By Celine Klosterman
(Editor’s note: For National Vocation Awareness Week, Jan. 11-17, The Catholic Messenger is featuring stories on men and women in religious life. See more in the People and Features section.)
Tony Herold was an elementary student at St. Mary School in Fort Madison when he discovered his older sister, Judy Herold, was entering the postulancy in St. Louis to become a School Sister of Notre Dame. He felt pride — and excitement: “We were being taught by the Sisters, so I thought, I have an in!” he laughs.
Whether or not Judy’s place in the Sisters’ community brought him good grades, she did help shape her brother’s future.
“She was a very important part of my vocation,” says Father Tony, now pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton. Judy’s becoming a Sister helped him see religious life as an acceptable choice, and she supported her brother, 10 years younger, as he made his own journey toward a vocation.
That journey was underway by the time Tony graduated from Aquinas High School in Fort Madison in 1971. He, Judy and their three siblings had grown up with a father, Phil, who sat on the Diocesan Pastoral Council, and a mother, Irene, who like Phil never missed Mass and highly respected the priesthood. Both parents had family besides Judy in religious life: Phil’s sister was a Sister of St. Francis, and Irene’s aunt was a School Sister of Notre Dame.
Though 18-year-old Tony hadn’t yet thought of a religious vocation, he felt a “gnawing” and sense of incompleteness that inspired spiritual reflection. Judy aided that reflection, giving him a book about humanity’s search for meaning and later a modern translation of the New Testament. The siblings began having deep talks, and Fr. Tony thinks she knew he was looking at the priesthood before their parents did.
When Tony did share the news with his parents, they told him they’d support him no matter what. “I was always very grateful to them for that.” Sister Judy says they encouraged her likewise.
Now pastoral associate at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, Sr. Judy cites family support as one reason she’s stayed in religious life. Of 76 women she professed first vows with in 1964, 23 remain Sisters, “still very much energized as women of hope transforming the world,” she says.
“What a great support,” Sr. Judy says of family as she glances at Fr. Tony, who offers a skeptical look and laughs. “You’re too kind,” he says.
Certainly, several factors have played into both Herolds’ vocations. Sr. Judy also cites the hospitality of Sisters who staffed Catholic schools she attended. Fr. Tony mentions a talk with former Aquinas principal Father John Hyland, now Msgr. Hyland, who convinced him to seriously consider the seminary.
Though fewer Sisters and priests exist in the Catholic Church today, the Herolds are sure God still has ways to call people to religious life.
“I think the energy for vocations is there,” says Sr. Judy. Tomorrow’s religious simply may not resemble today’s or yesterday’s, she notes.
“We need to be open to where God’s leading us,” agrees Fr. Tony.
For the moment, he and Sr. Judy are looking forward to milestone anniversaries of their entries into religious life. This year, Sr. Judy will mark her 45th anniversary of making first vows, and Fr. Tony is observing his 30th year since being ordained to the priesthood.
The two note they’ve discerned their vocational choices throughout those years. One’s relationship with God changes over time, Fr. Tony observes, just as a married couple’s relationship does.
But ultimately, both Herolds voice confidence in their decision.
“I can’t think of being any other place,” says Sr. Judy.
Says Fr. Tony, “I can’t either.”