|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
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
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
are not that different after all – we both strive
to love and serve God.
|With students of Woodlands Academy, a girls’ boarding school in Wicklow, Ireland.|
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
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
|"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?
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Current cost:
$16.95. Discounts are available for bulk orders.