On Aug. 7, Bishop Dennis Sullivan celebrated Mass at Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood, to welcome the five young men entering the seminary this year in discernment for the priesthood. Bishop Sullivan bestowed his blessings not only on them, but on one young woman, about to embark on her own period of discovering God’s call.
Lauren Adderly, 26, from Cherry Hill, will depart early next month for Belcourt, North Dakota, where she will live on the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation, engaging in the mission of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) and discerning the religious call.
Founded in 1958 by Father James Flanagan in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, SOLT is a community of priests, deacons, brothers, sisters and laity who work on missions in 12 countries, serving areas of deepest need and living as disciples of Jesus through Mary in Mary-Trinitarian communion.
As an aspirant, Adderly will take formation classes, spend time in prayer, and work on the reservation, teaching the Catholic faith to students from kindergarten to sixth grade.
The road to North Dakota has been “slow and gentle, and I don’t regret that,” she says, noting the signposts that have been there along the way directing her.
There was the summer after her freshman year at Villanova University. As a biology major, Adderly hit the road with her fellow students at this time, traveling around the nation to study and gather information on lizards and amphibians and other animals. Making their way across North Dakota, she loved the state’s beauty, and the next summer she returned there as a volunteer for the SOLT mission on the Chippewa reservation.
For the next two summers, she engaged with youth during the two-month camps, be it through catechesis talk; canoeing; or games of capture the flag.
The next signpost was Houston, Texas. After graduating with a bachelor of science in biology and a bachelor of arts in theology, she spent time with the Catholic Worker Movement, following the work of Dorothy Day in helping women and schoolchildren.
“In Houston, I came to realize that I loved helping middle school students,” she noticed.
Next came Woodbury Heights, and two years teaching religion to students in grades six through eight at Saint Margaret Regional School. While there, in the monthly discernment group she attended, she heard God calling her back to North Dakota.
Before that, though, she knew she had to make one more stop: The Camino de Santiago. The approximately 500 mile pilgrimage route through France and Spain, with a friend, to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the reputed burial site of Saint James the Great, gave Adderly time to reflect, pray and meditate. With each step, contemplating the next ones.
“My vocation has grown out of friendship; the people that I’ve met at home and in North Dakota, their joy and peace has been inspiring,” she says. “I’m preparing my heart for what is to come.”
An accomplished student, Adderly even has her name on a research document published in the African Journal of Herpetology, which reported on the finding of a new species of gecko in Namibia.
Instead of discovering new kinds of geckoes, lizards and other creatures, though, she would much rather find, and cultivate, the faith in the youth of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation.
“God was revealing himself to me, always,” she says. “My heart is full of love, joy and peace.”
She added, “Life in Christ is always an adventure.”