| By Carla Adams

Sister works with religious communities, women who are discerning

To consecrate something generally means to set it apart and to devote it for a holy purpose. When men and women join a religious community, they consecrate their lives to God, and they dedicate their lives to the service and worship of God. They choose to leave everything and follow God. They take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They seek to live simply and are totally dependent on God. The Diocese of Austin is blessed with many priests, brothers and sisters who have set themselves apart for God via religious communities, societies of apostolic life or secular institutes. These men and women serve the diocese in countless ways.

The Office of Consecrated and Apostolic Life is a recently re-established diocesan office that was created to work with the consecrated men and women within the Diocese of Austin. Sister Silvia Tarafa, a member of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, serves as the director. 

“Basically, I serve Bishop Vásquez as his liaison with all the consecrated men and women doing ministry in the diocese,” she said. “It is my hope to be a bridge that communicates to them the bishop’s vision as well as to bring back to him their needs and concerns.”

Because this position has been vacant for several years, Sister Silvia is busy reaching out to and meeting with all the religious priests, brothers and sisters who are serving in the Diocese of Austin. 

“These vital communities for our diocese have varying concerns, such as health, vocations, immigration, personal, spiritual, aging members, language barriers, changes in their communities, etc. I simply want them to know I am here on behalf of the bishop as his mediator, his ears, and hands to help; I’m here to love them!” 

Sister Silvia lives at Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent in Round Rock with three other sisters who are also members of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary and who serve at St. William Parish. She enjoys teaching the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at St. William because she enjoys sharing the faith. 

The Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary include 16 convents in Florida, Arizona, South Dakota, Phoenix, Kansas, Texas, Paraguay and Italy. The order was founded in 1990 by Mother Adela Galindo in the Archdiocese of Miami. They are called to be “ardent witnesses of the power and fecundity of love and the splendor of the Magisterium and treasures of the church so as to form the human heart and thus build a new civilization of love, truth and life in the heart of the church and in the heart of the world," according to the order’s website.

Sister Silvia’s new mission also includes assisting the diocesan Office of Vocations, by working specifically with women who are discerning. 

“I’ve had the honor of guiding young adults discerning their vocation. It is my hope to continue encouraging others to build a relationship with our good Lord, to trust him and to seek the plan he has for them. I hope to show others to trust what God is asking and to know that being set apart by God is a blessing and honor for all eternity, not only the person discerning but also for the whole family,” she said.

All men and women who are discerning God’s call need our prayers, she said. “The most important thing everyone can do is to pray for vocations because God never stops calling,” she said. “Also, pray for young people to be open to having and growing a prayerful relationship with the Lord because then everything falls into place. Once you develop that relationship of trust you can hear him.” 

And how does one develop that relationship? The easiest way is by spending time in front of Jesus himself in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, she said. 

“Go to Adoration! Jesus is there physically, waiting for you!” she said. “You’re in front of the Son and will get a sunburn of his love that will fill your heart and show you the path.”

For more information about the Office of Consecrated and Apostolic Life, contact Sister Silvia Tarafa at sr-silvia-tarafa@austindiocese.org.

Carla Smith has been a writer for Catholic Spirit since 2016. A long-time Austinite, she and her husband are members of Santa Rosa Parish in Andice. They enjoy spending time with their daughter and their three dogs, as well as fellowship, golf and football.