Sr. Veronica Mary of the Transfiguration

“After the purifying fire of the loss of employment, debt and other humbling experiences, the Lord has created in me a heart that desires Him and Him alone.”

Sr. Veronica Mary of the Transfiguration Solemnly Professed, Monastery of the Most Holy Rosary Buffalo, New York. MEFV Grant Recipient.
sr.veronicaI am from a small family that includes my mother, father, one elder brother and two younger brothers. My parents are immigrants to Canada from Jamaica, with my father coming from Kingston and my mother coming from Montego Bay. I attended Catholic schools from elementary through to high school. At the age of seven I was confirmed and received my first Holy Communion. This would be the last time I would go to church until my late teens.

 

After high school, I attended community college to study medical laboratory technology. I was eighteen and during this time some friends from high school asked me if I wanted to make a retreat called Challenge. Challenge is a diocesan youth retreat movement where young people share their experiences of God with others. There are similar retreats with names such as Teens Encounter Christ, Search, etc. On this weekend the Lord touched my heart. I experienced a deep peace that was sweet and this sweetness remained with me for days. After my Challenge weekend I became very involved in many youth-related activities which included choir and prayer groups. It was during this time that I started to think about my vocation.

 

From the time I was a child, I felt drawn to religious life. As a child I loved to read or hear about the saints. I would sneak down to my brother’s room and look through a little prayer/Mass book he had that was filled with religious pictures. As a child I had a sense that God was watching over me from the clouds above. I knew God answered prayers because, when I was nine years old, I prayed for my mother who was very ill after the birth of my youngest brother Dwayne. My dad came home and told us that mom was sick and so I asked God to heal my mother. The following day dad came home and he said that mom was better.

 

So, in my middle twenties I started to look into religious orders. My success in youth ministry gave me somewhat of an inflated ego when I started to look at religious orders and I found it to be a very difficult road. The religious orders I contacted told me to wait and take time to listen to what or where the Lord was calling me. I knew they were right, but I didn’t really take their advice. Later when I was going through the application process with a community in Illinois our relationship fell apart. Bitterly, I left behind all ministries in the church. I felt I did all this work for the Lord, where was He to help me? So I decided religious life was not my vocation.

 

Still, I was interested in serving so I became involved with Amnesty International and other causes. I always had an interest in world events and people and I started to travel. I travelled to Israel and Jordan, Kenya, Italy, parts of Canada and the United States.

 

In 1993, my life changed dramatically with the loss of my job. My inability to find work threw me into a depression because not only did I lose my job, but I became aware of some unresolved deep personal pain as well. Seeing that I had no prospects in my career, I attempted to get a Cognitive Science degree.

 

Unfortunately, I found the computer sciences courses too much for me. Eventually I finished with an honours degree in Linguistics. This was a very hard, tumultuous period in my life but, in the end, I do believe it was a blessing. Although I was very bitter against God for the mess I found myself in, He was healing me of my life’s pain. Because of this healing, I believe I was able to hear the renewed call to religious life. If I had entered religious life when I was younger (and debt-free!!) I would have left or, as my spiritual director said, the community would never have allowed me to take vows. I didn’t know how deeply wounded I was until I went through these hard times. It was the Year of the Holy Spirit when life took a new direction.

 

I was praying the Divine Office of Evening Prayer when the antiphon, “You can’t serve both God and Mammon” seemed to be directed at me. I sat on the bed and I couldn’t continue with the Office. I knew that daily, I compromised my faith and I was doing so because I didn’t want to be drawn into any battles at school. Consequently, my faith was becoming lukewarm and slipping away. After this gentle but firm wake-up call from the Lord, I went to the hardest confession of my life. But that confession was the beginning of my new relationship with the Lord. My new relationship was rooted in the call to a greater intimacy with Him. My prayer life changed and I found myself being drawn deeper into contemplative prayer, that is, I spent more time just being with our Lord. Also, by grace, I found I had a thirst and hunger for the Eucharist that I didn’t have before coupled with a greater desire to be immersed in the Lord.

 

Once again, I found myself looking at religious orders. Being older I found even fewer doors opening. I looked into being a consecrated virgin, but our Archbishop doesn’t allow it. I looked at secular orders and none appealed to me with the exception of a Carmelite Secular Institute in Italy. I did consider applying but, in the end, I felt this community was not my vocation. Later, for four years, I was in formation with a Private Association called the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. This was a lay association of modern day penitents that followed the original third order rule for lay Franciscans written in 1221. Unfortunately, this association disbanded in August 2002. During this time I felt displaced, very unfulfilled and terribly discouraged.

 

I became a lay member of the Institute for Religious Life in 2001. In 2002, at their annual general meeting, again I felt the Lord calling me to religious life. I contacted Sr. Joseph Andrew of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist after I saw them at the meeting. I went to Ann Arbor for a retreat with the community and, although I didn’t feel called to this order, Sr. Joseph Andrew and I became friends. She helped to guide me in my discernment and she affirmed my religious vocation as well. One day I wrote to Sr. Joseph Andrew about my heart’s yearning for a life of prayer and greater intimacy with the Lord. She suggested that I might have a calling to the contemplative life. She suggested the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary in Buffalo.

 

I was skeptical because I didn’t believe I had a vocation to the contemplative life but out of respect to Sr. Joseph Andrew, I wrote to them for information. I thought that I wold write to them, they would reject me and I could say to Sister that at least I tried. I visited them in May 2005 and instead of being sent away, Sr. Rose of St. Mary encouraged me to consider an Aspirancy and she set up a meeting with the Prioress, Mother Mary Gemma.

 

Mother Gemma said I should keep in touch and next time meet with the Council. I returned in November during American Thanksgiving and met with the Council and they voted to allow me to make an Aspirancy. I spent three weeks with the sisters in February and March of 2006. I felt at home at the monastery and I felt that after all these very bitter years, I found where I am called. I completed and submitted the application and I was accepted.
My vocation walk has been a long and sometimes bitter walk. When I received the rejection from orders because of my age, I bitterly complained to the Lord as to why He didn’t open the doors sooner. Well, despite what my inflated ego thought, I was not ready for religious life when I was younger. My view of religious life back in my early twenties was simply a community where I could do ministry. The community would supply the necessary spirituality and the opportunity for me to do ministry. In many ways, God was secondary.

 

Now, after the purifying fire of the loss of employment, debt and other humbling experiences, the Lord has created in me a heart that desires Him and Him alone. Now, for me vocation and religious life is about Love. I feel the desire to give myself completely to my Beloved and allow Him to do with me as He pleases. From this view, the last twelve years have been a gift.

