“Time is of the essence”
Sister Mary Consolation of the Afflicted Heeren, SSVM
Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara
Professed Final Vows September 14, 2018
My vocation story may be unusual in that my faith actually deepened when I got to college. You often hear about kids who were raised in strong Catholic families and then get kind of lost in the wilderness during college. But that was not my story. My mother was (and still is) a teacher at the Catholic school where I went as a child for my whole K-12 grades. We went to Mass as a family every weekend. However, my faith was not really my own until I got to college. I was very fortunate to meet holy men and women there who got me involved in retreats, teaching, and Catholic life generally.
The turning point may have been the summer of 2009. I taught the Totus Tuus (Totally Yours) summer program for the diocese, travelling as part of a team to teach grades 1-12 at a different parish each week. I met many people who were on fire for their faith including two men on my team who were seminarians. That whole summer was spent in teaching and prayer. As a team each day we prayed the Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Night Prayer, a Rosary, a Divine Mercy chaplet, and the Angelus. We also attended daily Mass and observed Eucharistic Adoration during the week. When the summer program ended and I went back to campus, I continued praying the Liturgy of the Hours and going to daily Mass. I also did the consecration to Jesus through Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. I found myself in chapel more than I was in class. I had fallen in love with the Lord.
In October of that year, at Adoration, I felt God’s call to be His entirely. I was immediately at peace with that call, but unsure how to pursue it. There are not many religious communities in Iowa, and after I began researching and visiting, I could not find one to which I felt called. Then one day a friend who had taught on a different Totus Tuus team recommended the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara. His sister had joined that order when she was 17 and about a month earlier, he had joined the men’s branch of the order. I looked them up online and realized “this could be it.”
I planned a trip to Washington, DC for the January 2010 March for Life and arranged to stay with the sisters while I was in that city. As I spent time visiting and praying with them, I knew that it was exactly where I belonged. I just knew it, and I felt so much peace in my heart. But for me, as for so many other young people today, the big obstacle was student debt. I went back to Iowa to finish college, and then I had to defer my vocation for a year so I could earn money: teaching, working in restaurants, doing everything I could to get rid of the debt so I could accept my vocation.
Along with working as hard as I could, I spent that year praying as hard as I could. I offered a 30-day prayer to St. Joseph . . . and ultimately, I received a St. Joseph’s Grant from the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations.
One thing I would like to say is that time is of the essence when it comes to religious vocations. You often hear people say things like “If your vocation is real today, it will be real next year, and five years from now, or 10 years from now.” That misses the point. When God calls you, it’s important to say “Here I am Lord”—not “I’ll get back to You” or “Hang on, just let me bury my father first.” A vocation is a great gift from God, and there is a certain grace period that you have to say Yes after that call comes. Do it now. A delay of even just a year can erode that grace.
I will never stop being grateful to the Fund’s supporters for enabling me to accept my call promptly. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.