As the seconds ticked away, the timekeeper cast her eyes across a student lounge on the Notre Dame campus here and announced it was time for the speed daters to change partners. So April Adalim, 24, got up and moved to a tall chair at a round table across from her newest suitor: a graying, bespectacled woman in a religious habit, Sister Theresa Sullivan of the Daughters of Charity.
In this version of courtship, Ms. Adalim was seeking not an affair of the heart but of the soul. After two years of volunteer teaching in a parochial school in Tulsa, Okla., as part of theAlliance for Catholic Education program, Ms. Adalim was attending its Vocation Day.
Along with 31 other young men and women from ACE, as the program is known, Ms. Adalim was agonizing over whether to answer the call to what Catholics refer to as “the consecrated life,” one spent in the priesthood or a religious order. In that process of discernment, the participants were all wrestling with whether to set aside marriage, family and a conventional career.
The speed-dating session — yes, it was called exactly that — put 17 women into rotating conversations with sisters from a dozen religious orders. The sisters had brought along swag in the form of nail files, bookmarks, bottles of hand sanitizer and knitted pouches for rosary beads, all branded with the names of their orders. A large poster from the Sisters of St. Benedict offered a slogan intended for idealistic youth: “The world is zigging. I zagged.”