Sr. Mary of the Incarnation

“I had the wonderful grace of having a strong support system, and friends who encouraged me to do the will of God.”

 

 

Sr. Mary of the Incarnation (with MEFV co-founder Katherine Huber)Perpetually Professed, Servants of the Lord Santa Clara, California. MEFV Grant Recipient.

 
It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I started to take my faith seriously. I grew up in a Catholic family that went to Mass every Sunday and said grace before meals. I received my education from our local parochial grade school and a Catholic girls’ college preparatory high school. When I was fifteen, the Life Teen program came to my parish. Through the enthusiasm of the leaders and the priests who celebrated Mass for us, I experienced a new freedom in admitting that “He must increase and I must decrease,” and found myself wanting to deepen my relationship with Jesus. I also attended two of the Steubenville Youth Conferences which, looking back with hindsight, taught me the importance of leading a sacramental life with the Eucharist being the source of our strength, and gave me the courage to speak out about Catholicism. To say the thought of becoming a sister never crossed my mind would be untrue. I considered it as one of many options I could choose from. Although it was a common joke among my friends and me, I didn’t give the idea of becoming a sister too much thought.

 

My college years were spent at West Chester University of Pennsylvania studying psychology. Much of my freshman year was spent at the Newman Center, and I found myself involved in many of their activities throughout the week. My first encounter with my religious family took place at the beginning of my sophomore year. Very providentially, I met the sisters at a point when my faith life was very low. Towards the end of my freshman year, I found myself being the only Catholic in the middle of “non-denominational” prayer meetings and bible studies. No one in the group really understood where I was coming from and filled my head with many ideas that didn’t coincide with Catholic beliefs. As a result, my heavy involvement at the Newman Center trickled to only attending Mass on Sunday evenings, and I found myself very confused. One night in October of 1999 the Servants of the Lord came to a Newman Center event. Of the five who came, only one spoke English. The other four, although the spoke very broken English, radiated their enthusiasm and joy through their smiles and attempts to communicate with us. What attracted me initially were their full habits and evident joy that surpassed any language barrier.

 

This was the time that I found myself seriously trying to run from my vocation. I realized that I was thinking about becoming a sister more often than I wanted to admit to myself. I felt as if I was on the fence, but not ready to fall on one side. I was too afraid to speak to the priest at the Newman Center for fear that he might confirm and encourage my vocation. When I returned to college after Christmas break, under the direction of the priest at the Newman Center, I began to discern that God truly was calling me to religious life. I finally said yes during my junior year at college, and would enter upon graduating the next summer. I had the wonderful grace of having a strong support system, and friends who encouraged me to do the will of God. Although I visited a couple other local religious communities, I was certain that God was calling me to the joy-filled and missionary lifestyle of the Servants of the Lord.

Sr. Mary of the Incarnate Word

“I knew in that moment that God was calling me to be a Servant of the Lord. ”

Sr. Mary of the Incarnate Word, Perpetually Professed Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara. MEFV Grant Recipient.

 
120726.sriw.slvmMy vocation story begins with my call to become Catholic. I grew up in a home absent of religion, except for saying grace before meals. My parents divorced when I was young. My mother was baptized late in life in a Baptist church, and my father is a fallen-away Catholic. I was baptized when I was fifteen in a Protestant church and attended services every Sunday, but when I went to college, I wanted to find something more authentic. I decided to leave Indiana and go to school in Washington, DC, at The George Washington University. I was suddenly surrounded by so many different kinds of people who believed so many things, that I needed to find out what I believed. I had gone to a Catholic high school, so I decided to go to Mass, “just to see.” During that Mass, I made the decision to become Catholic.

 

While I was becoming acquainted with the Catholic Faith in RCIA classes, I began to feel the calling to leave everything behind and do something radical for God. I saw and advertisement in our Catholic Center bulletin for a “Women’s Discernment Group Activity.” Right away, I knew I had to go, even though I wasn’t sure what it was all about. The Group was going to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to see the Missionaries of Charity take their final vows. It was still well over three months before I would be accepted into the Church, but as I watched the ceremony, I had a feeling that this is what God was calling me to do.

 

Shortly after entering the Church, I spoke to our chaplain about my vocation, but it wasn’t until the subsequent chaplain at our university invited the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara to lead our Women’s Discernment Group, that I began to seriously consider my vocation. Weekly, the sisters came to give talks about how to grow in our spiritual life, the importance of prayer, and the struggles of college life for Catholic students. I began to visit the sisters and help with a children’s group that met at the convent to play on Saturdays. A critical moment came when I asked if I could spend Thanksgiving my sophomore year with the sisters, since I wasn’t able to go home. Spending the long weekend with them, I was able to get a better sense of their life in common, and I saw how much they enjoyed being with each other. They were so joyful, not gloomy or boring like the typical conception of sisters. It made me want to visit more and spend more time with them praying and getting to know their charism. As I grew in knowledge of the Servants of the Lord, their charism and spirituality, I found that it fit more and more perfectly.

 

I made the decision to enter while on retreat. I knew in that moment that God was calling me to be a Servant of the Lord. I didn’t know how I was going to explain it to my family, or what I was going to do about college, but I knew that it was God’s will. I spoke with the Provincial Superior and the rest is history. I never thought my whole life that God would call me to be a sister, but it shows that “God chooses the weak to confound the strong.”

 

I had many obstacles to my vocation, one of them was the situation with my college loans. My family comes from a very modest background, and was not willing or able to take on my loans. I continue to rely on Divine Providence and the intercession of St. Joseph to provide money for the debt.

Sr. Maria Teresa

“I needed to give of myself more completely, more radically.”

Sr. Maria Teresa of the Sacred Heart Solemnly Professed (pictured as a postulant), Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary Summit, New Jersey. MEFV Grant Recipient.

 

Sr-Maria-Teresa_1bI clearly remember the second grade. It was my first experience of being taught by a religious sister, an Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and I quickly decided that I wanted to grow up to be a nun, too! Years later, however, I fell seriously ill with Lyme Disease and fell away from the Catholic Faith as I was shuffled in and out of hospitals. After shopping around in different Protestant denominations, I felt God calling me home to the Catholic Church.

 

Coming home wasn’t easy, but as the Holy Spirit enveloped my heart, my mind was also set at ease as a dear friend explained the Catholic Faith in a way I had never heard in school. Suddenly all of the doctrine I had wrestled with became understandable to me. During my time away from the Church, I had been planning my life in the way I was expected … go to college, get a degree, get married, start a family. I had been dating a wonderful young man for a few years and we were very seriously considering marriage in the distant future. I was studying Biology and Religious Studies at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and everything seemed right on track.

