I first learned about Religious Sisters/Nuns when I was in high school. I remember one of my friends explaining that Nuns were married to Jesus and a wave of awe washed over me at the thought of what that would be like. I wanted to be married to Jesus! However, since I wasn’t Catholic I let go of the hope that such a divine marriage would be in my future... but I always held on to the idea of being in that sort of relationship with my Savior.
This love I had for Christ started at a very young age. I was raised in a Protestant Christian family in the San Francisco Bay Area, and as far back as I can remember we always went to church. When I was about 7- years-old I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus and I gave Him my heart. I remember singing “Away in a Manger” at Christmas and my little- kid heart resounded with the line, “Be near me Lord Jesus I ask Thee to stay, close by me forever and love me I pray.”
When I was 14 I attended a special event at church where the speaker talked about not just loving Christ but devoting every aspect of your life to Him. So I told Jesus that night that I’d go wherever He wanted me to go and do whatever He wanted me to with my life - I was at His mercy out of gratitude for how wonderful He was to me. The first thing I felt like He was asking me to do was get Baptized so I did that as soon as I could!
Fast-forward to my early 20s. My life had actually been pretty difficult up to that point. I’d lived through two divorces in my family, extreme poverty, and I had crippling anxiety. Through it all my faith remained intact, and my love for Jesus continued.
The Lord seemed to have other plans though. In March 2015 I was invited to join a group of Catholic friends to pray Vespers and Compline (Evening and Night Prayer). That was my first experience with these hours of prayer and I learned that these are just two of the prayers that Priests, Monks, and Nuns/Sisters pray every day. Re- awakened was the sense of awe I had in High School for Nuns. I also met Catholics who were funny, intelligent, and passionate about their faith which broke down a lot of stereotypes I’d had about Catholics. Later that week I attended a Stations of the Cross service at my friend’s Catholic Church and was struck by the prayerful reverence offered in response to Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. By the end of that week I felt like God tapped me on the shoulder and said it was my turn to enter the Catholic Church. A little over 8 months later, after a lot more study, prayer, tears, laughter, questions, and finally unexplainable peace I was received into the Catholic Church, Confirmed, and had my first Holy Communion on the Feast of Christ the King, 2015.
But this isn’t a conversion story - it’s a Vocation story! In light of that it needs to be noted that about a month before I was received into the Church I sat down with my Priest and told him I felt God calling me to be a Nun. Hahahaha! If he thought I was crazy he didn’t show it. He chuckled and said that I needed to focus on being Catholic first, and then he explained that, to be a Nun, I’d probably have to move outside of the Portland area (my heart sank hearing that). Then he talked through the Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience vows that Religious take. All of this gave me a lot to think and pray about.
The desire to be a Sister was still with me after almost a year of being Catholic, so I met with a Franciscan Sister who helped me begin discerning if Religious Life was where the Lord might be leading me. Much as I did for my journey into the Church, I started doing my research. I talked to Sisters from different orders and women who had been Sisters and then discerned out. I read up on different orders and even visited a few. It was on one of those visits with a beautiful order of Franciscans in Connecticut when the Lord taught me a huge part of the discernment process - the Call.
I had been convinced that those Franciscans were probably who I’d end up with - they checked all the boxes I was looking for: I felt at home with them, I loved their ministry, and I was comfortable with their spirituality. But I had no peace during my time with them and I couldn’t figure out why. “Why does this seem so easy for them and not for me?” I cried out to the Lord that week. He replied, “They have the strength for it because I’ve called them to it. If I’ve called you to it I’ll give you the strength for it.” By the end of my week with them I still didn’t feel that Call so I knew my time discerning with them had ended. But what now? I felt the Lord ask me to be faithful with the things He’d already given me and wait for Him to make the next move.
During that next season I spent a lot of time at Church, learning more about the liturgy, the differences between the Latin and English Masses, the significance of the prayers and most importantly the deep and rich history, theology, and scriptural significance behind everything that happens during the Mass. I found that when I went to Masses that were celebrated with reverence and love my Faith was deepened and my love for the Lord grew: a peaceful and abiding sort of love. I also found that I loved teaching others about the importance of the liturgy because the more they grew in their understanding of what was happening - the more their Faith deepened as well!
Also during this season of waiting I was introduced to some Seminarians in Southern California. I was inspired by their vocations and the conversations we’d have about liturgy, theology, ministry, and the Priesthood. Those conversations would often end up leading to discussions about Religious Life. I always found my faith strengthened and enriched by these conversations and occasional visits.
Over time, those conversations and thoughts they were having about Religious Life transitioned into discernment about Religious Life and eventually transition into seeking to found an Order... the Canons Regular of the Blessed Sacrament. I was thrilled for them and watching their transition made me pray even more about where the Lord might be leading and if Religious Life was still an option for me.
These friends, now Brothers, were quick to tell me about their hopes: their Charism and Spirituality, their desire to celebrate the liturgy with reverence, their dedication to prayer, and also that they were interested in founding an Order of Canonesses to join them in that work. When they told me about that last part I could barely contain my joy and excitement!
This invitation seemed like a dream but also an overwhelming task that I was unworthy of participating in. When I told the Lord I didn’t think I was strong enough to join them He simply replied, “I’ll give you the strength.” My mind raced back to that conversation we’d had in Connecticut and I knew that He was making a move. And here I am! Some days are easy and beautiful, some are challenging and difficult, but I constantly feel the strength and peace of the Lord as I continue in this adventure with Him. I can see now how the Lord was preparing me over the years to be ready to respond to His Call - and when that Call came He really did give me the strength to follow it, not just initially but every day since. The journey is only just beginning and I’m looking forward to how the Lord will use everything I’m learning to help Him build a reverent and loving group of Canonesses who will help others deepen their Faith through an increased love, understanding, and appreciation of the Liturgy.