Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Vocation Story

Although the title above sounds a bit 'schoolish', I have been asked by several people for my vocation story. And since I also have to write it for my application to The Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity, I thought I would write it here so my family & friends could read it as well.

I can't say it's always been my dream to be a Nun. Growing up I thought I would get married and have children like my parents. God, however, had other plans for me - in fact, much better plans!

I went to public school through most of 7th grade so my memories of Sisters is limited during this time. I think I remember seeing them sporadically in Church - I remember the stories that my mom told me about growing up & going to a Catholic grade school, but I did not have this experience, at least not until the 8th grade.

I do have to say that my school-age memories of the Sisters were not very encouraging toward a religious life. We moved to Georgia and we went to a Catholic grade school. Sr. Patricia, my English teacher in 8th grade, used to tell us stories about how she taught Moses to speak English. She would also sit behind her desk during independent study time and play tic-tac-toe with her feet. How she lost to herself, I'll never know. In 9th grade, I had the greatest Sister! She was in a non-habited Order yet she was a whiz at Geometry & Algebra. It was through her (and my 8th grade math teacher) that I fell in love with the math-sciences.

Just before 10th grade, we moved to Ohio. I had two former Nuns for teachers at the Catholic high school - one for English and the other for Religion. The Religion teacher was always trying to be 'hip' with the students, but not succeeding, and the English teacher talked in such a monotone that it was difficult trying to pay attention. Not very good role models.

It was on the campus of Ohio State University that I found myself drawn to a religious order. Sr. Fidelis (Divine Providence) and Sr. Marie (Sisters of St. Joseph) worked at the Newman Center, just off campus. We would often talk about their decision for religious life, their discernment, and their love for our Lord. They seemed to have it all together and did not live within their communities, although they would often talk about going back to visit. I became more involved with the Church - EMHC, Pastoral Council member, TNT (Tuesday Night Together) Student Representative, RCIA Sponsor, and CCD Teacher. The more I became involved, the more I yearned to know more about our Lord and Savior.

After thinking about this for awhile, at least a couple years, I decided to let my mom know about my decision. We talked for hours. She asked me a question: "Are you wanting to join a religious order because you are really interested or because you are running away from dealing with the abuse.

For 10 years, starting when I was 7, I was molested by some of my cousins. It started innocently but when I told his father, my uncle, about the incident, he laughed and said his sons wouldn't do anything like that. Major blow to a little girl who trusted her parents when they told her that if something should happen, tell an adult, they'll believe you & they'll take care of it. I did, he didn't, and the abuse continued. It wasn't until the night before I was to leave for college that I told my parents about the abuse.

I couldn't answer my mom's question. Was I interested? Was I running? I decided to put off any thoughts of joining an order until I could answer this question honestly and without hesitation.

At OSU I had gone to several student councellors - most of whom did nothing to heal the pain. After a year, I stopped....I was all 'talked' out. I needed something more. But now it was a couple years later, I was out of school & in the 'working world' and decided to try it again. I went to several counsellors, psychologists, and therapists during the next few years, most of whom did not help, some may have done more harm than good had I continued the sessions, and one who wanted me to be angry with my father & bring a teddy bear (which I did not own) to the session. That counsellor did not last long!

I soon found myself falling away from the Church looking for any type of healing. I rarely attended Mass. I bought many 'self-help' books and hung out with some interesting friends. These friends led me to psychics, reiki, tarot cards, and other alternative methods of healing. The annual "Light Expo" was also on my calendar. The only two things I refused to try were witchcraft and oiji boards because they scared me too much. The 'healing' sessions became more frequent and yet I never felt happy nor healed.

The healing, God's healing, started one weekend after an extremely busy and tiring week. I was so frustrated with life, myself, and God, that I decided to 'tell' God what I really thought. Little did I know He was listening.

I told God that I was tired of my life. Tired of feeling so down, unhappy, and just plain tired! Something needed to change and I told Him to change it. That evening, my mom called to see if I was coming up for the weekend. I hadn't planned on it but a weekend with family sounded really good and relaxing...something I really needed. I packed my bags Friday morning so I could leave immediately after work. The 3 hour drive was very relaxing.