 

One night in my dorm, however, a close friend of mine challenged my presumption that I was called to marriage. I had never thought of asking God what He wanted to do with my life, I just always assumed I was going to get married like everyone else I knew. With this challenge from my friend, I remembered my early childhood longing to be a bride of Christ. I ended my relationship with the young man and began to truly ask God what He wanted from my life.

 

As time went by, the desire to give my life completely to Christ increased. When I thought about marriage and living out my life with a husband and family, it seemed beautiful but I knew that my heart would never be satisfied. I needed to give of myself more completely, more radically.

 

As I was searching the internet for more information on religious life, I came across a section of the website for the Sisters of Life that captured my sentiments exactly: “ A religious vocation is about being so filled with the love of Christ that only giving oneself totally and exclusively back to Him will suffice.” I knew at that moment that what I wanted was to give my life to God as a religious sister … but not in the way I had thought. I wanted to be a Sister of Life or a Salesian Sister, someone out in the world ministering to Christ in the poor or teaching the Faith to the next generation. I was so excited about the possibilities — Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, Sisters of Life, Salesian Sisters, Little Sisters of the Poor!

 

And then I heard Christ speak gently to my heart, “What about a cloistered order?” I didn’t even know monastic men and women still existed. Needless to say, I was not thrilled. Actually, I was completely horrified with the idea. Me? Shut away from the world forever? How in the world would that be helpful? Slowly, Christ began to reveal myself to me. The things I thought I could never live with — quiet, solitude, continual prayer — Christ showed me how I was already drawn to them, I just didn’t realize it.

 

But what about helping the poor and ministering to the needy? Through grace I began to understand the relationship between Martha and Mary. The highest calling for all mankind is contemplation and union with God. Cloistered individuals give witness to this by their lives. They attest to the fact that this is not the end but there is something better. Their constant prayer reminds us all that it is prayer that is the foundation and support of action. Cloistered individuals are today‘s Moses, standing on the hill with arms outstretched in prayer. As long as this prayer continues, the battle is won, but when this prayer falters the battle is lost. Joining a cloister is not throwing away your life or hiding from the world. It is embracing the world more fully. Without the life of cloistered men and women, the active orders and the priesthood would suffer.

 

My discernment with the Dominican Nuns of Our Lady of the Rosary seems to be anything but typical. It started when a nun from the Lockport Dominicans contacted me online and gave me the information for Summit. I contacted Sister Mary Catharine and set up a meeting. I can‘t say I felt “called” to Dominican spirituality at all. At this point I didn‘t know anything about it. Like with most things in my life, God told me to do something and explained why later! The first day that I visited the Monastery I walked into the parlor and noticed a picture of St. Dominic at the foot of the cross. I was amazed because it was the same image that had hung above my bed all through my childhood, but I never knew who the image was of! It felt as if St. Dominic had been watching over me since I was just a tiny child.
As my discernment with the Dominican Nuns intensified, I began to understand why I was called to this Order. I‘m a very intellectual person, and I love to become more acquainted with God through study and learning. For Dominicans, study is an important part of the life. Also, the Dominican Order has a unique relationship between its cloistered nuns and preaching brothers. St. Dominic understood the importance of contemplative prayer, and so he founded the first Dominican cloistered convent ten years before the foundation of the brothers. The Dominicans are unique in that the brothers and nuns are canonically bound to each other, and the nuns are under the Master General of the Order. This relationship really demonstrates the relationship between prayer and action, between contemplative and active orders. The entire Order is a testament to the power of prayer.

 

I‘m entering a cloister not to run away from the world, but to embrace it more fully. I‘m entering to offer my entire life as a sacrifice to Christ for the salvation of souls. I‘m entering to offer the grace from my little prayers for the Dominican priests and the priesthood in general. I‘m entering because nothing else in the world can satisfy my heart more fully than becoming a bride of Christ. I‘m entering because this is what I was created for.

Sr. Miriam Esther

“I realized that a calling to the contemplative life is really an invitation to begin participating in the joys of Heaven while still on earth …”

Sr. Miriam Esther Solemnly Professed, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles Kansas City, Missouri. MEFV Grant Recipient.

 
When asked to describe my vocation journey, I always find it challenging, in part because it concerns such an intimate and personal matter, in part because my movement toward this decision, toward acceptance of this incredible privilege and grace, occurred almost imperceptibly, by gradual steps rather than in clearly defined stages. As the famous convert, Robert Hugh Benson, said in his autobiography, “you cannot trace the guidance of the Spirit of God or diagnose His operations in the secret rooms of your soul.” Nevertheless, I will do my best to outline the key events which helped me to recognize and embrace the call to the consecrated life.

 

As a young girl raised in an orthodox Catholic home, I grew up in wonderful familiarity with the lives of the saints and the riches of the Faith. I always understood the purpose of the religious life within the Mystical Body of the Church — to be a sign of the primacy of spiritual things and to save souls through prayer, penance, teaching, and example. My parents encouraged me to remain open to that calling. However, in those years, I regarded it primarily as a sacrifice which one hoped to escape, but accepted staunchly if required. On the one hand, I knew my life belonged to God and I resolved to put it at His disposal, but my inclination tended more toward the lay vocation.

 

After graduating from high school, I attended Christendom College with plans to leave after one year and pursue a more practical degree from a secular university. But, before long, the liberal arts — particularly philosophy and history — captivated my interest, so broadening and enriching my understanding of the Catholic tradition that I decided to stay and complete the Bachelor of Arts program there.

 

Through my philosophy classes, I discovered St. Thomas Aquinas’s account of human nature which provides a logical basis for the superiority of the contemplative life. I learned that man is a rational creature, whose highest powers are those of knowing and loving, powers only fulfilled and truly satisfied by the vision of Perfect Truth and intimate friendship with the Triune God. Thus, every man by his very nature pines for the Beatific Vision. I realized that a calling to the contemplative life is really an invitation to begin participating in the joys of Heaven while still on earth, by a life of special intimacy with Christ.

 

Through my history classes I learned also of the powerful spiritual force which monastic life wields over culture. In particular, I discovered the wisdom of the Benedictine Rule, how it enlivened and molded and preserved Christian culture from the early centuries of the Church. I grew to love the beauty and worthiness of the ideal, without experiencing a particular attraction towards it as a goal for my own life.
Soon after graduating and settling into a full time job, I stumbled upon the website of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. I knew immediately that if I investigated the religious life, I would begin with their order. The description of their life was so inspiring and so satisfying to me; how uplifting, that in the heart of secular, modern America, a group of women order their lives entirely toward prayer, study of the divine mysteries and the service of priests! I visited their site often and began to pray earnestly concerning my vocation.

