“I realized that I was in love with the Lord; no person nor anything other than He would fulfill me.” – Sr. Brigid Ancilla Marie
Sisters of Life, New York, New York, MEFV Grant Recipient
When looking back on my life I see very clearly that the Lord has been directing my heart, gently leading it to find life in Him, to find Love in Him, to desire Him to be my completion. Having said that, I did not think about a religious vocation until I was on my way to college. I was going to be a married missionary doctor with ten children. My plan though, seemed like too much; no person could do all those things and be present to them all. Therefore, I decided my life would work if I were a doctor, a missionary and a nun. Upon telling that to a wise priest, he smiled and gently said, “OK, go to school.”
And so in August of 2000, I left Cleveland, my parents, my three brothers and my sister for Washington University in St. Louis. I was born and raised Catholic. Although my parents imparted a firm foundation of faith, when I left school I was only just beginning to understand what it meant to be Catholic. At Wash U, the Lord placed me in the midst of a great group of friends who knew much more than I did. They taught me about the Faith, they introduced me to Mary, and they showed me how to live a Catholic life. The more that I learned, the more I wanted to learn. My freshman year was a year filled with great graces. As I worked towards medical school, though, time restraints slowly closed the door to any discernment that had begun. I was very active at our Catholic Student Center, running programs, participating in the choir, helping to lead retreats, while playing Club Volleyball and working.
I chose to major in Cultural Anthropology while completing the pre-medical course work. While originally drawn to anthropology because of the cross-cultural focus, I soon realized that I was longing for Truth. I was searching for what united all humans. It was not in my classes, but in the Theology of the Body that I found that “adequate anthropology” that speaks to the dignity of every person simply because they exist.
During my senior year, my attention again focused on my future and, although minimally, to what the Lord wanted of me. I applied to medical school and was not accepted. Although I had asked the Lord to prevent my acceptance if it was not His will, I decided that my denial was not because it was His will, but because my application was not strong enough. In May of 2004 I returned to Cleveland to work and prepare to apply to medical school again. I worked through the summer at the city pool. At the end of the summer, I was unable to find a job in the medical or anthropological field, and thus, spent the fall caring for my sister Rachel.
Rachel was born when I was seven with a deletion in chromosome 8, spina bifida, clubbed feet and profound mental retardation. Today she is 16, spends most of her time in her wheelchair and is at a cognitive level of a two- or three-year-old. Her life led me to question what it really meant to be alive, how were we to measure the value of a life. Through the Theology of the Body, I realized that the Love of the Lord dignifies us, and we do nothing to earn that. Although we do not deserve it we are loved infinitely and there is nothing we can do to be loved more and there is nothing we can do to be loved less.
The Fall of 2005 was full of great soul searching. It was a graced time in which I learned great humility, the importance of family life, was introduced to and accepted the real possibility that the Lord was calling me to religious life. For the first time in my life I discovered what it really meant to love. My sister had two surgeries that fall, a release of a tethered spinal cord and a spinal fusion. As she lay in the bed, fading in and out of consciousness, unable to move, I was keenly aware of the great and simple love that she had for me. And I was surprised to realize my great love for her, who in that moment had nothing but her presence to give me, and how perfect that love was. It wanted nothing, it expected nothing, it needed nothing but the simple presence of each other. That is how the Lord loves us, He simply delights in our presence, asks nothing, needs nothing.
During that fall I also met a beautiful Ursuline Sister who was starting a discernment group. Still sure that I was called to marriage, I went to the first meeting in October mainly looking for some friends. But, by December I knew that I needed to pay attention to this new yearning in my heart.
Meanwhile, I was getting ready to move to Virginia. While I loved being home, I knew it was time to take another step. In January of 2005, through the great generosity of my aunt and uncle, I moved to McLean, Virginia to start working towards my Masters’ Degree in Public Health at George Washington University, to take the MCAT and to find a job. In March I started working at George Washington University Hospital as a concierge in the Emergency Room. As I was either studying, working, or sleeping that semester my heart began to long for something more. I was on the road to fulfill my dreams; I was working in a medical environment, I was going to increase my MCAT score, I was earning my MPH which would prepare me to use medicine as a service, and yet I was not content. My studies were distracted by a longing to be with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
I knew that my move to Virginia was also a step to be able to freely discern religious life. I had made a deal with God. My terms for moving were a solid, faithful parish and a spiritual director. The Lord heard and provided for me. I live across the street from St. John the Beloved, and through Fr. Beaudet met Fr. Scalia, my spiritual director. In six short months, through the graces poured forth through St. John’s parish and Fr. Scalia, I realized that I was in love with the Lord; no person nor anything other than He would fulfill me. He was not calling me to medicine, but to be His. Therefore, I did not apply to medical shcool again, and I left the Public Health program. My heart longed to be His, and so I began looking for the community to which He was calling me. I have spent the last year working, searching and praying.
The Lord led me to the Sisters of Life. It was here that I realized that my seemingly crooked path was preparing me for religious life and a life spent upholding the dignity of every person. My relationship with my sister, my anthropological education, my desire to serve through medicine and public health, and even my desire to love and be loved in marriage had directed me to the Sisters of Life. The Sisters live a life of Love centered on the Eucharist. They are united with their Beloved so that they might bring about a cultural revolution, the culture of life.
I dreamt of running a pro-life OB/Gyn clinic, but the Lord showed me that our world needs a deeper spiritual healing; that is the healing that I am longing to participate in and it is the healing the Sisters of Life embrace.