When I arrived at my parent's house, their Bible Study was just ending. We all chit-chatted for awhile until someone, I think it was my mom, asked if I wanted to be prayed over. Hesitantly I accepted, unsure of what they were going to do to me.

Quickly they rearranged the room, sat me in a white wicker chair in the middle of the room, and surrounded me. I closed my eyes because I really didn't want to watch...for fear of what was going to happen. I felt their hands on my shoulders, head, arms, knees, and someone was holding my hands. All of a sudden they all started praying, loudly! Then different languages were heard even louder. I wanted to bolt! Every once in awhile I'd hear my name or 'healing' or something in English...but not very often. Although I was apprehensive, I felt at peace when everyone had finished. I couldn't explain it nor did I really understand.

Matthew 18: 16-17 "Again, (amen) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

About 3 months later, I got a phone call from my mom telling me about a man (not really a pyschologist) who taught mind/body awareness specifically for abuse victims...and was located in Columbus. A year of therapy, self-defense, and mind/body awareness, all in a safe environment, led me through the healing of my 'inner child'...and the beginning of my spiritual healing.

I started going to Church, although I don't remember going to Confession. I ended my career in child care for a 'real job' at CompuServe. I found new friends, many of whom I still keep in contact. This continued for 6 years as I was slowly rebuilt. But God knew I had to get out of Columbus in order to continue my spiritual growth. CompuServe was bought, divided, and pieces-parts sold off by WorldCom. WorldCom then crashed into a financial tailspin, caused by the upper management. Many of us lost our jobs. I moved to Cleveland to live with family and collected unemployment checks - a very humbling experience

I would walk to St. Patrick's Church for daily and Sunday Mass and would often talk with Fr. Mark and other parishioners. I was being drawn back to the Church. I finally landed a job at RTA, bought a house a year later, and registered at St. Williams' Church.

I remember my first confession in years... the night before I happened to turn on EWTN. Fr. Corapi was talking about sins and the 10 Commandments. Within an hour I discovered that I sinned against every Commandment...some multiple times! That night I made my laundry list of sins and went to the Cathedral that morning. I walked into the Confessional, knelt down (actually hiding from the Priest because I couldn't face anyone with these sins!...even God), and wept! In between the tears, a sin would be voiced, and a kleenex box would appear from the other side of the screen. I don't remember what my penance was...I just remember hearing 'that was a good examination of conscience' and 'I absolve you from all of your sins'. I was walking on clouds when I left the Confessional! Mass was amazing that day! I had never felt so close to our Lord

I started going to Adoration and soon signed up for a weekly Holy Hour. I read the Bible, books on Saints, Epistles, prayer books, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, all provided by St. Williams for their Adoration Chapel. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. I found Pierced by a Sword at home and started reading. I remember my mom telling me about it and highly recommended the book but I had always ignored the hint...until now. I couldn't put the book down! I think I read it cover-to-cover in a weekend! This book changed my life! I felt myself being called closer to God but unsure in which direction.

After reading an article on Spirit Daily, I did some research on becoming a Consecrated Virgin. I emailed the Associate Pastor at St. Williams but never got a response and soon he was transferred to another parish. I started talking with friends about people they knew in a religious life. I visited Shrines and other Catholic Churches around Cleveland. I also researched St. Maximillian Kolbe, Militia Immaculata, and emailed the Diocese about the process of becoming a Consecrated Virgin.

The yearning for our Lord was growing stronger. I consecrated myself to Mary through the Militia Immaculata in September and found a Militia group on the west side of Cleveland and started attending the meetings. We prayed and studied Will to Love, daily reflections by St. Maximillian Kolbe. I felt drawn to St. Max and discovered that his feast day and my birthday were the same day! What a blessing!

I still heard nothing from the Cleveland Diocese regarding becoming a Consecrated Virgin, so I figured this was not the route our Lord wanted me to take. There was an ad in the bulletin for a Scott Hahn Bible Study on Mary and joined that with my parents. For the next 10 weeks my parents and I went to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine on Sunday nights to study our Heavenly Mother. I got to know some of the Sisters at the Shrine - they all seemed sane - not at all like Sr. Patricia.

One of the Sisters asked me what I wanted out of a religious vocation. I had never thought about this. So I did some additional research and started making a list. From what I discovered, there were many orders that were not following the Magisterium - this was a must for me. So I then started revising my list in to the 'Must-haves'. When I was finished, there were 3:
  • Must be fully habited, including the veil. If I was going to join a religious order, I wanted people to know.

