“We focus on living our lives like Mary did, as a sacrifice of love for the Lord,” said junior Mary Louise Kohser, describing Mary, Spouse of the Spirit (MSOS) household’s spirituality. Kohser is the coordinator of MSOS, Franciscan University of Steubenville’s household dedicated to women’s discernment.
Kohser explained that the first women’s discernment household on campus, Heart of Mary, eventually formed the Franciscan Sisters, TOR, of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, who have continued to live and work on campus in ministry roles. After the TOR sisters began, MSOS stepped in to fill the gap for women discerning religious life over the past 26 years.
Kohser said that her household takes Mary as its model in all aspects of life and spirituality. “As Mary listened to the will of God and sacrificed her entire life to live that out, we, too, strive to listen to the still, small voice in our heart and then live out the will of God in our lives,” she explained.
Kohser also commented on her household’s commitment to community. “Right now we have a pretty amazing gift of community being fostered in our household,” Kosher said. “There is an incredible sense of family and a really true sisterhood that continues to flourish.”
The ladies of MSOS foster community especially through their commitments, which they have every day except Friday. “We’re a pretty intense household,” Kosher said, but “all of the commitments are aimed towards preparing us to live out our lives as sisters.” From daily Mass and holy hours to Marian devotions, MSOS devotes itself to a sure recipe for holiness.
In addition to helping their own household sisters become saints, the ladies of MSOS strive to serve the entire community in various ways and especially to help all women discern their vocation. During a monthly discernment holy hour, MSOS welcomes various religious sisters to campus to speak on an aspect of discernment, Kosher explained.
Another way that the household supports the holiness of Franciscan University is by hosting a fasting bread sale on Fridays in Lent. Kohser said that her household prays for the intentions of everyone who buys bread, emphasizing, “We really, truly desire just to minister.”
MSOS’s devotion to the Holy Spirit might seem obvious, but that devotion is deep and multifaceted. From personal discernment to household community and everything in between, MSOS strives to follow the promptings of the Spirit in all things and always grow in relationship with the Spirit, Kohser said.
According to Kohser, MSOS is open to any young woman hoping to intentionally discern her vocation in an intensified community setting. However, household membership has traditionally stayed under a dozen, allowing a close-knit sisterhood to flourish.
“The Spirit keeps us small,” Kosher said, beaming with the joy shared by her household sisters.
Despite being a small household, MSOS is always open to new intents. “While we do support each other in the discernment of religious life, we ask all women who are open to the Holy Spirit’s workings in their heart to consider … joining household,” said Kohser, “even if it’s for a period of one semester to enable them to discern the will of God for their lives.”
Kohser also dispelled the idea that MSOS has a “no dating clause” and said that household sisters who feel called to date and discern marriage are free to do so. “We strive to be open to allowing other women to discern the will of God in their lives, so all women are welcome in Mary Spouse,” Kohser said.
Kohser’s favorite part of life in MSOS are the household pillars of purity, humility and simplicity. “They really have enabled me to strive to live out God’s will for my life, especially when it comes to living a simple, pure and humble life, which is really, really difficult at times on a college campus,” Kohser said.
“As I’m attempting to begin letting go of this world, the pillars of our household, the charisms of our household have really enabled me to pray through surrender to the Lord,” Kohser said, hinting to her possible future as a religious sister.
MSOS follows the Holy Spirit even in activities as simple as painting a mural on the common room wall. Located on the second floor of St. Thomas More Hall, their common room’s mural of the Blessed Mother reminds the women to become ever more like Mary. “(The image of Mary) has a characteristic of each one of the sisters,” Kohser described. “I have her hands and one of my household sisters has her lips.”
Stop by the second floor of St. Thomas More Hall for a cup of coffee and some community to see for yourself how beautifully the members of this household are learning to reflect their patron, Mary, Spouse of the Spirit.