 

My desire for the consecrated life slowly grew. I felt as though the Lord was courting my soul, offering me a glimpse of the joys experienced by those who accept a loving union with Him through the consecrated life. Though I still appreciated the beauty of a lay vocation to marriage and family life, my heart was made captive to Love Himself. Eventually I wrote a letter to the Prioress, Reverend Mother Therese, expressing my interest. She encouraged me to visit and observe their life. However, after a brief correspondence, I suspended the application process — although my interest continued — daunted by the realization that my college loans might take years to repay entirely.

 

About a year later, still feeling strongly drawn toward the religious life, I broached the subject with my confessor. He advised me to pursue the religious life more seriously, recommending particularly that I investigate resources like the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, renew correspondence with the Priory of Ephesus and make a visit. I began acquainting myself with the Benedictine Diurnal and finally made a visit to the convent in October of 2007, experiencing monastic life personally for about ten days.

 

The sisters have an icon of the Crucifixion with Our Lady and St. John at either hand of the Lord. They consider the icon an image of their charism, for they try to keep themselves present with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross, as vessels in Her hands, collecting the Precious Blood and Water flowing from the Pierced Heart of Christ and pouring out that grace and mercy upon His priests, who are the successors of St. John and the other Apostles. The rhythm of the monastic day establishes a prayerful, peaceful atmosphere. I discovered more profoundly the beauty of the Psalms, as we chanted eight times a day in the chapel. As my visit proceeded, I found that the words of Scripture, repeated again and again in public worship, begin to fill your mind and supply a vocabulary of love and praise for interior prayer as well. In addition to the periods of communal prayer and celebration of daily Mass, there was a fine library at the convent and time for lectio divina, spiritual reading or private meditation.

 

The sisters also spend many hours sewing vestments and altar cloths or preparing meals for priests who make use of their retreat facilities. At the start of any work, they pray a prayer consecrating their labor to Jesus through Our Lady. They work silently throughout the day, praying always for the priests of Holy Mother Church, who bear the awesome responsibility of administering the Sacraments through which Our Lord communicates life-giving grace to souls. In short, it was an altogether joyful and inspiring visit.

 

During the visit, I met with Mother Therese on two occasions. After enquiring into my impressions of the Priory and my understanding of monastic life, she encouraged me to pursue a vocation to the religious life. Soon after returning home, I made a request for entrance. Mother Therese graciously accepted my application and strongly encouraged me not to delay entrance, but rather to enter in June of 2008 if at all possible. It is my great hope and desire to join these sisters soon and, by renunciation of the world, to become an instrument always in readiness to serve Our Blessed Saviour and His Church.

Sr. Benedicta

“I knew from that moment something had to be done.”

Sr. Benedicta Solemnly Professed, Valley of Our Lady Cistercian Nuns Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. MEFV Grant Recipient.

It baffles my mind that my faith can be so strong without having been raised Catholic. Through the people I have been blessed with, and the experiences that I’ve had, my faith has grown leaps and bounds in only 6 years. My family had been Catholic and even went to Catholic schools, but none of that was passed down to me. So I’ve spent most of my life thus far, 19 years, not knowing God or His will for my life, let along knowing that He had one for me.

 

It was Jubilee Year that I decided to step foot into a Catholic church, with the help of a persistent friend. Many graces were poured out on me that year. That Lent in 2000, I learned what prayer was and how to do it — you just talk to Him. I’ve carried that with me since then and have used prayer to grow closer to Christ. Prayer led me to be confirmed two years later. It was a few days after being confirmed that I sensed something. Unsure of what it was, I talked with the priest that watched me grow. He said to me, “you might be called to religious life.” This was not my first encounter with the idea but I had just written it off.

 

I started to explore and was led to the Nashville Dominicans. Truly beautiful women and I wanted in on the action. After a couple more visits with the sisters, I asked for papers. Not too long after having papers, things started to fall in place: appointments and money. Everything started coming together quickly and felt ready to go. It came down to the last few weeks and then, the last days and I still didn’t have my letter of recommendation. I couldn’t be accepted. Only God Himself could stop me and He did. I gave up the thought of religious life after that.

 

It wasn’t until World Youth Day 2005 that the call would come again and this time with some urgency. I found myself in Germany, in Eucharistic Adoration. It was peaceful and dark. This time, unlike other times in adoration, music would follow times of silent meditation. It was here that the vocation discussion began and got serious. I found myself gazing at Him and I asked, could I spend the rest of my life like this? My answer came back in the music. “Yes,” it said, many times. “Do you want me to give my life for you? Do you call me?” The music answered back, “You are mine; come to me.” We went on this way for about 15 minutes. I left the church, after Benediction, only to collapse outside from the intensity of my encounter. I knew from that moment something had to be done. I could not remain where I was or on my same path.

 

Just as the Three Magi left Jesus and returned home differently than how they came, I too returned home differently. Upon returning home, I had a sense of searching for the home He called me to. I found time to search online for communities and found the Cistercian Nuns and the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. From the many hours spent in adoration, I knew that God called me to one of these communities. He needed me to be close to Him for the rest of my life, but where? My answer to Him was, “Yes, wherever you say, Lord,” not because I should but because I wanted to. But it is not a selfish want. Whatever I receive should be passed on to others so they, too, can experience His Love and that is what I am called to do. It was this thought that led me to deeply consider the Cistercians. During my visit with them in February, I was reminded of this and said “Yes” to His will calling me there. I want to help spread His love and salvation to His people by leaving them to pray for them.

 

My heart desires to be ever closer to Him every day. I desire nothing more than to be forever Christ’s bride. My heart longs to be with Him in ths community, which He has chosen for me. I still remain open to His will should He say this is not it. I can only do as He asks because the will of Him, who loves me as I am, is what I seek. How can I not say “Yes” and follow Him?

Fra. Terrance

“God’s will is more perfect than mine, His thoughts are purer than mine, His glory is more important than mine. He must increase and I must remember that I am nothing.”

Fra. Terrance Jean Marie, Simply Professed Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. MEFV Grant Recipient.

“When you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18

 

St. John Vianney once said that, “the saints have not all started well, but they have all finished well.” He may have even said it many times because it’s worth repeating. My start in life was not as pious as his, nor was it as riotous as St. Augustine’s sounded when I read his Confessions. Growing up though, I understand both of these men had at least one thing in common: they have very special mothers. The Cure’s mother taught him while he was little to always turn his heart toward God when the church bells or the clock in their home would ring on the hour, and she died “thanking God for a son who would become a priest.” And St. Monica cried, prayed, and even shadowed her own son for many years until he finally traded in his mistress and his pride for his cross.

