On a recent Sunday, Joan Patten’s family, friends, students, mentors, and friends of the Diocese of Orange community gathered, along with the Secular Institute of the Apostolic Oblates (AO), at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Fullerton for Patten’s profession of triennial vows.
The Apostolic Oblates is an international secular institute of pontifical right in the Roman Catholic Church, founded in 1950 by Bishop Guglielmo William Giaquinta in Italy. Laywomen from around the world are called to dedicate their lives through vows and an apostolate of interior life and holiness—primarily through the Pro Sanctity Movement; a movement in the Church dedicated to spreading this universal call.
Patten, who recently got back from a summer-long retreat in Rome with many of her sisters and founders of the Apostolic Oblates, had been prayerfully preparing herself for the special day.
“I had a year of integration leading up this profession, and I am grateful for the time of examination and preparation in which I reviewed the graces received in my vocation,” she shared. “I knew the Lord was inviting me to say ‘yes’ again.”
Living in community as missionaries for the Institute, the Oblates at Pro Sanctity Movement West’s retreat center in Fullerton work with parishes, host retreats, summer camps, spiritual direction, and family formation events.
Patten moved to Orange County in fall 2013 from her hometown near Omaha, Nebraska, where she came from a strong Catholic family “where religious vocations were encouraged.”
“I knew the Apostolic Oblates since I was young and participated in their programs [in Omaha],” she said. “In high school and college, I served as a counselor and director at their summer camp for girls and the seeds were planted. I was attracted to their joy and found myself falling more in love with Jesus as I worked and prayed with them.”
Since first joining the Oblates and coming to California, Patten sought ways to connect with other Catholics in the Diocese, teaching Confirmation and joining with Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Catholic club on campus to host fellowship events, retreats, and praise and worship nights.
She took several renewal vows over the years before making her triennial covenant before the Institute, family and friends, and God.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist and Commitment, celebrated by Rev. Michael Murphy of St. Philip Benizi, involved many people from Joan’s spiritual journey and finished with a lively reception at the Pro Sanctity Spirituality Center.
The Apostolic Oblates, who do not wear habits to remain faithful to their call to secularity, also wore special liturgical celebrations as visible signs of their renewed consecration.
“As a consecrated woman, I have understood my spiritual motherhood through these ministries. I have learned that my yes is a gift that I can offer to God and ultimately, to the world. I know for certain I am doing God’s will, which is my greatest desire,” Joan shared, also thanking the various people in her life who have been with her along the journey.
“Moving to California has allowed me to embrace the missionary aspect of our vocation and personally, it had taught me to trust God much more deeply.”
Her next vows, after three years, would be full perpetual vows, tying her to the institute for life.
“I love the idea that I am called to be ‘everyone’s sister’ in all my interactions of daily life,” she added. “I am delighted to share the good things I have received from Jesus; most importantly, that each person know of their great dignity and their personal call to holiness.”