Diocesan News

Teacher shares story of uncommon vocation

Consecrated laywoman: ‘When you follow God’s will, you are happiest’

Story by Reagan Scott

LINCOLN (SNR) - On Sept. 9, 2017, Karen Bonkiewicz took her vows as a consecrated laywoman with the lay consecrated branch of the Apostles of the Interior Life.

One year later, she continues to live out her vocation while teaching Spanish at Pius X High School in Lincoln.

In 2011, Bonkiewicz was still trying to make sense of God’s plan for her. After two and a half years with the Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln, she had to leave for health reasons; but God had given her the desire to be a religious sister.

She said that she asked God, “Why would you put this desire in my heart if it couldn’t be filled?”

Bonkiewicz first began to consider the religious life after meeting the Apostles of the Interior Life, based in Kansas, when she was in graduate school at the University of Kansas. Four years ago, she began to discern with the lay consecrated branch of the order to become a consecrated laywoman.

Consecrated laywomen are brides of Christ who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but live in the world as a witness of God’s love.

“In my case, I witness His love as a daughter, sibling, aunt, friend, teacher and co-worker,” Bonkiewicz wrote in a letter that she sent to family and friends before she took her vows last year.

Encouraged by Bishop James Conley in Lincoln, Bonkiewicz made the decision to join the community as a consecrated laywoman, so that she would have a support system in her vocation. She said that she is grateful for his advice and enjoys the sense of community that she has with the Apostles of the Interior Life.

Through Skype, Bonkiewicz talks to her superior, as well as the other two consecrated laywomen in the Apostles of the Interior Life who live in Chicago and Texas.

For Bonkiewicz, this frequent contact helps her to stay honest in her faith life, which includes daily Mass, rosary, holy hour and the Divine Office. She spends one day a month in silence as a retreat day, receives frequent spiritual guidance and participates in the community’s week-long silent retreat each year.

Bonkiewicz credits her time with the Marian Sisters with helping her to form her prayer life. Every day, she decides when she will go to Mass and spend her holy hour of Eucharistic adoration before she plans the rest of her schedule.

She said she knows that she is in the right place because her classroom is right down the hall from the school’s chapel.

“[God] placed me right down the hall from Him. It’s like He wanted me near Him physically,” Bonkiewicz said.

Bonkiewicz has taught at Pius for eight years, and this school year marks the beginning of her 16th year of teaching. She said that her vocation plays into her position at Pius as she shows kindness, joy and dignity to all of her students. 

Bonkiewicz said, “Every student is an encounter, a way to show them the face of Jesus.”

Bonkiewicz is currently taking classes on spiritual direction and applies the skills that she is learning in the classroom.

“I make myself available and open to the students,” she said. “I help them find their own journey,” she said.

In addition to teaching, Bonkiewicz is the sponsor of Pius’s pro-life club, Students for Life, which is devoted to working to protect life “from womb to tomb.”

As the club’s sponsor, Bonkiewicz handles the administrative work for the group’s events, which include things such as writing letters to the elderly in nursing homes, baking cupcakes to sell for fundraising and hosting a Pro-Life Day, which will be held this year on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

While her days can be full, Bonkiewicz is grateful to have found her “uncommon” vocation and wants other people to know that it is an option.

“This vocation exists, and maybe other people are called to it,” she said.

A year after taking vows, Bonkiewicz says her relationship with Jesus is even more profound.

She said, “When you follow God’s will, you are happiest.”

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