 

The patterns of life and the strongest memories usually come from childhood and from the home, and so I’ll begin my own story there. Unlike the two men above whom I admire — yet like some others — I was not graced with a God-fearing mother or with a very close family. In God’s mercy, He did not completely withdraw the gift of good sense from my mother at this early time in her life. I was baptized — perhaps at the insistence of my grandparents — at St. Julie Billiard Church in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on the feast of the Transfiguration in 1978, and when I was two years old or thereabouts, my mother decided to entrust me to her parents.

 

We lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in a beautiful, 1850 Victorian-style house with three floors, many wonderful rooms, a tennis court in the rear lot, four-car garage, and a dentist’s office perched on top of the garage where my grandfather worked.

 

I was planted in Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, and this is where all my catechizing took place. From as far back as I can remember, I always believed there was a God, that He knew about me and watched over me in some way, and that He’d like for me to “be good.” (I understand this now as being part of the sacramental grace given to all of us at baptism.) I had no notions of rebelling against Him or my grandparents as my mother had. “Ma (my grandmother) was nice enough to take me into her house. Who am I to cause that type of trouble?” was how I thought. I never caused trouble at home — I saved it all for school, especially grammar school. High crimes were not my taste. My routine involved things like talking constantly in class, name-calling, gossip, slander, mercilessly kicking one girl in the shins everyday at lunchtime, endlessly raising my hand to ask questions, blowing my nose so as to make as loud a sound as possible, eraser fights, holding grudges against deserving students and undeserving teachers — in short, nothing that caused me to be disliked, but enough for me to be seen and heard and punished. I confess that the thought of it all still makes me smile — not the mischief itself, but the general atmosphere of school. I loved grammar school. It was my home away from home, and it actually felt like a home. My teachers were like parents and my classmates were my brothers and sisters.

 

History class was a favorite of mine, and I think it was here that God first impressed on me the reality of mortality. I always found the years of birth and death printed after famous historical names fascinating. One of my classmates would read aloud a passage saying, “Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) became Emperor of France in 1804,” and I would be asking myself what Napoleon Bonaparte might have been thinking in 1820. “I’d like to be able to go back in time and tell Napoleon, ‘You have only one year left. Better smarten up and use it wisely,’ or something like that — to get him thinking.” I reflected a bit on this not too long ago and noted how gently Our Lord had worked on me, indirectly as it were, through the mortality of historical figures. My grandfather’s death had not made such an impression. From this, and from prayers and lessons taught in school, I began infrequently raising my thoughts to God before falling asleep; if sleep came before prayer, I gave in without much fight. “I’ll make it up to You tomorrow,” I would half-heartedly whisper before closing my eyes. Only Our Lord remembers the substance and sincerity of those prayers, but the point here is that I was at least convinced of the need to pray. I was convinced of it even more when I experienced head and stomach aches. The prayers I remember most vividly — the ones I could have and would have sweat blood over — were the whole-hearted efforts petitioning God to cast some sort of spell (“since He can do all things,” I reasoned) over such-and-such a girl so that she would fall madly in love with me. It was a misuse of the gift of prayer, but at the time it seemed the best weapon since I was too gutless to ask anyone out.

 

A relationship with God is something like walking from the beach into the ocean. There may be holes in the analogy, but the basic idea or image seems sound to me. There are millions of people who seemingly have no desire to even visit or investigate the beach (which I’ll call “the edge of faith”): They are as Our Lord descries them in the parable of the soils. “Once life settles down, I’ll make time for God; I don’t think there’s enough scientific evidence to prove God exists; Once I experienced a personal tragedy or saw one occur, I lost all faith in God” — such are the words that fall from their mouths. My opinon on this is essentially not my own; all true opinions are not original opinions. Original opinions derive from original sin (as does all sin itself), and being fallen, I can genuinely sympathize with those who have reservations about God and His Christ. Those who refuse God lack faith simply — and I place emphasis on the word simply — because they don’t ask for it, and they don’t ask for it because having it means not having other things, namely letting go of pride, sinful choices and lifestyles, wrong notions of God, anger, resentment, fear of relationships, and even fear of rejection. It wasn’t for lack of proof or lack of knowledge that Lucifer became Satan. I say all that, but the real test comes when you arrive at the edge of faith — you must step into the water! You must begin to trust and entrust yourself to God, and for some — because of sin or because of fear and insecurity — this is possibly more frightening than Hell. My feet were in the water from childhood as it were, but it was in high school that God began pulling me farther into His ocean, and this all came about through suffering.

 

As I mentioned earlier, my twelve years of Catholic schooling included high school. Our Lady is the Refuge of sinners, but high school — Catholic or not — is no refuge for adolescents, especially one as insecure as I. I remember freshman year being little better (or little worse) than survival of the fittest mingled with suspicious religion classes. In the stratosphere of popularity (recognized by all as more important than sunlight, daily food, and oxygen) I was in the lower-middle class sphere, and such an unprivileged position ensured routine harassing, threats, insults, derision, etc. Acne and an unattractive smile only made the darkness around me darker. I make no claims here of resembling a persecuted angel, for I was as cold and callous toward the weak as the social elites were toward me. I only want to highlight what this misery did for me spiritually. In school, out of school, I had nowhere to turn — nowhere else to turn. My nighttime prayers intensified to the point of tears and pleas to Jesus: “Please, just have them leave me alone!” These daily humiliations and internal sufferings made me grow very dependent on Our Lord as my refuge in the night. (I see this misery as having the twofold purpose of pushing me closer to God while at the same time being a frontal assault on my pride. Jesus uses everything and wastes nothing.) There was a great release from this cruelty sophomore year, due largely — as seen through natural eyes — to me earning a starting place on our junior varsity football team, yet as I write this I’m keenly aware of the great spiritual debt I’ve racked up over these years.

 

I’ll end the high school chapter of my story with one other point of interest. A religious vocation was still nowhere in sight or in mind as I graduated from school, but there was a certain teacher who, with one word, convinced me that Jesus deserved and demanded more of my attention. Before one of our religion classes, this teacher was asked the following question: “Dr. Charbeneau, what are you afraid of?“ It was asked off-the-cuff, rather harmlessly, and amid some disordered teenage pre-class chatter and riot-making. I can still picture the chaos in the room. (Dr. Charbeneau was the type of devout man who was so devout that the children knew they could walk all over him.) His answer, “I’m afraid of going to Hell,” was spoken sincerely and without hesitation, and it literally froze me in my chair. It was as the guards had reported to the chief priests: “No man ever spoke like this man.” Dr. Johnson stated it in a more pointed fashion: “The prospect of death concentrates the mind wonderfully.” At ten-thirty in the morning or thereabouts, the reality of things was staring me directly in the face. There were no historical figures for me to hide behind. From this throwaway question-and-response, I began to acknowledge that God was not to be treated merely as a cosmic bell-hop. He deserved to be honored and worshipped; He deserved more of me than I had given, and more than I had been willing to give.

