I grew up the middle child in a family with three brothers and one sister, two parents, one grandmother and an ever growing number of cats, all relegated to living outside (only when my parents weren’t watching). I attended Catholic grade school and high school.
I can remember the time when I was in first grade and a Sister was preparing our class to receive our First Holy Communion. Her hands would form a chalice and host while she spoke to us. She told us that this first encounter with Jesus was so special that we should really think about what we were going to say to Him when He comes. I can’t remember if Sister gave us a few ideas to consider or if it was my own original idea, but I remember so clearly that first precious encounter and what I prayed. “Jesus, help me be a good girl, to love you always, and when I grow up make me a Sister.” As a child growing up this simple prayer became a part of my prayers each night before I went to sleep.
I can never remember not wanting to be a Sister. In my simple mind, I just couldn’t imagine a life without having God at the very center of it. As early as third grade I began writing simple poems about what God meant to me and my desire to be a Sister one day. I have continued to capture my life experiences in free verse up to the present day. Much of it speaks to my relationship with God and how I sought meaning and direction in my life from Him.
I was raised in a very devout Catholic home and our faith was always central to our family life, and so that natural nurturing was always there. I was determined to enter the convent after grade school and began writing religious communities in 7th grade. I’m sure my parents would not have approved, much less given me permission. Then came time to enter high school and I became so excited and wrapped up in those activities that I totally forgot about the idea until I was into my Freshman year and already immersed in volleyball, basketball, track, Mission Club, Sodality of Mary, Swim Team and the many other extracurricular activities. My parents then told me I should wait until after high school because they felt it would be good for me to experience those years at home with my family and they were right.
In my junior year of high school I can remember saying to God: “It’s wonderful to know you want me to be a Sister, but you didn’t tell me there are hundreds of communities. How am I supposed to know WHERE you want me to go?” So I started setting up dates to visit a few communities and each time the date approached I was sick and unable to go. The only community I was finally able to actually visit was our community, The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. I knew that first visit, this would be my new home. I applied and was accepted to enter the fall after my high school graduation.
My parents were very supportive and happy. However, my brothers thought differently. My oldest brother, Pat, didn’t like the idea; he saw me so active and involved in so many things and was afraid I would be locked up somewhere, never to go anywhere or pursue higher education. Guess what brother first heard when so many opportunities were wonderfully provided for me IN the convent!
I was like a second mother to my youngest brother, Mark, because of our 10 years age difference. He handled my departure from home differently. He was in second grade when I entered and accompanied my parents on my entrance date. I had sewn my own red A-line dress to wear when I entered and when it was time for my family to depart, they were given my clothing to take back home. My parents told me later that my little brother was in the back seat and so quiet on the ride home. When they turned to check on him, he was holding my red dress and tears were coming down his face.
I was allowed to come home for a week of vacation to see my family near the end of my initial year in religious formation and so came home in my postulant outfit. My Mom asked me to ride up to the city pool and pick up my youngest brother and couple of his buddies and bring them home. When I arrived at the pool, my brother hopped in the back seat with a friend and his other buddy in the front seat with me. That little guy, Tim, whom I knew and had taught swimming lessons to, looked at me like I was a ghost and said: “Mark told me you were dead!” I turned around and looked at Mark and said: “We are going to have a serious conversation!”
Now, they know I couldn’t be happier. My Dad once said to me: “You have the BEST BOSS of all.” And indeed, I do, and friend and confidant, and spouse, and Wonderful God!