Search      Language 

Turn to Jesus (Article)

Married to Mr. Right, and with Hundreds of Kids
As a girl, Denise Funke was convinced she was made for marriage, motherhood, and making a difference. She was ready to teach and promote the pro-life cause. But God had other plans.

Denise asks for John Paul II’s blessing on the Oakhill School, founded in the year 2000.
Denise asks for John Paul II’s blessing on the Oakhill School, founded in the year 2000.

“Denise,” her boyfriend told her before heading off to the seminary, “if we can’t trust God, something is wrong!” This advice stayed with Denise as she embarked on her own vocational discernment. And it continues to be relevant each and every day.

A native of Calgary, in the province of Alberta, Canada, Denise Funke followed her own vocation at a time when the consecrated life in the Regnum Christi movement had just arrived to North America. Her trajectory since then has been a path of faith: from directing a boarding school to founding a school in Ireland, her mission has not always been easy. But faith has made the impossible possible. As a lay colleague at the school put it:

“During the time I knew Denise, she lived her faith every day, not just in her prayer life but in the way she took the rough with the smooth. She battled the problems of setting up a new school – the building work, the awkward parents, the sometimes difficult children, the comings and goings of staff. She accepted all the upsets with patience and grace and showed the rest of us how to see the good in all people, the rose instead of the thorns, the soul instead of the body. She also battled personal illness which had her hospitalised on more than one occasion. But even then, her belief and strong faith kept her positive.

“I am not saying that Denise is super-human! But she does have an infectious positivity. She seemed to transcend the negativity and see the love of God in everything and everyone and this great faith helped her over many obstacles. She often spoke of God to me but in a way that made Him seem my friend, not a judgmental and distant God, but One of love and understanding and always forgiving. She would bring His name into the conversation naturally; it seemed so easy for her to do this. He is her husband, her brother, her friend and she spoke of Him with ease.”

In the following interview, Denise shares more about what it was like giving up her own dreams of being a wife and mother for God’s dreams, what she has learned from the challenges along the way, and what advice she would give to girls (and parents) who are discerning a possible vocation.

Your vocation story in “Count the Stars” mentions how it was hard for you to give up your dream of becoming a wife, mother, and teacher. Has God fulfilled your heart’s desires through your vocation? How?

Now, 16 years later, I laugh with Christ remembering what I thought life with Him was going to be like. I never chose this vocation; I accepted it. Now I would never choose anything else, I embrace it. I wanted to love my husband and together raise a family and I thought by consecrating my life to Christ I was giving that all up. I was wrong.

Every day I experience Christ’s love for me in unexpected ways and I strive to answer to that love. His presence is real and palpable. I don’t have to wait to get home from work to talk to Him. I don’t even need to pick up the phone! We do everything together. He is always with me and eternally faithful. He brings many children into my life. I help children discover Christ as a real friend and give teens the support they need to be who they really are. When I get the chance to talk to my two married sisters, I realize that really our vocations
With students of Woodlands Academy, a girls’ boarding school in Wicklow, Ireland.
With students of Woodlands Academy, a girls’ boarding school in Wicklow, Ireland.
are not that different after all – we both strive to love and serve God.

What has been the most challenging aspect or moment in your consecrated life? What did you learn from it?

There have been many challenges. It’s funny, I remember my mom telling my sisters and I as we started asking questions about marriage:

“People would tell me that the first years of marriage were a struggle. Then they would tell me that well, when the kids are little things are hard. Later they would say that while the kids are going through their teens… I then realized marriage is hard work, and you need to work at your relationship every day. It’s not easy but it’s worth every minute.”

I often think back to this advice as I strive to live my own vocation in consecrated life faithfully. It seems like there is always a challenge to face – either something within myself that I am struggling with, or a new apostolate I feel unsure about, or a new team I need to adapt to or a tough situation in the apostolate.

Two things stand out for me: one is when I had to help students at our boarding school in Dublin deal with the death of one of their parents. I suffered dearly with each of them and dug as deep as I could to find some way to console them and help them to find meaning and God’s love in all their pain. Being the principal of a boarding school is an enormous responsibility, but it was so rewarding to see the fruits of love shared with teens. The other challenge was starting a new school in Dublin and being responsible for finding students, the plans and construction of the buildings, as well as the
The Funke family.
"In the family, the members do not just learn the theory of Christian teachings; they learn to be Christians."
daily running of the school.

I learn a lot from the challenges Christ allows in my life. It helps me to see how much more I still have to give. Challenges help me to turn to Christ for strength as well as guidance on how I can do what He is asking of me. These situations help me mature, grow in right judgment, humility and strength of spirit. More than anything else, it has taught me what real faith is.
Who has had the deepest impact on the way you live out your vocation? What did you learn from them?

This is a hard question to answer because so many good and holy people have helped me. I am who I am thanks to my parents, my family, a priest back home who helped me so much and good Catholic friends. In my 16 years living my vocation so many helpful directors have influenced me deeply, as well as the other consecrated women that have been on my teams. So many come to mind!

What advice would you give to a young woman who is approaching her vocational discernment with a personal list of pros and cons?

Discernment takes more than working through a list. You do need to choose a spouse but you don’t choose a vocation. Only God can call someone to a vocation. It is HIS initiative. “It is not you who have chosen me; I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:16).

So we can discover a vocation, but our only choice then is to say yes or no to that invitation. Therefore a list of pros and cons doesn’t work unless you are listing the pros and cons of saying yes to God and His plan for your life.

What advice would you give to parents who might find it hard to let their children follow God in the priesthood or consecrated life?

I thank God that my parents supported me wholeheartedly from the beginning. It wasn’t easy for them, since my following a vocation would mean physical separation. It was not easy for any of us. Actually I don’t think it’s easy for us even now, almost 16 years later. We love each other deeply and are a very close-knit family so it is hard to be far apart but we are still so close. The distance has made our love grow and our relationships deepen.

For parents whose children come to them with a possible vocation, the only question they need to ask is “Can we trust God?” Our love for God and belief that the path He marks out for us will bring us the greatest fulfillment and holiness has to be what gives us the strength to let a family member follow a possible call. That is how we show our love for God – lovingly embracing His will. How can we say no to God?

Denise Funke’s complete vocation story is published in a new book Count the Stars: Seven Women Who Believed God’s Promise, available from Circle Press. For more information about the book, click here. To order the book, contact Maritza Silva at 401-949-2820 ( Current cost: $16.95. Discounts are available for bulk orders.



Related links

Official web site of the Vatican.
Legionaries of Christ
For Your Vocation
Mater Ecclesaie College

Follow us on:   
Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

¿Deseas agregarMarried to Mr. Right, and with Hundreds of Kids a tus favoritos?
  -    No