 

From 1996 to 2002, I attended a private college in Boston and studied architecture. I thought it a huge hurdle to enter college “undecided,” so I chose the architectural field on a whim. I loved lego-building when I was younger, so I reasoned that architecture must be much the same thing on a larger scale. No one offered me any guidance, and I had little idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but nonetheless, I was confident that I could make something of myself because I loved to learn. Praise God for my love of learning, something which I lost at the beginning of high school and begged for in prayer — and received — thereafter.

 

City and college life presents the imagination and the senses with endless temptations, all of which had relatively little influence on me. My innocence in these things was a mixture of insecurity and a clear sense of right and wrong that my grandmother modeled. Besides, I knew I was in school to learn and study, not to disfigure my conscience. Not being overly social (one of my grandmother’s inherited dispositions), I had no interest in the party scene and, to my deep disappointment, I experienced most college social gatherings as nurturing a shallow, superficial, and even nihilistic view of life. “How meaningless it all is,” I would whisper to myself on occasion. The longer school carried on, the more frequent were such occasions. Again, my mind goes back to the scriptures: “I will take her into the desert, and there I will speak to her heart.” Behind the garnish and excitement, city life and college-age passions were a spiritual desert that pushed me toward God, further into His ocean as it were. A stone’s throw away from my apartment on St. Stephen Street was St. Anne’s Parish, which catered to college students and young professional types. It’s a literary stretch and may be somewhat out of place here, but in truth it’s accurate to note that on weekdays I walked the street of The Martyr and on Sunday I went to Grandmother’s House — or properly speaking, the House of her Grandson. I found St. Anne’s Sunday services, their singing, and the whole atmosphere of the place to be wonderful, even if, in hindsight, some liturgical activities were a bit curious. The point here is that my desire to withdraw from the world and to know more about God was growing steadily all through college.

 

Two other points before I move onto the final leg of my vocation story and God’s special call, the first being that one cannot draw closer to God without drawing closer to oneself — i.e., growing in self-knowledge — and feeling more tenderness toward your neighbor. The gift of loving God and the gift of loving one’s neighbor can be distinguished but they are not separate gifts, and this reality was made clear to me in college. While my desire to know and love God was growing, I was noticeably shocked when I started feeling more empathy toward my classmates who were experiencing hopelessness, disappointment, and other emotional and psychological predicaments. How do I put this into words? In simple terms, I began seeing the people around me and in front of me — my classmates, my teachers — as flesh and blood, with an immortal soul and a spirit as I had. I suspect Mother Teresa was behind some of this. I always blame the saints in these matters. A little book entitled “My Life for the Poor” came into my hands at some point, and her words left an enormous impression on me. I just now went and searched the friars’ library, and I picked up another book of hers. (It’s a book of her sayings. Like Our Lord, I don’t believe she ever wrote a book.) I open this particular book at random and find her saying this:

 

People are hungry for God. People are hungry for love. Are you aware of that? Do you know that? Do you see that? Do you have eyes to see? Quite often we look but we don’t see. We are all passing through this world. We need to open our eyes and see.

No ornament, no pretense; perfectly simple, and very deep — like God Himself. God cleared away some of my selfish thinking and I began to see this spiritual poverty around me. In college, it’s not usually more than one or two souls away.

 

The other note of importance is my discovery of Christian radio. I hesitate putting pen to paper here because I know this story is meant for Catholic eyes, but a full confession requires me to share this. In truth, when I found Christian radio I was actually searching for an old radio classics program I loved listening to as a child. The Jack Benny Show, Burns and Allen, Suspense, Lights Out Everybody, and a number of other shows would air on our local AM station before I went to bed at night, and I was hoping to rediscover some of the joy those programs brought me. One day, I switched to the same channel on the way home from work (now some ten or twelve years later) and found people talking passionately and with conviction about Jesus and His day-to-day influence in their lives. This was another great blessing. I never knew or was aware of such people, and religion wasn’t discussed on our home. I began listening regularly and took in much of the good they had to offer while ignoring the small number of anti-Catholic programs and remarks that would surface. A Catholic apologetic is not necessary here. It suffices to say that Christ prayed for His Church to be one, not many, yet among the many there are a lot of grace-filled, wonderful people who gave me a great zeal for Christ and for sharing Him with the world.

 

The expression “cut to the chase” seems appropriate now, and so far I’ve been giving you much chase by way of introduction to my religious calling. With God’s grace we’ve gotten this far! I’ll give as brief and honest a conclusion as my mind will allow me to give here, and I’ll ask Our Lady to make up for the rest.

 

It’s not unusual to find college students — especially liberal arts majors — still unsure what they want to do with their lives after graduating from college, and still unsure about life in general. They become like lost fish in a sea of debt, and the curious solution for many is to head off to graduate school. Perhaps there’s a fear of becoming an adult behind it as well. By the time I graduated in 2002, I was happy to finally be an adult (in my own eyes) but I was decidedly uninterested in architecture. “There’s too much suffering in the world, too many empty lives, too much good that needs to be done.” I wasn’t sure what I was aiming at with this type of thinking, but it couldn’t be done in an architect’s office. Mother Teresa had convinced me that when you don’t know where to be, it’s best to be with the poor, and so I arranged to spend a come-and-see week at a volunteer shelter in Arizona run by the Holy Cross fathers. I’m just remembering now that this all came about through St. Anne’s Church! They arranged an evening where speakers came and spoke to our parish about volunteering for a year after college graduation. The speakers were three college-age girls, and they spoke to an audience of two, not counting St. Anne’s staff, which made the gathering seem more impressive. Being one of the two who attended, I left that night convinced that God would be happy if I offered a year of service to Him and His poor.

