Tammy Grady has been working in the ministry of vocation awareness and discernment for most of her consecrated life. Ever since becoming a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi twenty-five years ago, she has felt God leading her towards vocation work in one way or another. And her current position as the Associate Vocation Director for Women Vocations for the Diocese of Dallas, Spiritual Director at both Benedictine College and SMU Catholic Campus Ministry and teaching Theology of the Body to young adults after being certified from the Theology of the Body Institute in Pennsylvania are just some of her latest roles in a life dedicated to helping young people discover God’s unique plan for their lives.
What does it take to be a vocation director, and carry out the important task of accompanying young adults as they discern God’s will for their future? Tammy believes that while it’s important to have proper training and studies in theology, the spiritual life, discernment of spirits and on-going formation in order to be better equipped to help guide others, what is equally important is that, as Vocation Director, she also has a strong prayer life, her own spiritual director and mentors, and a sincere love for the young people whom the Lord entrusts to her. “It’s important to really care for the candidate or directee and to try to see them as Christ sees them,” says Tammy. Her role involves learning how to listen well, being attentive to the discernment of spirits in the heart of the other, and helping the directee to develop her own relationship with the Lord and learn how to detect His voice and the Movements of the Holy Spirit in her heart and in her life. “I also think that experience has a lot to do with it. Your own personal experience of discerning, and the more experience that you gain in helping others to discern prepares you,” says Tammy. “When I look back over my life, I think it’s been my own personal prayer, the experiences that I had and learned through my own spiritual direction, growing more aware of how to detect the discernment of spirits, and accompanying so many others over the years in their walk that have really given me both life and spiritual experiences which have proven to be invaluable for my own mission.”
Tammy’s own discernment to the consecrated life within Regnum Christi deeply influences her current vocation work. For Tammy, her decision to give two years to the Church in volunteer work was the first step of discernment towards the consecrated life. “No matter what vocation we are called to, our baptism calls us to be a self-gift and to serve others,” says Tammy. “My years as a missionary really opened my heart to the beauty of a life dedicated to self-giving. Building upon this experience, a few years later the Lord let me to see the immense beauty and joy that comes with dedicating oneself to God as the Bride of Christ and mother to spiritual children.” The charism of the call to evangelize and to build Christ’s Kingdom on earth, particularly on an international level, led her to Regnum Christi.
But the key to Tammy’s own discernment to the consecrated life, and in her life in general, was focusing first on building a personal relationship with Christ. “For my own discernment, what helped the most, was that I was not so much looking to discern, as I was just looking to grow in relationship with God,” says Tammy. “So as I opened my heart to the Lord, and grew more in a personal relationship with him, I started to fall in love with him, then it was He who led me down the path of discernment and towards Regnum Christi, and it really was him that was moving me and giving me the grace to respond.”
And this is precisely the attitude – one of radical openness to a personal relationship with God – that Tammy encourages in the young people she accompanies through the process of discernment. While her ministry often involves coordinating specific vocation-centered events, such as weekend come-and-sees and Marian dinners, which give university students and young adults the opportunity to meet different religious sisters and consecrated women and experience different forms of the consecrated life, her main objective is to provide a space for a relationship with God to take root and be nourished in the hearts of those she accompanies. “Spiritual exercises, retreats about knowing how to be open to bringing God more into their lives, doing pilgrimages – these help young people take time in silence and reflection to see and listen where God could be leading them in their life,” says Tammy. “Retreats, doing apostolic work, and going on pilgrimages really take people out of their everyday environment, and enable them to give back to others, allow God to work in their life, and allow them to have a spirit of openness and trust.”
Creating these opportunities for young women to experience the consecrated life and nurture a relationship with God is particularly important to Tammy, who saw a gap in the discernment resources for women. “There are a lot of opportunities for those discerning the priesthood, but not as many for women discerning the consecrated life.” For this reason, Tammy finds herself as a point person for many young women, not just within the Diocese of Dallas, but throughout Texas and in other areas of the United States, who are seeking information about particular orders, prayer resources, spiritual direction, and, as she puts it, “anything that could help them to see where the Lord could possibly be leading them.”
For Tammy, this is what vocation work means – not simply guiding someone towards a decision to a specific state of life, but accompanying them on their journey towards a closer relationship with God:
“One of the things that I see about my work in vocations is that I don’t really consider it or label it as vocation work, but rather pastoral work, because really, the human heart is looking for God. The general vocation is really a life of holiness, union with God, and friendship with him. The specific vocation – whether you’re being called to some form of consecrated life or the married life – is more of your own particular path. So with my work, yes, it has to do with specific vocation discernment, but also just helping students and young women and young men to know God more and to trust in His love.”
For Tammy, accompanying young people along their discernment journey is an honor and a gift. “I feel like I’m walking on sacred ground, helping them to see where the Lord has been leading them,” she says. Throughout her twenty-five years of consecrated life, she has journeyed with women on their walk towards their vocation as a Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, Consecrated Virgins within a diocese or a religious sister within a variety of different religious orders. “All of them have been a great blessing to me,” says Tammy. “It’s just been encouraging to see that God still calls, and that there are still young women who want to be open to become the Bride of Christ in this world and offer themselves to God, to bring about His Kingdom on earth.”
Tammy has also helped women discern their vocation to Holy Matrimony through Christian marriage. “I’ve been very impressed by young women who have taken time to discern where God is calling them and in their openness discover that He is not calling them to the consecrated life, but to married life as a wife and mother. Their personal relationship with God leads them towards a commitment in seeking to make a difference in the world as an apostle; either as a Regnum Christi member and/or a strong active member of the local Church coupled with preparing themselves for the beautiful vocation of being a wife and mother in the world.”
While the COVID-19 crisis has created new challenges for Tammy’s vocation work, which she believes is better accomplished through face-to-face meetings and in-person relationships, she has noticed a benefit that has come from this unprecedented time as well: lockdowns, quarantines, and the general slowing down of everyday life necessitated by the pandemic have created more space for contemplation and discernment in the lives of the young people with whom she works. “People have more time for reflecting, and I find more people reaching out for discernment and asking deeper questions about life and the future,” says Tammy. “While it’s not the best platform, technical platforms have been useful in connecting with these young people and even serve as a forum for retreats, small group sharing, prayer moments and Q & A sessions.”
On Sept 1st, 2020 Tammy celebrated her 25th Anniversary of Consecrated life to Christ her Bridegroom and King. Reflecting on many of those years being involved with vocation work, Tammy can say that she has never tired of the ministry of accompanying young people through the journey of discernment; in fact, she considers vocation work her dream mission. “Really, I feel right now that I am kind of living a little bit of the dream in what I do,” says Tammy. “It’s beautiful to be able to help people to discover where the Holy Spirit and Christ are working in their life. There are young people still today who have a great heart in wanting to know where the Lord could be leading them, to put God first in their life, and make a difference in this world. To be able to play a role, no matter how small, in this process is a gift that God has granted me and I am forever grateful.”