5 minutes with Sister Ann Goggin, r.c.

December 20, 2011

HOUSTON — As a student at Marquette University during the 1960s, Sister Ann Goggin was determined to go into lay ministry.

The current Cenacle Sister was a theology major, and with the Second Vatican Council in session, "it was a very exciting time and I really fell in love with theology and with the sense of what we would say now: Helping the reign of God come about," she said.

After graduating, Sister Goggin became the first lay religion teacher in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. But after she made a retreat at a Cenacle, she experienced a call to religious life.

"I'm not sure I could say why I was so certain that it was religious life and not continued lay ministry except that I think it had something to do with organizing your whole life around the search for God," said Sister Goggin, who currently serves at the Cenacle Retreat House in Houston as the Director of the Spiritual Direction Institute. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theology, a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry degree in spirituality.

Sister Goggin is in her 45th year of religious life with the Cenacle Sisters, and has served more than 40 years in spiritual direction. She is starting her fifth year at the Cenacle Retreat House, although she served at the local retreat center for three years during the 1970s. She returned to the Cenacle after directing programs in lay ministry formation in Colorado and at the University of Notre Dame, as well as serving as a university chaplain.

On New Year's Day 2012, she will be leaving for the Philippines for a month's stay. She had visited Manila in 1992 for World Youth Day.

"Our sisters have a program in spiritual accompaniment for native Chinese sisters [in the Philippines] who never had much formation, as many of them work in the underground Church," Sister Goggin said. "They asked for some help this year, so I am going to be teaching part of the spiritual exercises of Ignatius. It will be a new wonderful experience, meeting people in the Chinese Church who believe in great risks still."

During a recent visit with the Texas Catholic Herald, the native of Muskegon, Mich. discussed her vocation and role in helping others discover God.

Texas Catholic Herald: What drew you to the Cenacle Sisters?
Sister Ann Goggin: I originally met the Cenacles when I was in college at Marquette University, and at a Jesuit university, you had to make a retreat every year or you couldn't graduate. They used to say if you have to make a retreat, make one worth your time and go to a retreat house.

Theology was my passion, and I really wanted to work in theology and spirituality. Eventually — work-wise, ministry-wise — I wanted to do something I called faith formation. That word was just not around then, [but] we use it commonly today. I remember expressing that to a Cenacle Sister who I knew from being my dorm counselor in college ... and she said, "this is what we do." The Cenacle was always an unusual order in terms of its ministry and mission. So her look was astonishment because I really described the charisma [of the congregation].

TCH: How did your affiliation in spiritual direction and formation begin? What were your experiences like serving as a university chaplain?
Sister Goggin: I was always interested in people's search for God and how God wants to find people.

I spent a fair amount of my ministerial life working with young adults. I was a chaplain and a college director of campus ministry.

It is hard work working with that age group. But one of the key things for me is that there were people around me in that stage of life, especially when I was at university, that helped open up a whole new world to me. And I hope that I may be able to help other students have access to what I really learned and the path that [was] set out for me.

TCH: How much has Houston changed since you were originally here?
Sister Goggin: I love the people here. I loved the people of Texas when I was here before. The place has changed tremendously since the years I was gone and has become so multicultural in a way different than when I left. And the Catholic population has grown enormously in that time. When I was here before, we were still considered a mission church. It is a young city now.

TCH: How has your work in faith formation transformed you?
Sister Goggin: The work that we do is enormously privileged work. To be with people who desire a deeper spiritual life, it is utterly transformative for the person in the ministry as much as the person who comes looking for ways to discover God more deeply.

TCH: What types of hobbies and recreation do you enjoy?
Sister Goggin: I am a devoted mystery fan. I like music, particularly classical music. I enjoy being with friends who I don't see very often.

TCH: How would you advise anyone discerning the call to religious life?
Sister Goggin: I obviously really believe in the vocation of consecrated life and I would hope for [those discerning] to have someone walk with them and have the real confidence that God calls to life. God won't call them to something that they can't stand the thought of doing. God will be with them and call them to where they are going to find their deepest joy. †