 

My week with the volunteers and the Holy Cross fathers opened my eyes to the everyday life of priests. “How great is the priest! The priest will only be understood in heaven. Were he to be understood on earth, people would die, not of fear, but of love.” I borrow that from St. John Vianney, and it pretty well fits my view of the priests I spent time with in Arizona; not that they seemed overtly holy (Our Lord has more inside knowledge on that than I do), but just their presence, being with them, seeing them work and interact with the guests and the volunteers — all of it inspired me. The work itself was a bit difficult, but joyous. I was offered a return visit only for the summer season for reasons I was unaware of, and I declined because I wanted the guarantee of a whole year. In spite of my disappointment, which was great, I experienced a surge of confidence in God. In Phoenix, I had told Him that I would do whatever He asked, no strings attached. (It was the first time I hadn’t added strings.) “What is is that You’d like me to do?” I asked while I was driving home one day, and it was then that I remembered the priests. Very quickly — perhaps impulsively — I told Him that I wouldn’t mind being a priest. I remember the incident vividly, though there’s not much detail to add. It’s a little like C.S. Lewis’ conversion experience, where he was a passenger on a motorcycle ride who, when he started the trip, didn’t believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and by the time he arrived at wherever he was going, he did.

 

My desire to be a priest has grown steadily since 2002, though my expectations have expanded to include “whatever the will of God is,” and my prayers are and continue to be that God will purify, humble, and perfect me. God’s will is more perfect than mine, His thoughts are purer than mine, His glory is more important than mine. He must increase and I must remember that I am nothing. I desire not my own glory because it’s an empty desire. Turn on the television if you need further convincing of how empty is the glory that we give to each other.

 

In regards to my search for a religious order, I began rather naively, as I had with picking colleges. I had heard some vagaries about certain orders undermining the mission and teachings of the Church, but such ideas seemed absurd to me, like sawing off a tree branch that one is sitting on. “I’ll join an order whose charism and mission appeal to me, and God will do the rest,” was my guiding thought, though I also had a strong desire to live poorly as Our Lord lived. Choosing to be poor for Christ gives freedom to the heart, and I found that material possessions possessed me, my thoughts, and my heart more than I possessed them. The possession was subtle but real. Material wealth is only good if you do a lot of good with it, and even then it’s still dangerous to the soul.

 

Diocesan priesthood had little attraction to me. The idea of being a local priest appealed to me because I knew that every street and town is God’s vinyard, but I found most local priests uninspiring. I say this without wishing to be disrespectful. Most diocesan priests whom I knew or at least was familiar with were kind men, but, to me, uninspiring as clergy. “I want vocations, not numbers,” Mother Teresa would say, and I feared that if I became a diocesan priest, I might turn into a number through poor formation. As the clergy and religious go, so go the faithful. This is proven historically since all heresies have come from the clergy, not the laity; hence my fear of being poorly formed as a clergy/religious. I decided I would be a missionary: Mother Teresa would approve. (It’s obvious that I have a great love for her. In spite of the affection, I’ve never felt a pull to join her order as an MC brother.) Because of their reputation as scholars and as “the marines of the Church,” and because they had access to so many young minds and hearts hungry for truth and for God, I chose to apply to and enter the Jesuit order. Shortly thereafter I learned that this choice was not a healthy alternative to diocesan priesthood. Five months after entering the Jesuits’ novitiate, I was told by my superior that he thought it was not my calling to be a Jesuit, and after a day and night of reflection, I agreed and we parted ways within a week. An old saying goes that there’s no use throwing mud at others because your hands get dirty and you lose a lot of ground, so I won’t speak much of my time with the Jesuits other than to say that it was a great internal cross. Many of the men I was with were genuine and well-intentioned, and some were like brothers to me, but there were others busy sawing off the branches they were sitting on. The Society itself was very gracious toward me, and I have no grudges and very little regrets, but I did leave quite shaken about my prospects as a religious.

 

So as the whale dealt with Jonah, God spit me out of the Jesuits and I landed at the doorstep of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in downtown New Bedford. God has His ways. If I could turn into a leaf and have Him blow me about as He wills, I would be very happy. Such is the way of the cross and the way of the saints, and praise God you can’t fit much self-love into a leaf. I’ve spent a good deal of time with these friars. They fashion themselves as Marian defenders, knights of the Immaculate, and as best as I can gauge, their life suits me. Our Lady never tires of more children or more soldiers. St. Maximilian Kolbe is the inspiration for their spirituality and their media apostolate, which includes websites, writing and publishing books, audio CDs, all for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. God graces each friar with special gifts and abilities, the friars give all they receive to Our Lady, and she lays everything before the feet of her Son. All gifts return to their source, sanctified by the new Eve. That’s my own condensed and incomplete understanding. The friars have already made a significant impression on my life. The lay people alone under their care have taught me more about Divine Providence and humility than anything I’ve seen or read.

 

This seems as good a place as any to end, and I’ll end with a short lesson on history, still my favorite subject. The 20th century was the century of militant atheism: Marx, Freud, Darwin, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Communism, Secularism. Conservatively, over 100 million were murdered under atheistic regimes in the last century. By most accounts, that’s more bloodshed than the previous nineteen centuries combined. I have a strong intuition that this century will be either one of two things, or both: either it will be a Catholic/Christian renaissance by way of the Americas, Africa, and China (possibly Russia), or it will be the Muslim century, or both. Secularism is not a life-giving or life-affirming philosophy, and so it cannot endure. However it pans out, we each have a role to play. Our Lady will be very busy during this century, more so than ever. It’s my intention to work with her and for her for the triumph of the Church at whatever personal cost, and the most precious cost is always our own self-will. “Thy will, not my will, be done.” Our Lord and Our Lady will do many wonderful things through us if we entrust everything to them, so don’t be afraid. Don’t fret over your sins, your weaknesses, faults, insecurities, fears — don’t be anxious about your life. Don’t be lukewarm. God has chosen us. He is Ours and we are His. Let Him complete the good work He has begun in you, and as He does with all His saints, He will help you to finish well.

Sr. Mary Isabel of the Angels

“I know that a vocation is a gift and God has given this gift to me and I will not pass this opportunity.”

Sr. Mary Isabel of the Angels Simply Professed. Corpus Christi Monastery Dominican Nuns, Menlo Park, California. MEFV Grant Recipient.

 

100506.srmi.menlo

When I was about eight years old, out of the blue, in the afternoon, while playing by myself on the couch in the family room, I turned to my mother and said, “Mom, I want to be a nun.” My mom was shocked. She hit the roof and rebuked me, saying, “do not even think about that !” I was scared to see her reaction and since then I never mentioned the word “nun” again, but that memory never went away. I kept asking myself what was wrong with becoming a nun?

 

During my junior high school, I overheard my sister’s conversation with a classmate about a nun who was working at their school. Their impression about the nun was negative and the nun’s name was Sister Dominic. I remembered talking to myself that if I ever become a nun, I would not be a nun like that. In high school, I accompanied my friend to meet a sister and to talk about her desire to become a nun. I clearly remember the sister’s words to my friend that “her desire” could be just “an emotion.” I still remember my friend’s expression because she had a hard time describing her feelings or her desire. She was almost crying and I did not understand why the sister did not give encouragement but instead she was like pouring cold water on my friend’s burning desire. But for whatever reason, I thought to myself that if I become a nun, I would not discourage people like that.

