A REFLECTION ON MY VOCATION
Sr. Mary Elizabeth, C.P.
In my early years in grade school, we would have vocation/profession programs to introduce us to the meaning of priesthood, religious life, and married state vocations and the different professions that people choose to use their talents and serve others but without being a vocation. I was dressed as an airline stewardess in one program and because my arm was in a sling due to a broken collar-bone at the time, my fellow students teased me because it appeared I had fallen from the plane. In later years in high school, there was a Mass at our Cathedral for vocations and some students from the local high schools would go each year. It was to encourage vocations and pray for discernment. There were discussions in class also by the Sisters and students who might have questions. On one occasion, I remember that Sister emphasized the importance of doing God’s will in our life if we wanted to know true peace and joy and that we should pray for the grace to know His will for us because that is always what is best for us. I had an idea in the back of my mind that God might want me to be a religious, but I tried to keep it on the “back burner” since I wanted to follow another path and because the idea seemed to be calling me to be a cloistered nun.
After I graduated from high school, I went to secretarial school and then worked for a devout Catholic woman at a nearby hotel. However, I did not stay long in this position because my heart was not at rest. I looked for some other work, but nothing attracted me. Then one day after Mass on the feast of the Assumption, I called a friend to see if we could do something together that day since we were both free. Suddenly, out of the blue, I told her that I was going to be a cloistered nun. She was very surprised and said that she thought I should speak to a priest. Without allowing myself time to change my mind, I made an appointment with a Jesuit priest. He listened to me and then suggested that I should go to the nearby Passionist Monastery in Erlanger, KY and see if that is where I was being called. When I spoke to my mother about this, she was not opposed to a vocation but wanted me to speak to the Sisters where I went to grade school first before I made a definite decision. I did this, but when the Provincial wanted me to enter their convent and go to school and become a teacher, I knew that was not for me. Later, I visited the Monastery by myself to speak to someone and was
nervous because I had no idea what it would be like. Instead of going to the front door, I mistakenly entered the chapel door and was relieved to be in Jesus’ Presence. I stayed for a few minutes to pray for strength and peace and then made my way to the front door and was directed to the visitor’s parlor where I spoke to the Mother Superior. She was very welcoming and asked me some questions and gave me answers to my questions. She asked me to come again and bring my mother. After mother and I talked to Mother Mary, my mother was not opposed to my entering, but I knew that she was sad. In fact, one day she was crying at home and my little brother saw her and asked why she was crying. When she told him I would be going to the monastery and not be able to come home, he said simply with his childlike wisdom, “Just tell her that she can’t go.” It seemed to him that this would make mother happy again. My father seemed to be proud of having a child become a nun. One day I found the poem, I’M THE DADDY OF A NUN stuck in the front seat of his car and it gave me comfort. It was my father who told me to give my vocation a fair trial and stay for a few months rather than walk in one door and out another. However, I did not have to stay long before I knew where God wanted me. The deep peace that I experienced assured me of God’s loving will for me and this peace has never left me even though life in the monastery has not been easy at times. However, these are growing pains that are part of life and can be used to return love for love to Him who loved us first. As a Passionist, whose life is centered on the Passion of Jesus, suffering takes on a value and becomes redemptive when united to the sufferings of Jesus and not only helps me but many others also. This thought has made me very grateful to God for my vocation and I pray it has and will continue to bear fruit for God’s glory and the good of many, many souls. I know that as the years passed, my mother and father were very happy with my choice, though neither one of them was living for the celebration of my Golden Jubilee of Profession in 2013. My Sisters at the Monastery have been a wonderful support and encouragement to me and living together, striving for the same goals, has made my vocation a great privilege and gift from God. May He be praised forever.