Vocation Stories

Sister Theresa Ann's Vocation Story

I was born in Escanaba, Michigan at St. Francis Hospital. We had a home in the country about seven miles outside of town. Lake Michigan was not far from my home and when I came to Illinois, I wondered where all the lakes and trees were, not anywhere in sight that I could see. So much flat land that it did not seem to be enriched with green trees and overflowing water.

 

All my life I searched for the meaning of God's love in my life. When I was in grade or high school, I remember only one time before going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve that the thought about becoming a Sister came to my mind. However, I did not know any religious sisters and it never came to mind after that one instance. My parents were people of faith. They brought us up in the Catholic Church. We went to Mass every Sunday and when I was younger we would pray the family rosary. My mother was a convert; at the age of sixteen she turned Catholic against her parents’ wishes. However, as I was growing up, I remember going to Church and wondering why God was so far out of reach. I approached Him as someone you honored, but not like a Father, as Jesus would say "Abba," a father who cares for all our needs lovingly. I was shy but enjoyed life. Mom and dad were good to us and loved us. We did a lot of simple things together as a family.

As life went on and after graduation, I began working in the cafeteria at the hospital in Escanaba. My mother got ill and our family was wounded. It gave our whole family a helpless and scared feeling. I experienced many emotions such as anger, frustration and so on. I would go to church on Tuesday evening and make a novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help and ask Mary to intercede for our family. I searched for God's love and wondered if He was really real in my life. Mary brought me to the feet of Jesus in prayer. There was a picture of Jesus in the Agony of the Garden on the wall next to where I would sit in church. After a while I could feel the strength from Jesus' pain carrying me through and giving me hope that someone does care.

Working at the hospital was a good experience for me. I was making new friends and even started to date the cook. It was fun renting a house and learning to be on my own. I always thought I would get married and have six children because I loved children. Sister Amadeo was in charge of the Dietary Department where I worked. We would have fun. She was a great cook and at times our whole dietary staff would have meals together. She would bring us together like a family, which brought much joy to our hearts. She would encourage me to become a Sister but at that time I did not feel the call to religious life. I began to attend daily Mass at my parish church and felt a desire to develop a closer relationship with Jesus. God planted a seed in my heart that needed to grow. He fed it with His own body and blood in the Eucharist. What a gift!  To this day the Eucharist is the center of my life. Without receiving Christ, I could not strive to live for Him and glorify the Father.

As time went on I felt a longing and persistent desire in my heart to answer "yes" to God’s call to enter religious life. I began to speak to Jesus as a friend in my heart and would tell Him I would not make a good sister. I am too weak and not very intellectual. However the desire continued to grow in me and I would pray and ask God to help me do what he was asking of me. Finally I realized that I would find Jesus' love and peace by responding to His invitation to enter the convent. At that time I worked for The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. Even though I was frightened about the idea of becoming a Sister, courage was not one of my virtues, only God's strength would guide me through my life's journey of faith. The Sisters helped me understand that God does call people to consecrated life, even if they are not highly educated or perfect. The Lord wanted me in my humanness, and through my weakness He would bring His strength.

I remember one day being at a laundromat and seeing an ad about buying a book on bible stories. I always longed to read about Jesus in the bible so I mailed the form and expected to get something through the mail. One evening, a knock came at my door and when I answered the door there was a middle age man who wanted to talk to me about the bible. He shared some of the Scripture stories with me and his vocation story. I talked about God's love and that I was going to enter religious life. It gave me a sense of peace sharing my story with him. Before he left he told me to never lose what I had. At that time I wondered what he meant. As time went on, I realized that he meant the gift of faith. God gives us the gift of faith and we must respond to this gift daily by putting all our trust in his promise of being with us always.

The preparation for entering the convent was not without its challenges. I needed to get a priest’s recommendation and have interviews with the Major Superior and the Formation Director. I volunteered at the Hospital after work and on week-ends so I did not get involved in many activities at the parish where I was registered. The priest knew me from attending daily Mass and receiving the Sacraments but not personally. After three attempt of getting an interview with Father, we talked and he was very nice. He said he could give me a recommendation on the spiritual part of my life but they would have to talk with Sister Amadeo for the personal recommendation. He encouraged me to look into other religious communities; however, I knew that I found the one that was meant for me.

On August 15, 1976, I entered the convent. The novitiate was the springtime of my religious life. I loved my classes on Scripture, Franciscan Spirituality and many other classes that taught me more about my Catholic faith and on living consecrated life. We had Mass every day and prayed the Divine Office together and had time for personal prayer. I worked in different areas in the convent and got to know and enjoy the Sisters. We had fun together no matter what we were doing. The grounds at the Motherhouse are beautiful, just walking outside and quietly enjoying nature made my heart sing to the Lord in silence. St. Francis always felt an oneness with creation and that seem to radiate through my being. The novitiate set the foundation for living my consecrated life. I made my first religious retreat in the convent and through the years I came to love being on retreat and strived to silence my heart and listen to the voice of my Lord deep within my being. Only by spending time with the Lord can I deepen my relationship with Him and receive the wisdom to walk in the footsteps of Christ.

After the years in the novitiate and taking my First Temporary Vows, I went to St. James Hospital in Pontiac, IL. It was there I took my Licensed Practical Nurses training. I prayed, worked and had fun with our Sisters there in community. I took care of God's people. As our foundress, Mother Frances Krasse said, "Nurse the sick with the greatest care and love then God’s blessings will be with you." I loved caring for the sick.

On February 11, 1984, I made profession of Perpetual Vows after the homily during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I rejoiced in being united to my bridegroom for life. I pronounced the Vows of Consecrated Chastity, Poverty and Obedience to God, to the Church and to our Franciscan Community forever. The Bishop placed a silver ring signed with the crucifix on my right index finger. My whole life would be lived for God alone! In the silence of my heart, I heard God say, "I have called you by name; you are mine…" (Is. 43:1).

Each day I live out my consecrated life. A commitment of love, filled with many challenges, that needs to be lived day by day. After professing Final Vows, I was missioned to Rockford, IL at Saint Anthony Medical Center and worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse for about two years and then in Pastoral Care Services for twenty years. Late in October of 2006, I was missioned to our Motherhouse in East Peoria to serve as secretary to our Congregation and was placed on the boards of our OSF Healthcare System.

Our Lord has been good to me. He provided the strength and comfort in the challenging years and blessed me with much joy and happiness as I continue to serve Him in whatever service he calls me to. I often think of Mother Teresa and how she would bring out in her writings, "smile no matter what comes your way," She took care of the poorest of the poor. A great gift from God! My life is a journey of faith and trust in God's providence. I ask Mary to help me seek to do God's will in all things and be a true handmaid of the Lord. He loves us so much and desires that we all come to him and rest in His love. Often I pray to Saint Padre Pio and ask him to intercede to deepen my devotion to the Eucharist and assist us in caring for the poor, sick, injured and dying. A life of faith is seeking to live deeper into the heart of Christ with the Father and Holy Spirit which means a reaching out to others and bringing them into the Divine Family of Love.