“I was drawn to imitate Mary’s deep humility and constant mortification.”
Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Immaculate Conception
Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary
Summit, New Jersey
I was raised Catholic in Overland Park outside Kansas City. My mother is Catholic, but my father is not. However, he always encouraged us to actively participate in religious or service-related activities. I went to Catholic schools from kindergarten to high school. Then, I went to Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, a secular school where I subjected myself to many temptations and wasn’t living my faith like I should.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I had my conversion, realizing that I had wasted nearly 20 years of my life seeking a self-indulgent lifestyle. I dove into the mysteries of the Church and was completely captivated by the graces of God. Very slowly elements of my life began to change as blessings were poured upon me.
Just last year in September of my junior year, the chaplain of the Newman Center asked me if I had ever considered religious life. I replied: I’m too young. Immediately feeling like Jeremiah, there began a bombardment of thoughts about my vocation. I was terrified of what God might be asking of me. A couple of weeks later, the chaplain became my spiritual director.
Then I found St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration. Slowly I changed, entering a more intimate level with God. More than one year ago, on December 8th, 2007, I consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary. I was drawn to imitate Mary’s deep humility and constant mortification. Through prayer, I heard God distinctly calling me to religious life and unlike before, I wasn’t afraid anymore.
Where to? I made all these plans for the next year like starting a Catholic women’s household, plans for the Newman Center, plans to graduate and God was laughing. I was completely content knowing I was called to religious life and waiting, until I realized God was prompting me to find the place now. I began to feel like Peter and Andrew, called to leave everything behind and follow Jesus.
I opened up my schedule and started spending about 6 hours a week discerning. Earlier that year, in October, I had met two Nashville Dominicans at a tea party in Wichita and was drawn to the joy that they radiated. Those two stories started a bonfire inside. The call to be a “Bride of Christ” enthralled me. I wanted to love Christ with the same fire they had.
In early January, I went on a discernment retreat with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a teaching order. This retreat brought me a greater understanding of what religious life involves and really focused me on where I needed to go from here. I evaluated my talents and began discerning where I would fit in best. I started looking into and contacting every order that slightly interested me. I was still totally lost until I began a 54-day Rosary Novena, entrusting my vocation to the care and protection of my Mother.
At this point (March 2008) I was looking into teaching, health care, and parish ministries, yet none of it was clicking. I thumbed through pamphlets, newsletters, informational brochures, letters and it was all SO exciting, but nothing was ringing a bell. I kept saying, “If God is calling me to be a teacher then I will teach, but I don’t think He is.” One day during spiritual direction, when I hadn’t even given it any thought, I said, “I kind of want to look into cloistered orders, ya know, just to rule them out.”
The next week, I was in Clearwater (near Wichita) visiting Carmelites. Talking with them, I gained a deeper insight into how completely these women live their lives: every single little thing centered around Christ. Immediately after leaving, I couldn’t rule them out. My first thought was “these women are nuts… I think I just might be as crazy as them.” It took several weeks and a lot of grace for me to accept that I might have a cloistered vocation, but one without Carmelite spirituality.
Then I discovered Dominican spirituality, a perfect fit. The more I learned about it, the more I felt the pieces falling into place. I love the emphasis that St. Dominic places on study. There are 16 cloistered Dominican communities in the US and I contacted every single one of them. Something about Summit kept catching my eye. I was already going to New York for the Papal Mass in April, and decided to see if I could visit. As soon as I was there, I knew this was the place for me.
I firmly believe I have found my home on the 57th day of the Novena, after being patient for a whole three days extra. In August 2008, I went for an Aspirancy and it was hard, but I distinctly heard Christ calling me to be His Bride there. Now I find myself like Mary after the Annunciation, leaving with haste, eagerly anticipating being with Christ.