Contrary to an illusion that some people seem to have, Sisters are not “born that way.” We don’t come into this world wearing a veil.
Some Religious had the idea of being a Sister since their early childhood, but I did not share this experience. My mom had two aunts that were Benedictine Sisters, and she had asked me, on occasion, if I’d ever thought of such a life. The answer had always been “No!”
When No Changed To Maybe
That all changed the summer after my first year of college during a time of prayer in our parish’s Eucharistic adoration chapel. It seemed Jesus was asking me to become a Sister, to be His in a special way. Thankfully, I had been taught the importance of obedience to God and had been disposed to follow Him. As Pope Francis noted in a sermon on the 22nd World Day For Consecrated Life, my vocation was rooted in my personal relationship with Jesus:
Everything started in an encounter with the Lord. Our journey of consecration was born of an encounter and a call. We need to keep this in mind.
So, although I was not, in the beginning, particularly thrilled about the idea, my attitude was “If this is what God wants me to do, I’ll do it.”
However, “doing it” was not that simple…I had very little knowledge of religious life; I didn’t know what I would be looking for in a community. I had a lot to learn, including about myself, before I could fully answer my “yes.”
I decided to finish college before entering. For one thing, I had no clue where I would go!
I did fill out a postcard in the big blue book, Guide to Religious Ministries, and began receiving information from all sorts of different communities. As I sifted through it, met with my pastor and others, and visited some different communities, I grew a lot. I began to realize what I was looking for in a community. Although a religious vocation is God’s initiative, our own personality, gifts, and interests play a big part in it, too.
It wasn’t easy, all this searching…I even traveled out of state a few times, trying to find where Jesus might be asking me to go.
I Discovered The Franciscan Sisters
To make a long story short, about a year and a half after graduating from college, I visited the Franciscan Sisters in Hankinson, North Dakota. After arriving, settling into my surroundings, I remember a sense of relief that my searching was over, a sense that this could just be the right place for me.
After some months of extended visits, I entered the postulancy on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2nd. When I entered the next stage, my hair was cut (as in the case of St. Claire on whose feast I was “received as a novice”), I received a white veil and moved to Rugby, ND, where more intensive formation (novitiate) would begin. After two years, I made my first vows, receiving a ring, our mission cross, and a black veil. That first day, I felt in awe. The wonder of this gift of religious profession hung over me. I had vowed to live in poverty, in chastity, and in obedience. This time of first vows is a bit challenging to describe…One hasn’t yet made a lifelong commitment to being a religious, a bride of the Lord, but it is a very important step, and these are vows, nonetheless. It is very special.
Five years later, I was finally privileged to make my perpetual profession of vows, to commit to a life belonging in a special way to Jesus. We need to say “yes” to Him every day, but this was a definitive moment of responding to this call. A quote from our Franciscan Rule sums up both the beauty and the difficulty of a religious vocation in a few sentences:
Let them put aside all attachment as well as every care and worry. Let them only be concerned to serve, love, adore, and honor the Lord God, as best they can, with singleheartedness and purity of intention.
I had mentioned earlier that, at first, I was not thrilled about becoming a Sister, but in my years of formation, this changed! I learned in classes I had about the beauty of this life, the marvelous gift of religious consecration. It is a beautiful, wonderful gift.
Now, I serve at St. Anne’s, an assisted living-type facility in Grand Forks, ND. Here, I am privileged to serve Christ in our residents, working as a receptionist and aide. I also am now able to use my communications degree in doing some writing for our facility and for my religious community.
As I continue in my religious life, all is not “a bed of roses.” There are struggles and difficulties, as in any life. Didn’t Jesus say: “Whoever does not take up his cross daily and follow me cannot be my disciple.”? The beauty of religious life, though, is that we are walking with Jesus (or He is carrying us) and we are His. Sisters are living a life close to His heart and praying for and serving His people.
The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. (JPII’s Apostolic Exhortation: Vita Consecrata, I)
I encourage you to think about it, to PRAY about it.
Spend time with Jesus in quiet adoration. Draw close to Him. Listen to Him.
If you ever find yourself in the upper mid-west and would like to pay us a visit to experience this life first hand, give us a shout!