Sister, did you know you had a vocation?
I was in a Dominican active Community already before I entered the Summit monastery. I spent two years in formation with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist at Ann Arbor, Michigan. After prayerful discernment, I felt that Our Lord was calling me to a much simpler life, but I had no idea what that meant.
One thing I knew is that I never had any desire to be a Cloistered Nun because I was too active and I could never be able to pray so long. I have always thought that a Cloistered Nun has to ‘already’ have a very deep prayer and spiritual life, if not mystical.
Due to my active temperament, meditation and contemplation have always been a great struggle for me, and therefore I relied on spiritual books to keep my mind on God. I thought you had to be holy before entering.
After I left Ann Arbor, I knew that I still had a vocation. At least, Our Lord has not removed from my heart His calling to be a religious. I promised Our Lord that I would wait before I began discerning again.
I continued to remain open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit until one night as I went praying before the Blessed Sacrament, I started to have this simple conversation with Our Lord and all I said was “Could it be possible that you are calling me to the cloistered life?.
I kept going back and forth with that crazy idea and kept saying “No way, that’s not for me.”
So I went to bed still thinking about that conversation and my resistance at the thought of living my life behind a cloistered wall. Since I was already immersed in the Dominican Spirituality at my previous Community, I thought a Dominican cloistered community was what I should start with. So I went online to search for one in New Jersey and the Monastery of Summit came up. I continued to pray and remain open to God’s will.
What were your first impressions?
I contacted Sr. Mary Catharine, the vocation directress. I came for my first initial weekend visit in November 2009 and stayed in the guest room for a weekend. I was 39 then.
I had planned to spend this weekend listening to God and praying to know His will. I turned off my cell phone so I could be very attentive for the sole purpose of why I was here. Well, I began to feel very bored being in a large Chapel alone. The Chapel is absolutely magnificent and very conducive to prayer and quiet time with Our Lord, but I kept apologizing to Our Lord for wanting to leave his Presence so quickly to run away from it all. Since at that time, the Sisters did not have a very good sound system (now we do), their singing sounded beautiful but I could not really hear the words.
On my second day, I ran to a beauty salon down the street from the monastery that had a special $25 offer and treated myself to a lovely manicure and pedicure which cheered me up immensely. Then I came back for my initial talk and meeting with Sr. Mary Catharine.
After she patiently heard my stories, she must have had a feeling of my hesitancy and struggling, she encouraged me to make an aspirancy. I said to myself “no way” it’s impossible. All I was doing was setting obstacles in God’s ways, but it wasn’t until I gave my consent to the Holy Spirit to let Him do His works of grace in my heart, that everything began to fall into place and I began to be at peace. So I went home and continued to pray and listen to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. With the guidance of my spiritual director and the patience and encouragement of Sr. Mary Catharine, I received the grace to say “Yes” to aspirancy
What would you say drew you to the Sisters?
Well, first and foremost, Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament drew my heart to Him. Then the authenticity, and the simplicity of the way the Sisters live the life in general, confirmed my deepest desire: the longing to be united with Our Lord through faithfully living the monastic life and its observances for my own salvation and for the salvation of souls.
How did your family react?
I must say that Our Lord has blessed me with a beautiful and loving family who always gave the Holy Will of God FIRST PLACE in the lives of their children. My parents were very positive and very happy because they know they are only “stewards” and not “owners” of their children, and they could not stand in God’s way.
Whatever Our Lord wants for us, they were more than willing to give Him, even at any price. My baby and only sister is a Missionary of Charity, a Superior for the house in Birmingham, London (UK). I have 5 brothers, none of whom are priests. I thank God greatly for His wonderful gift of my parents.
What have been the most surprising things about your experience of your vocation to these Sisters?
Well, I mentioned how meditation was always a struggle for me. I soon realized that everyone struggled with it. That’s an encouragement.
I also thought that holiness was a prerequisite, well I was so glad to see that everyone is not “a Saint” but is on the way to Sainthood and had to struggle as well with their imperfections.
Keeping vigils with a Sister’s coffin in Choir was a little surprising and scary at first. I did not know if I could do it. Well, it’s amazing the grace God gave me to feel at peace being alone with a dead sister during my night guard (adoration).
I have several, but the Holy Week celebration in the monastery beginning with Holy Thursday is one of my favorites. We have the washing of the feet, “the mandatum”, when the prioress kisses the feet of each Sister as two sister-helpers assist in the washing of the feet. I found this tradition the most moving and unforgettable memory because it is such a deep expression of Our Lord’s humility. Jesus, although Lord and Master, stooped down so low to wash his creature’s feet. It is also a beautiful expression for those who are in a leadership position like a prioress to be the “servant of all”, just like Our Lord who came to serve and not to be served. What a great lesson of humility!
My other favorite memory is the spirit of Advent in the monastery. Although we are busy filling up orders in the soap and candle departments, it’s a different type of busyness than the world since we always try to keep in mind the meaning of what we are preparing for as we work.
Why do you think that Convent life is so attractive to so many young Catholics?
I think from my own experience that young people are looking for truth, beauty and goodness which define who God is: all Truth, Good and Beautiful. When you find a Community that is faithful to their Charism and the Spirit of their Founder and a Community that knows what they are really about and try to live authentically their religious vocation in spite of our own human limitations in true fraternal charity and the spirit of joy, then for me that is very attractive.
For more on the sisters in Summit, NJ click below