 

After graduation from high school, the idea popped again in my mind. It was asking me, “Would you like to enter the monastery?” My reply was, “I will do it, Lord, after I have my degree so I can be useful for you.” After I received my degree in accounting, I still remembered the promise but I pushed aside the idea because I wanted to be a career woman, to enjoy the world, and to have another degree. I tried very hard to forget the attraction to become a religious by becoming busy with works, school and enjoyed friendship with people to whom God was not important. It worked temporarily until I moved from Indonesia to the United States at Christmas 1996.

 

I love churches in the United States. They are open all day long unlike my churches back home where they have to close the church right after Mass due to security reasons. Because of that, I started to go to church often, even just for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament during lunch. In 2004, I started going to St. Peter Chanel church in Hawaiian Gardens, California. I fell in love with that church because it has a very deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. One day, when I went to confession, the confessor asked me if I had ever consecrated my life to Jesus through Mary, and my response was that I had never done it. So, he helped me to make my first consecration on December 8, 2005. After consecration, he directed me to do the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and eventually he became my spiritual director.

 

The first time I did my meditation in the Ignatian spiritual exercises, all the desires and thoughts I had buried for so long were unearthed. It was like burying a can of oil in the deepest part of the ocean and the can was leaking. So, all the oil floated up the the water’s surface. It was scary because I could not believe that thought was still haunting me. However, this time, I yielded to the idea and I dedicated my Ignatian spiritual exercises to find out what state of life God wanted from me. If He wanted me to become a religious, so be it. This time, whatever He wants, I will give it to Him.

 

After I finished my Ignatian exercises, I went through a series of personal discernment retreats with my spiritual director. At the Christmas retreat in 2006, I decided after pondering for so long, to say “yes” to that attraction to the religious life. I knew from the beginning that I would have a lot of obstacles, especially opposition from my parents and financial difficulty. However, my reason to say “yes” was an act of faith that my life was in God’s hand and He could do anything if He wanted to. So, if He called me, He would provide the means to overcome the obstacles. If He did not call me, then I would have no problem to discern another state of life.

 

The next step was to find out what religious life is about. I knew nothing about it. Interestingly enough, I bumped into a program on EWTN late at night at the moment when I was complaining to God that I knew nothing about religious life. The program was called “Completely Christ’s — The Radical Call of the Consecrated Life” by Life Work. It was the answer to my questions.

 

The next step, I attended a one-day event called “7-11 Ministry Day” sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It was an awesome event, I was so happy that day to be surrounded with men and women who were on the same path trying to follow God’s call. Afterward, I did my research to find the right congregation through the internet and combed every single religious order until I discovered a cloistered Dominican order. The Dominican charism resonated into my heart and especially when I saw a Dominican nun praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the internet. It was like falling in love at first sight.

 

Every step of my discernment was like the biggest step in my life. So, after inquiring with a few Dominican convents, I landed at the Cloistered Dominicans at Menlo Park, CA. After my second visit, I knew that I would not look for another congregation. I love the Dominican charism and I love their community. So, after I went through a one-month aspirancy in October 2007 with them, I applied to become a postulant in January 2008 and was accepted on September 12, 2008.

 

I have been facing fierce opposition from my family since I informed them that I was going to spend a month for an aspirancy with the nuns. I have five siblings and only one of them is supporting me. The rest of them and my parents are strongly opposed to my vocation to the point that I had to move out of the house for the peace of my soul and my family. The opposition still remains and is getting harder now, especially since I told them that I am going to enter the monastery this summer at all costs. I know that a vocation is a gift and God has given this gift to me and I will not pass this opportunity. I know the situation is getting tougher every day, but I know deep down in my heart, my desire is to be with God and with God’s grace, I am going to follow Him. May God grant me a grace of perseverance and patience until I meet Him face to face in His Kingdom.

Sr. Mary Magdalene

“I was drawn to imitate Mary’s deep humility and constant mortification.”

Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Immaculate Conception Solemnly Professed. Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary Summit, New Jersey. MEFV Grant Recipient.

 

111212.srmm.summitI 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.

Sr. Mariana

“God gave me the graces I needed to truly open my heart to His gentle and persistent knock.”

Sr. Mariana, Perpetually Professed. Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, Nashville, Tennessee. MEFV Grant Recipient

091207.m.nash_SmallUntil a few years ago, I was quite sure that I knew God’s vocation plan for me. That all changed, though, when I attended World Youth Day in Toronto. At a very pivotal moment I realized that God’s plan may not be what I expected. The experiences throughout my life no longer seemed as preparation for marriage to a man on Earth, but rather to Christ. It was not all clear and simple at first, but God gave me the graces I needed to truly open my heart to His gentle and persistent knock.
 

While I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through twelfth grade, I was taught by only a few religious sisters, most of whom wore no habit. In addition to a lack of their presence in my schools, religious vocations were rarely discussed or mentioned. I believe and know that the seed of my vocation was due in large part to the solid formation of my faith at home. For many years, my family has prayed the Rosary together every evening, and adored our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday. I will be eternally grateful for my parents’ dedication to teaching and expressing our Catholic Faith.

 

After I received my bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education, I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville to obtain my master’s degree in education. Coming from a secular college, I could not wait to attend a school with students who shared my faith. It was there that I really fell in love with the Church and realized that I needed to be open to any vocation that God had planned for me. In the summer of 2002 I attended World Youth Day in Toronto. I had an incredible experience and realized that God wanted me to seriously discern religious life.

 

With support from my spiritual director, parents and friends, I visited several religious communities. Although they were all beautiful orders, I felt at home when I was with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. The Sisters reminded me so much of myself. They were simple, joy-filled women on fire for the Church. Like me, many of them had wonderful lives before entering the convent, but knew that something was missing. During my two years of discernment, I recognized that the missing piece is Christ, and that I will not be truly happy until I can give myself completely to Him.

 

With my new job as a high school special education teacher, I happily look forward to the day when I can enter the convent of the Nashville Dominicans. I long for more prayer time, and to bring Christ to His children. I know that joy will abound in my heart, a joy that can only come from Christ.

 

If you asked me ten years ago where I thought I would be in my life now, I never would have said that I would be waiting to enter a convent. It is just another example of how we are not the masterminds behind this short life on earth, but rather that there is a loving God Who will bring us to true joy and peace when we seek Him and His will. I hope and pray that I will soon have that opportunity. Praised be Jesus and Mary, now and forever!

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