I didn’t realize that this was going to be so long. I apologize. I may rework this, but this is what I have so far. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. I hope this story, my story of God working in my life, helps you to see Him working in your own life. God Bless!
This whole process began a long time ago, when I was in fourth grade to be exact. That was the first time I ever thought about becoming a nun. It was a random thought that I didn’t really think about before I said it and wasn’t thought of, until a few months ago, after I said it. I was at a friend’s birthday party and we were talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up and I said a teacher or a nun, if they got paid.
The next time the thought cropped up was when I was a senior in high school. I was a very active member of my youth group and growing in my faith. I was also attending a public high school. This combination meant a lot of people didn’t understand my life. A lot of people started teasing me about becoming a nun. Even my family got in on the joke, my grandparents and aunts and uncles would joke with me about it. The jokes got to the point where I even bought a nun costume and wore it for Halloween. It never really bothered me, except that I was strongly opposed to the idea and didn’t give it a second thought.
Then I went away for my first year of college. I went to a school that I thought was going to give me the Catholic community I had longed for since truly meeting Christ, but I was wrong. That year was full of doubt and struggle. I had trouble making friends and keeping roommates. Everything was hard. But, I found solace in the chapel. There was one in every dorm on campus. I would spend almost every morning there, just praying, reading the Bible, and spending time with the Lord.
I really tried to make friends. One night when I went out to dinner with some women they decided it would be a good idea to take me to an “adult” store. They said I was too much of a prude. I said they could drive there, but I would refuse to get out of the car. To that they responded, you would be a perfect nun.
That made me stop. I remember that night like it was yesterday. I even still have the journal entry I wrote later that evening when I couldn’t sleep. It was like this nun thing wouldn’t leave. I was so frustrated with God, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t make friends, why I didn’t and had never had a boyfriend. All I wanted was to be loved and understood. But I wasn’t. And people kept telling me I should be a nun. I asked God in anger, “am I only good to become a nun?”
After that night, nothing changed. I didn’t feel any different. I definitely didn’t feel a a desire or interest in religious life. I went on living my day to day life. The one thing that did happen was I joined tumblr and found a bunch of Catholic teenagers and young adults who were trying to live their faith authentically. I realized, I really wasn’t the only one out there my age longing to grow closer to God. This was just the beginning.
Through this community, I came to realize that it was normal to think about becoming a nun. I learned what a vocation was and what discernment was. It was at this point that I began to discern discerning. My heart opened just a little bit to the idea of religious life. It took a lot of time and looking around on the internet for me to really begin the ‘discernment’ process. I started praying for the Lord’s will to be done in my life.
Around this time, I was finishing up my first year of college and moving back home to start a local school. That fall I worked in the University library part time. This allowed for a lot of silence in my life. Those days in the beginning were full of thoughts of religious life. I couldn’t turn the thoughts off. All I could think about was what was I supposed to do next? How was I ever going to get an answer? How was I going to talk to my parents about it? It got to the point that I was so overwhelmed and confused that I downloaded some podcasts to listen to during my work time so I didn’t have to listen to myself.
I was trying to drown out anything that had to do with religious life, or really making any kind of decisions about my future. Luckily for me, a young adult group was starting up at my parish. I decided to join and met 8 other young adults who were interested in growing in their faith plus a seminarian who was in charge of our little book club. We read Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism as our first book. Most of it went right over my head, but I loved it anyway. I loved the community, the challenge that I was being presented, the possibility of new friendships, everything about the group.
Around the same time of joining this group, I was able to begin volunteering with the Parish’s youth group. I had the opportunity to join them for a trip to Washington D.C. for the March for Life that January. I remember this trip mostly in two different parts. First of all, being overwhelmed by the March itself and second of all, thinking the whole trip of a way to bring up vocations with the seminarian who also traveled with us.
I never got the chance, or the courage really, to bring it up. But, my desire to know more was starting to really increase. I spent the months following the March praying and asking for God to help me know where He was leading me while also going to school and working. It finally got to be around the end of September, I decided to pray a novena to St. Therese of Lisieux to ask God whether He was calling me to religious life or youth ministry. At the time, I didn’t really understand the different between a job and a vocation.
By the end of the novena, I was sure I was called to be a youth minister. So, I decided I would go in and meet with the youth minister at my Parish, who had been my youth minister in high school. I went in and discussed youth ministry with him. Near the end of our discussion he asked me if I had ever considered religious life. I answered honestly but said I felt really called to youth ministry from the novena I had just finished praying. He explained that I could be called to both and told me why he could see me as a sister.
That meeting left me confused. I had thought I had received a clear answer and then was completely called into question. I spent the next few months really opening myself up to the idea of religious life. Prior to this time I had really been negative about the whole idea, thinking about it, but really just longing for marriage. After this meeting with my youth minister I was able to really open myself up to either option and see the beauty in both vocations.
I had the gift of being able to chaperone the March for Life trip for a second time that January and little did I know the Lord had been using the last few months to prepare me for something big. On the first night in D.C., we traveled to a local Parish where we spent time in praise and worship and adoration. During this time, I was really just entering into the prayer not even thinking about vocation stuff. But suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt in my heart the Lord proposing to me. He was asking me to be His. In that moment, I said yes, completely, and I remember breaking into tears. It was a very emotional moment.
