For today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I give you something very different than what I have given you in the past, however, today’s post should give each and everyone of us great hope for the Catholic Church in America in the years to come. It should also inspire us to continue to pray for vocations to religious life. In recent days, it may seem that the world is just falling apart all around us, but when you read a vocation story like this one, you realize that God is still and always in control.
This is the vocation story of Ava, a former student of mine and now high school graduate of St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin, TX. When I taught high school theology at Savio from 2010-2012, Ava was my student during her sophomore year. Even then I could see there was something special about this young woman. There was a light in her eyes not often seen in the face of a 16-year-old teenager. To this day, I remember when she first shared with me that she was thinking about religious life. If there was one (and trust me, there are a few more in this class) student in the Savio Class of 2014 who could have a calling, it was Ava.
Please read this blog post, pray for Ava and all women entering religious life this year, and then share this story with everyone you know, especially young women who might be discerning a calling to religious life.
As my August 28th, 2014 entrance date quickly approaches, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. It is only by the abundant graces of God that I am preparing to enter the beautiful community of the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist this year.
I recall a time when I was very young that I thought I would be a nun. I didn’t know any sisters, but I believe that it was through the prayers of my parents that God gave me the gift of a religious vocation. In the fourth grade, I joined a Catholic girls group that offered me the opportunity to attend retreats and to meet Consecrated women. It was during these years at the end of elementary school and through middle school that I first began to hear Jesus inviting me to be totally His.
My eighth grade year, I began to grow closer to Jesus in the Eucharist. I strove to attend weekly Eucharistic Adoration in our beautiful perpetual adoration chapel at my parish. Jesus continued to draw my heart to Himself in a very special way. I knew He wanted me to be His. I began to ask Jesus where He was calling me, and I began praying daily to Mary for my vocation. The associate pastor at my parish mentioned in a homily the sisters who were on Oprah. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember going home and watching the videos on YouTube. I could hardly believe that the sisters were sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, the two treasures of our Faith that I had so recently been deepening my devotion to. Once I discovered that the sisters were teachers, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect order for me since I had always wanted to be a teacher. I worked up the courage to email the sisters, and then I realized that the sisters had a mission convent 5 miles from my house! I was even more shocked to recall that I had gone Christmas caroling with a church group at their convent a few months earlier!
Another wonderful priest encouraged me to make contact with the sisters here by the end of that year. My natural introversion and quiet demeanor made me nervous to do so, but I continued to ask Jesus to work it out for me if this was his plan. Someone I barely knew invited me to an event with the sisters at the Cathedral. I accepted her invitation thanking God for paving the way for me to get to know the sisters.
The summer after my freshman year I attended Sunday Vespers (which I frequented more as the years went on) and really talked with the Sisters for the first time. I am so blessed to have met so many incredible Sisters right here in my own community! God had much in store for me when I transferred to Catholic school for the first time my sophomore year. I then was blessed to have Sister Mary Elizabeth, O.P. as a teacher in chemistry, physics, and an independent study in theology over the next three years! Her beautiful love of Christ and His Church, her genuine love of her students, and her passion for helping them truly learn was so inspirational for me. Her prayers and support sustained me through so much and I am incredibly grateful for her daily beautiful witness of religious life.
My sophomore year, my parish priest asked me if I had thought about entering the convent right out of high school. The thought had never crossed my mind! I began bringing that to prayer, and I was led to the conclusion that entering out of high school was indeed what God wanted for me. The idea overwhelmed me though, because I couldn’t even fathom leaving my family (I have six younger siblings and the youngest is only two).
My junior year finally arrived, and I signed up for a discernment retreat. The moment I walked through the doors into the Motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was flooded with peace. When I met with the Vocation Director, Sister Joseph Andrew, she spoke the words that made my heart sing, “Welcome Home!” On this retreat, I realized that I was in the point of discernment that I needed to ask myself what was holding me back. I was shocked to realize how short the list was, and by how my list melted away when I was looking into the eyes of Jesus in prayer. By the end of the retreat, I didn’t want to leave! God blessed me with abundant consolations throughout the whole retreat, and I was floating!
My senior year of high school was definitely the hardest year of my life so far. I thank God for the graces He has given that have enabled me to overcome so many obstacles. It has been a roller coaster, and there were many times where I wasn’t sure if what I was hearing God ask of me was even going to be possible. I learned so many lessons, but the one that really stands out is this: God is faithful. He may lead you to the edge of a cliff, but when He invites you to jump, He is there to catch you. I am even able to be grateful for the sufferings of this year because it has led me to trust in God more than I ever thought was possible. His love is real, and it is worth it.
I am so very excited for this August 28th when I will enter the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist as “Sister Ava,” a postulant. After a year of postulancy, there are two years in the novitiate before temporary vows, and then five more years until final profession. Please keep me in your prayers as I continue discerning God’s will for my life. God bless!
Our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of All Religious…Pray for Us.