth is now living with the Consecrated Women’s community in Washington, D.C., where she gets to experience daily consecrated life. Her day begins with morning prayer and Mass, followed by breakfast with the community, and then Elizabeth begins her apostolate work; currently, she is helping with the Regnum Christi youth section in the D.C. locality. Although the members of the consecrated community all have different duties and commitments that take them in separate directions throughout the day, they always gather to share meals and end their day in Night Prayers together. “It’s honestly such a fun and joyful atmosphere, and there’s never a dull moment!”
One day of Elizabeth’s week is set aside specifically for vocation discernment. She studies Anthropology of Christian Vocation, as well as Spanish, in preparation for the next possible step of the discernment process, which is the candidacy summer program in Monterrey, Mexico. In addition, Elizabeth meets with the director of the community, Glory Darbellay, CRC, for discussions on specific areas of discernment, as well as in-depth conversations on what Elizabeth is experiencing – and how she feels God working within her – throughout the discernment process.
And it is this type of personal accompaniment that Elizabeth feels was the key to her hearing and responding to God’s invitation to discern the consecrated life; she credits “an endless list” of people – including her parents and siblings; the Regnum Christi women in Atlanta; and the Consecrated Women she has worked with, particularly in ECYD in Atlanta and on her recent RC Mission year in Cincinnati – for guiding her on along her spiritual journey. “Each person I know, in their own way, has been an instrument that Jesus has used to lead me to where I am right now.”
Although Elizabeth is only in the first months of her discernment year, which began with an application and interview process and weekly meetings throughout the summer, she has already undergone enormous spiritual growth. “It has already been an experience of deepened trust – from feeling hesitant to start this new journey, arriving, and immediately being so welcomed with so much love and peace,” says Elizabeth. “God knows me better than I know myself and he takes care of everything.”
That attitude of trust is what Elizabeth considers vital to the discernment process, and to a life of faith in general. And for Elizabeth, trust isn’t a feeling she hopes to have or attain – it’s a daily choice to be receptive and responsive to whatever God has in store for her each day. “It can be easy to get caught up in so many distractions – in other people’s opinions, or the countless emotions that come and go,” says Elizabeth. “But at the end of the day, if you keep your eyes on Jesus, everything will work out in a way that is truly best for your heart and the hearts of those you love. He will never lead you to a place that isn’t meant for you.”
This personal, intimate, and trusting relationship with Jesus is what called Elizabeth to discern the consecrated life, and it’s what helps her keep her focus on what the discernment process is all about. For Elizabeth, she doesn’t think of herself spending the year pursuing something – a specific vocation, or an answer to the question of where God is calling her – but, instead, of someone pursuing her. “It’s not just about me. It’s about a relationship with the real, living, breathing person that is Jesus,” says Elizabeth. “He is the man who calls.”
Elizabeth’s year of discernment within the Consecrated Women’s community in Washington, D.C. will continue until May of next year. At this point, if she feels God calling her to remain on the path towards the consecrated life, she’ll attend the Candidacy summer program, and then possibly continue her Candidacy for another two years in Monterrey before being admitted to temporary vows.
But for now, Elizabeth is simply grateful for the opportunity to live with the Consecrated Women, and experience a daily life where Jesus is her number one priority, and the sole source of her security. “Regardless of how this year turns out in the end, I know it could never be a mistake to give Jesus the space to come into my heart and pour out his grace, and I know it will lead to a lifetime that is lived closer to him,” says Elizabeth. “At the end of this year, I want to be able to open my heart in gratitude for all that Jesus has done for me, and have a little more insight into how he is calling me to love.”
To find out more about the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, visit their website at consecratedwomen.org. To learn more about the discernment process Elizabeth is currently undertaking, visit their link on discerning the consecrated vocation.