My name is Shelby Harrison and I was privileged enough to enter the Catholic Church on July 8, 2020. Before entering the Church I deeply desired to know God, but was not always quite sure what that meant or where to look. I did not grow up with a solid faith foundation, but in college I could no longer ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I found a Protestant church that helped me grow to know and love Jesus and Holy Scripture.
My desire to know and serve Jesus only grew. In January 2017, I was placed in a Catholic high school to complete my student teaching. I knew nothing about the Catholic Church or her teachings. After my student teaching was completed the school offered me a full-time teaching job. I began to take note of the differences between my Protestant church and those of the Catholic Church. It really sparked my curiosity and it was then that I began to really dive deep into the Church Fathers and the early teachings of the Church. It seemed as though my thirst for Truth was insatiable. Hesitantly I signed up for RCIA in August of 2019 and by that December, by sheer grace, I came to believe the teachings of the Church and know Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. My confirmation was delayed due to the pandemic; however, looking back at that time I can see how my desire and love for the Eucharist only grew during that waiting period.
After entering the Church the question of vocation is one that I thought about quite often. In my heart I deeply desired a good and holy marriage. I longed for a family of my own to raise in the faith. At the same time; however, I also was experiencing these small whispers asking me to consider religious life. I was still such a new Catholic that I definitely pushed those whispers away and continued on with life. I was introduced to many different religious orders and grew in friendship with a number of sisters. Meanwhile my love for the Eucharist continued to grow and those smaller whispers continued to grow louder and louder. The Catholic Church allowed me to
grow deeper in love and intimacy with the Lord through the sacraments. Everything went from black and white to color. The Catholic teachings allowed me to experience a depth of the Lord that I did not even know was possible before converting.
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist teach at the same high school where I work. As I continued to get to know them and their community, I knew that I was drawn toward their charism, but I was not entirely ready to explore what that might mean for me. In the winter of 2022 I decided to pray a 54-Day Rosary Novena for my future husband. Within a few days of starting the novena, I felt the Lord slowly shifting my intention – asking Mary to “wrap her mantle around me and my future spouse and bring us together.” I asked her to do all of the work. At the time I was not totally sure why I was praying through that image of Mary and her mantle, but it felt as though the Lord had given me those words to pray with.
That summer I signed up for a trip to Spain and Portugal. A group of my friends and I were going to hike the Camino de Santiago and end in Fatima. By this time, the whisperings of religious life were no longer whispers. I could not get the thought out of my head and I knew that I was drawn towards the Dominican Sisters of Mary. Still though I pushed the thoughts away. On the Camino and especially in Fatima, I was able to totally surrender my vocation to the Lord’s will through Mary. I felt an instant release and relief in my heart. As I hiked the Camino and spent time in Fatima, I prayed another 54-Day Rosary Novena. Looking ahead I noticed that it ended on August 8th. I thought I’d look up the saint’s feast day on August 8th so he or she could be an extra intercessor for me. I was shocked to see that it was St. Dominic. In my heart I could feel the pieces of the puzzle starting to take shape and I knew that the Lord was asking me to pursue the Dominican Sisters Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
About two months after returning I found myself in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, IL. As I knelt down to pray, I felt my heart expand in a way that I have never felt before and I felt as though my only desire was to be in the tabernacle. I heard the Lord ask me to be with Him there. It only lasted a few moments, but it was as if my heart had expanded throughout my whole body and I felt nothing but love. It was only after that experience that I noticed the mural behind the tabernacle. It’s a beautiful mosaic of Our Lady and her mantle very gently wraps itself around the tabernacle – I was immediately taken back to that 54-Day Rosary Novena that I had prayed months before. I could feel that she was pulling me in to pursue only Jesus.
Of course there have been many more experiences with people and in prayer that have led my heart towards this vocation. I’ve visited the community multiple times and have been on two of their discernment retreats and each time the Lord has planted small seeds that have continued to grow. His voice has grown louder and clearer and I know deep in my core that He is asking me to pursue this vocation. The Lord has radically and intentionally pursued me over the years. He has been with me and waited patiently as I worked through all of the insecurities and worries surrounding what religious life might mean for me. He waited with nothing but love as I struggled to bend my will to His own. He has poured his grace, love, and mercy abundantly into my life. It would be an honor to lay down my life for the one in whom my heart rejoices and I long to share His love with others.