While the consecrated life was always a consideration for Mirjana Coccia as a child, she didn’t have it in mind when she met the Fellowship of the Beatitudes in Denver after moving from Phoenix in 2017.

Coccia had recently decided she didn’t want to teach, which had brought her to Arizona armed with a brand new bachelor’s degree in divinity from Thomas Aquinas College in California. The layoff from her customer service job after teaching and a breakup with her boyfriend brought her to Colorado to be closer to a friend. The friend’s mother thought it would be good for Coccia to pray vespers with the Community of the Beatitudes. Initially hesitant, Coccia ends up going.

“I immediately fell in love with the liturgy,” said Coccia, now 28. “I wasn’t thinking about religious life at the time. But the more I was with the Community of the Beatitudes, the more I felt that it was something I could give my life to.

Unfortunately, Coccia had a student loan debt of $ 10,000. To enter into formation for many orders of the Catholic Church, men and women must be free from debt, allowing them to take a vow of poverty. Realizing that it would take years to pay off her debt, Coccia applied for a grant from the nonprofit Vocations Fund, which exists to help those for whom debt is the only barrier to entry into the priesthood or the priesthood. consecrated religious life. Providentially, she got it.

“All the money in the world belongs to God, if he wanted to give me, he could and he did,” Coccia marveled. “It’s nice to be free from the thing in the world that was preventing me from following my call.”

With black, curly shoulder length hair, pink rimmed glasses and a ready laugh, Coccia is one of 13 people across the country to whom the Vocations Fund has awarded grants this year. The fund takes care of the monthly student loan payments of its beneficiaries while the person is in training. If the person leaves the training, the balance of the loan returns to him; if the person perseveres, the fund will reimburse any remaining balance within five years of final vows.

“Vocations are the lifeblood of the Church, and it is a tragedy to lose just one to a solvable problem like student debt,” said Cory Huber, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Fund for vocations, in a press release. “The Vocations Fund offers the lay faithful a powerful and practical means of supporting vocations. ”

Since its inception in 2006, the organization has provided debt relief to nearly 250 men and women pursuing a call to the priesthood or consecrated life. This year, only for the second time in the history of the organization, she was able to approve all of the qualified nominations she received.

“We thank all the supporters whose generosity, even during such a difficult year of 2020, has made it possible for the fund to not have to turn anyone away,” said Huber.

Coccia is deeply grateful to the Vocation Fund.

“God bless them,” she said. “It was really a beautiful confirmation from the Lord that, yes, he wants me here.”

Canonically, the Community of the Beatitudes is an ecclesial Family of consecrated life. One of the new realities of the Church which followed the Second Vatican Council, it was born from the Catholic charismatic renewal as a contemplative and missionary community in France in 1973. It is made up of three branches: the consecrated brothers, who include the deacons. and priests; consecrated sisters; and lay members, married or single. The charism of the community, according to beatitudes.org, embraces “life in the Spirit, communion of states of life and apostolic works”. It emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit for mission and evangelism. It also promotes interest in the Jewish roots of Christianity and prayer for the people of Israel and for the unity of Christians.

The Community of the Beatitudes has founded 50 houses in 28 countries around the world. The Denver house is the only one in the United States.

The spirituality of the Community of the Beatitudes spoke strongly to the diverse Catholic education of Coccia. Born in New Jersey as the oldest of five siblings, Coccia’s family moved to Austria when she was 10 so her father could attend the International Theological Institute, which was founded at the behest of Saint John. -Paul II to serve as a bridge between the East and the Western traditions of the Church. The institute attracts Catholics from a variety of practices – both charismatic and traditional – and from nations, primarily from Central, Eastern and Western Europe and the Americas.

“It was like this small international community of Catholic families in the same city. There was a very strong Eastern Catholic presence, half of the student body was Byzantine. We went to the Divine Liturgy all the time, ”said Coccia. “I felt very comfortable in the Community of the Beatitudes because we are also characterized by this internationality – there is this very strong pattern of Eastern Catholicism, it is charismatic and it is also rooted in tradition.

“God gave me the same kind of eclectic mix that I grew up with and the idea of ​​different states of life – brothers, sisters and lay members – living in fellowship with one another. ”

Currently in her aspirant year, Coccia discerns a call to consecrated life.

“It didn’t start like that,” she laughs. “We have the secular branch. At first, I was too scared to think about becoming a sister.

Her call to be a religious came to her when she went to Israel for three months with the Beatitudes Missions, which is a community apostolate for young people. During this time of pilgrimage and service in the Holy Land, Coccia had a strong encounter with Christ at Christmas in Bethlehem.

“It’s not that I didn’t know the Lord before,” she said. “It was like when you were talking about the baptism in the Spirit, where I felt, God is my Father! It really prepared me to say yes to the idea of ​​consecrated life. I wasn’t ready to say yes until then.

His training includes study, prayer, work and community life.

“The greatest joy has been community life,” she said, adding with a laugh, “and the greatest challenge has been community life.”

It will be seven to eight years before Coccia completes her training with her final vows.

Currently, Coccia and the three others in training with her are raising funds for a six week missionary trip to Lebanon. On the occasion of the “Year of Common Formation – Mission to Lebanon”, they will carry out disaster relief work and practice solidarity in prayer with Christians from June 16. She anticipates, hopefully, meeting the Lord again during her mission and daily through her training.

“My journey was the work of the Lord. I can not do anything [apart from Him], as Scripture says, ”she noted. “It is truly the work of the Lord in the Lord’s time. That’s His call. It’s really beautiful.”

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