Greetings and salutations!
I sometimes wonder how this journey has brought me to the point of entering religious life but then I look back at my life and how generous God has been and I see that God has been guiding me on this path all along.
I should start at the beginning. My family has always raised me as a Catholic but it wasn’t always with a lot of conviction. We went to Mass occasionally but certainly not every Sunday. My sister and I attended Sunday school, but usually only when one of us was about to receive a sacrament. We were there but I couldn’t have told you much about what the Church believes.
Most of this began to change my freshmen year in high school, when God really started calling me to follow Him. I began preparing for Confirmation and my instructor at the time was simply wonderful. He started to make me think about the faith, and also pointed my class to various places, like The Catechism of the Catholic Church, where we would be able to find the answers to our questions. S, who soon became my best friend, also started telling me about all the wonderful stories that Church has.
Finally, I started dating a very good young man who had been raised as a Southern Baptist. J was a very good guy but he had been told so many lies about the Catholic Church and so often, when we would talk late on the phone, the conversation would turn to religion, where he would ask me about the Church.
Why do you guys worship Mary?
Why do you worship the saints?
What is with the pope? Isn’t he the anti-Christ?
And so on. The problem was, I didn’t have anything resembling an answer. Which was a problem. If I was going to attend a church, I should know what they preach, do, and believe, right? Being the girl that I am, I needed to find answers. And thus, God began to lead me into the glory and beauty of His Holy Church. Even after J and I broke up, I kept on seeking the truth (or Truth, as the case may be) and learning about God and the Church He established. I started to get involved in the Church, attending Mass every Sunday, serving as a lector or altar server, and trying to learn more.
When I graduated from high school, I chose to attend Seton Hall University, a wonderful Catholic university, established by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s nephew, Bishop Bayley, where I had a scholarship for my tuition. I still had to pay for room and board, for which I took out loans but I received a great education and, more importantly, God used my time there to lead me even further into the truth. I was involved with FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students), participating in their Bible studies and women’s prayer nights. I was also active with the campus ministry and took several classes in Catholic Studies, a topic which became even more dear to my heart than my own major.
Still, the idea of a religious vocation didn’t really come up. If it did, I ignored it, sure that I was going to be like everyone else, finding the guy for me and having a big Catholic family.
When I graduated, I went home for a year or so but didn’t find anything that really drew me in. Then, in the beginning of 2009, my grandfather had a stroke and died a week later. My grandmother was living alone for the first time in her life and, as I was the only child or grandchild who could pick up and move, I was happy to move in and make sure she was okay. While I imagined this to be a short-term thing, I soon realized I would need to get a job and stay for a while.
That also meant finding a parish and where else would I go but the parish my grandparents had attended for the last 30+ years? Soon after moving here I met several young adults who invited me into the Catholic young adult community in the area, one of whom asked me to help as a volunteer in the teen ministry program. Our parish also received a newly ordained priest as Parochial Vicar, Fr. R. Add to all this that as a teen ministry volunteer, I was required to find and meet regularly with a spiritual director and go to Eucharistic adoration for one hour each week. After a while of all of this, I soon began to at least open my heart to the possibility of a vocation. God kind of jumped on that opportunity and soon convinced me (in a scene involving adoration and a flood of tears) that He wanted me as one of His brides, to serve Him with my whole heart and being, with my very life. Even better, He soon filled my heart with the desire to serve Him in that way.
OK. Great. I am supposed to be a nun. But where?
Thus began the adventure of trying to find a convent. I knew I needed to find an order that was traditional and obedient to the Magisterium. I was also very attracted to the habit, as it is such a beautiful symbol in the world and to the woman wearing it. Even with this criteria, there were still gobs of possibilities. Fr. R had pointed out the Nashville Dominicans as a good place to start and as they had a week-long retreat coming up, I thought I would start there. Almost as soon as I came to this conclusion, people started to point out the existence of another young Dominican community that fit my criteria but my mind was made. I wanted to check out Nashville.
And Nashville was lovely. Beautiful. The sisters had a quiet joy about them and the Dominican spirituality fit me so well. And the community was named for St. Cecilia, who I had chosen as my patron saint back when I was confirmed. It was all so perfect! Right? But then, I couldn’t enter that year, as I needed to work on some interior things and there was just something not quite right. It was partially a fit, especially with the Dominican charism and spirituality, but still, there was something off.
But I ignored that and began to plow forward.
If you know me, you know that I tend to have a fairly thick skull and little things tend to bounce off it without me ever looking up from My Plan. Thus, God resorted to sending a few bricks my way. Like a tremendous difficulty in getting in touch with the community in Nashville. And several people asking me, “Have you looked at Ann Arbor?” And finally, Fr. R telling me I should go on a retreat. And then signing me up for said retreat, which was to held on Memorial Day weekend with the community known as the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (DSMME).
And my experience with the sisters in Ann Arbor was beautiful. They emailed me to ask about who I was and where I was on my journey before the retreat. Sr. MR told me that I should talk to the vocations director when I got to the retreat. I also started finding that the DSMME had everything I was looking for, even if I hadn’t known to look for it. Like daily Eucharistic adoration, a devotion I had fallen in love with. And praying five hours in the Divine Office. And finally, they do the Total Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, a devotion I had recently heard of through a blog and was planning to begin this summer. The DSMME had all of this and I was left a bit stunned. It was as if God had designed this community just for me! Almost like He had a plan…
When I spoke to Sr. JA, the vocations director, she urged me to go before the Blessed Sacrament and see where God was leading me. If I felt that I was called to religious life and my spiritual director agreed that I was ready, she would give me papers, allowing me to apply to enter the community. By the next Wednesday, I had both answers – yes, I did feel called to religious life, to that convent, and my spiritual director thought I was absolutely ready. And thus the whirlwind that has been my life for the last month really kicked into gear.
Within my prayers, I asked Jesus, “please direct me.” If this is not where You wish me to go, please, Lord, stop me! Far from stopping me, He has been removing every obstacle in my path, ushering me forward on this journey. I received my acceptance letter and for the last week of June, I had the very great pleasure of spending six days with my future sisters. And now it is official: God willing, I will enter the community of the DSMME on August 28th, 2012.
All in all, God has been leading me on this journey for a long time! He has been so immeasurably generous, placing beautiful people in my path the whole time, most especially my best friend, who has been there the whole time. When I told her that I thought I might have a religious vocation, her response was something along the lines of “Duh?” I can’t even imagine where I would be if not for her and some of the other wonderful people that God has placed in my path.
God is so good! I can’t wait to see how the rest of this summer will go, not to mention my life once I enter. I hope to share that journey with you.