The rest of the trip went by quickly, although it was filled with many vocation moments, whether it was the songs we sang for Mass or the talks that were given. I was really feeling a tug on my heart for something more. When we got back I set up to meet with my youth minster again. I was really unsure where I was being led, what I was supposed to do next. I had been looking online and found imagine sisters, so I knew about spiritual direction being a good idea and that visiting communities was also something that needed to happen if I was serious. Both of these things were confirmed by my youth minister.
So I went home and emailed the seminarian, now Deacon who ran the young adult group, for suggestions on a good spiritual director. Within a month, I had set up an initial meeting with a priest for spiritual direction and registered for a retreat with the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist.
I went to the retreat expecting to be confirmed in my feelings but was totally thrown off. I left the retreat feeling like I had made a big mistake. I met with my spiritual director the following week and although I felt like I couldn’t be called to religious life after the experience at the retreat, I told him I was discerning religious life. I spent the next few months developing my relationship with Christ. I went to Mass daily and Adoration frequently. During this time, I was also scouring the internet for different orders and information on religious life.
I had run across the T.O.R.’s facebook page a couple times but kind of wrote them off because I assumed contemplative meant cloister. However, one day, I decided to take a chance and clicked on the link to their page. I really liked everything I saw so I visited their website. I read through everything and could really see myself in the schedule and the charisms. So, I filled out a vocation inquiry and set up to talk to the vocation director on the phone. I was really nervous for that first phone call, but it went really well. We talked about my discernment and actually just got talking about something completely off topic. I immediately felt a connection. I felt comfortable talking to her. We decided that I would sign up for a vocation discernment retreat in September.
It was only May or June at the time but I couldn’t wait for that retreat. That summer, I was able to travel to a Steubenville conference in Springfield, MO with the youth group at my Parish that I was volunteering with. At the end of every one of those conferences they have a vocation call. Anyone who is open to a vocation to religious life or priesthood is invited to the front for a blessing and a talk. Even though I wasn’t a participant, I felt like I had to go up. I remember walking back to my seat after the blessing and I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. I was so full of joy after making what was going on inside public.
I spent the next few months continuing my relationship with the Lord by attending daily mass, and developing my prayer life each day. In September, I visited the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother for a Vocation Discernment Retreat. It was a completely different experience than with the DSMME. I felt comfortable as soon as I walked into the doors to the chapel. Never once did I feel pressure toward their way of life from them, but it all just seemed really appealing. I enjoyed the time in prayer and really felt confirmation in my call to religious life.
I went home after spending the weekend with the sisters sure I wanted to visit again. I contacted them a few weeks later and set up to visit for a come and see in December. About a week or so before my visit I started to have some serious doubts. I went into the come and see unsure of what I was doing. I struggled to adjust to the schedule and the quiet. I had strong inclinations to leave in the middle of my visit. But, I pushed through. I wanted to give it the full visit. I told myself to participate in what I was doing with them and not to put any pressure on the visit. I would just let whatever was going to happen happen. I was able to experience in house work, what it looked like to work at the thrift store, and I was able to help set up for the Christmas party the sisters were hosting for the people downtown.
Throughout the whole visit though I was really just struggling to see myself in religious life at all. However, the night before I was supposed to leave I was reading the readings for Mass in the morning and there was a choice between two different readings. It was between something and a reading from the Song of Songs. I read the reading and I immediately felt like God was trying to tell me something through it. I prayed that night that if He was calling me to religious life, He should make sure the Song of Songs reading was read the next day at Mass.
Well, as I’m sure you guessed, that reading was read (Song of Songs 2:8-14). While it was read I also heard the Lord say to me, Arise, my daughter, and come. I drove the whole way home thinking that the line was part of the reading. However, I looked it up later and it was no where in it. The Lord was trying to tell me something, of which I wasn’t sure.
I spent the next couple months processing the visit. I remember when I met with my spiritual director following I described everything so positively. I was able to see the amazing blessings possible in even the smallest tasks that the sisters did. There were also a lot of things about their daily life that stuck with me. I really liked the flow of prayer and the slowness and quiet. I also really liked the fact that work was a prayer. Overtime I just started to fall in love with all of the little bits and pieces of the life.
I was able to chaperone another trip to the March for Life, this time as youth minister myself, in January. I went expecting nothing spectacular to happen, since last year had been such a moving experience. But I was surprised. The Lord used this experience to bring me closer to himself. I was able to see a lot of different sisters at different youth events and at the actual march. When I saw them, instead of feeling right and at peace with being at the march as a youth minister, I felt out of place, as if I should be with them.
February came around and I set up to talk to the vocation director of the T.O.R.s. Prior to our conversation I was browsing their website and noticed that I had finished all of the steps before beginning the application process. I asked her what steps I needed to take about my loans, etc. She suggested that really the next step was application. I accepted the invitation and here we are. The end of one part of the journey and beginning of another type.