  • The Order must be faithful to the Magisterium, Teachings, and Traditions.

  • They also must have a Charism of the Most Holy Trinity, Mary our Heavenly Mother, and Apostolate of Education.

This narrowed my search quite a bit - especially the full habit criteria. I discovered that most of the orders that do not wear habits also do not follow all of the Teachings & Traditions of the Catholic Faith. Now I had to decide what type of Order I was looking for - monastic, cloister, charity, service, etc. Monastic and Cloister were eliminated quickly because my vocal ability is lacking tonality and my ability to be silent was hindered by my ever-running brain to which I must then voice my thoughts. I talked with several Orders and visited several communities in the Cleveland area. I researched my criteria on the internet and found 3 Orders that I was deeply interested in:
  • The Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity, Euclid, OH
  • Society of Our Lady and the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), TX
  • Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

No matter which Order/Community I visited, I was always led back to the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity. Although all of the other Orders are remarkable and the Sisters, amazing, I felt at home with the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity. This is where God has been leading me...this is where He is asking me to call home.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Graduating Gradually

My sister graduated with her MBA yesterday - on Pentecost Sunday, which was also Mother's Day! What a great day to graduate! Stepping out of one part of life into the next with the love of Mothers everywhere and the love of God through the Holy Spirit. Sometimes frightening yet always transforming.

Going through life is like taking baby steps. We first must learn to rollover & sit up before we can learn to balance ourselves in order to stand. We crawl, stand, and bounce, strengthening our legs, before we can walk. We practice walking before we can learn to run. Life comes to us in stages...we master each stage before we can graduate into the next.

It is the same with God. God is gradually revealed to us through stages. It is through these stages that we are transformed into the person God wants us to be. We first have to understand that there is a loving God before we can learn to know Him. We learn to trust God with the little things in our lives slowly moving toward a complete and total giving of ourselves. Each step of faith advancing us closer to God's revelation for us.

It is the same through Scripture. In the Old Testement we learn about God, the Father, but Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are concealed. It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is revealed to us in the New Testement. The Holy Spirit is then fully revealed at Pentecost, when "Christ's Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of His fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance." (CCC 731).

Even though the Holy Spirit is the last person of the Most Holy Trinity to be revealed, He has been a part of God's loving plan of salvation for us. God is a mystery - not one to be solved, but one to be gradually revealed...step by step.

Friday, May 9, 2008

In God We Trust

Once when I was going through a rough time, I was sharing the events with my mom. She imparted a bit of wisdom...

"Whenever you find a coin on the ground, for instance a penny, what does it say?" she asked.

With a questioning look, then a grin & a wink, I responded, "A penny doesn't "say" anything. Why?"

Rolling her eyes, shaking her head, & laughing, she responded, "No, what is written on it?"

I tried to remember. I use coins all the time: vending machines at work, parking meters, exact change for my double mocha turtle latte, but I can't say I really read what was written on the coins.

A penny... a penny.... "one cent," I responded.
Yes, what else?
uhmmm... United States of America
What else?
Actually, it's Lincoln. But, what else?
The year??

"In God We Trust," she replied. She said that whenever she finds a coin on the ground, she picks it up and reads, "In God We Trust."

What great advice!! We need to trust God with everything in and about our lives. This is not just my life... it is God's life in which I am being entrusted to live. Why then should I not trust God with all the details?

I say that I trust in God, but do I really mean it? Do I trust God with every aspect of my life, the good, the bad, and the 'ugly' (and yes, there have been some very ugly moments!). Do I trust God fully or do I hand it over yet keeping my hand on one edge, ready to pull back when times get really tough or I get anxious?

I can't say it's easy. It's been quite a challenge, sometimes every step of the way. Yet, now, whenever I find a coin, I read the words, "In God We Trust," put it in my pocket, & every time I feel it - I remember, "In God We Trust."

My mom and I have taken this a step further. We often pray when we are walking or doing chores. If we find a coin and we are praying for someone at that moment, we will save the coin & give it to the person for whom we were praying. We will also let them know that it was a sign from God at that trust Him always.

So remember, find a penny, pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck...for God is with you always!