Future Vocation/My Life/Religious Life/Teen Life

Answers to Every Question You’ve Ever Wanted to Ask a Religious Sister

When did you first begin to think God might be calling you to discern religious life and how did He make that call known to you?
The first time religious life ever crossed my mind was in highschool. I remember being on a retreat and in adoration. I thought to myself, “I should ask God what He wants me to do with my life. Yeah, that’ll be good.”

So, I did. The answer I got was not what I was expecting. I thought God would say something to the effect of, “Yes, go be a bone doctor like you dreamed of in second grade!” But in actuality, I heard within my heart these three words, “Be a sister,” and it stayed with me.

Every retreat after that it kept coming back. Every moment of prayer or thinking about my future, this is what surged in my heart. I had all the objections in the world though. Marriage of course. The lies, “I’m not good enough. I’m not holy enough. What will everyone think of me. I’m not perfect. I’m scared. I can’t do this. I can’t leave everything…etc.” But He very gently persisted in the invitation to be a sister, to be His, and to belong to Him alone. In college, what really spoke to me was this line from St. Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord. And our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This made sense of all the riddles – of why I wasn’t fulfilled in my life. God was calling me to Himself, to live my faith authentically, and I was restless until I said yes to Him.

Have you always been attracted to the idea of religious life? Why or why not?
Sister Act and Sister Act 2 were my first encounters with sisters. So if religious life meant singing “Oh Happy Day” – I was in! But that’s not really it — although on occasion, I will sing “Oh Happy Day” just because I can. And I think Jesus probably laughs with me. As I mentioned before, I was at first very afraid to be a sister. I had a million objections.

Then I met two religious sisters on a retreat who were authentic and joyful! I remember my heart was burning as the sisters shared their stories, as if on the road to Emmaus when the two disciples said, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” (Luke 24:32) I asked God not to let me forget this moment and He hasn’t. When I doubt my calling He brings this memory back and it sets my feet on a firm foundation.

How did you discern entering a specific community? What was that process like?
There were two routes of discernment for me. The first, grasping at what I thought I wanted. The second, surrendering and receiving where Jesus was leading me. The first route was anxious. The second was peaceful. The opposite of joy is control and I was definitely controlling it at first.

Practically speaking, the best advice I ever received about discerning was this, “Look at the charism of the community first. That’s the heart of who they are.” Gold. It isn’t the work. It isn’t the color of the habit. It isn’t the location. It’s Jesus first and foremost. And secondly, the charism God has placed in our hearts.

For me, it started to get real when I discovered the Missionaries of the Word online (via Facebook no less!). Imagine Sisters, a social media group, posted about the Missionaries of the Word. I was curious so I looked them up and went straight to the charism (thanks to the advice I was given). I remember the moment of reading the charism so vividly. It was as if they already knew who I was and the deep longing in my heart. My jaw even dropped. It was hilarious too because I was on a plane and just kept thinking, “Oooh my gosh this guy right next to me has no idea, but I’m having a moment.”

So the door was opened and I walked through it peacefully because I knew God had placed this in front of me. I contacted the order and shared a little about my journey and asked if I could go on a come and see. While visiting the sisters, I felt a deep peace, freedom, and joy. It felt like home. I prayed and surrendered it all again to Jesus, turned in my application and waited to see what God did. The less attached I became from my vocation, the more joyful and free I was within it.

What do you like most about living in a religious community? What are some of the toughest challenges?
I love my sisters dearly! We love to joke with each other and play pranks and tease one another. It’s a blast. It is also a gift for me to learn from them what it means to be a sister and grow in holiness alongside them. I learn so much from their witness of authenticity, selflessness, missionary zeal, and joyful love. Most of all, I love praying with them and being on mission with my sisters to bring Jesus to others. It’s a blessing to share the gospel with those we meet. I am thankful to have a community that will challenge, encourage, and lead me to the heart of Jesus.

Speaking of challenges, community is tough! It’s the best and the worst. There are a million little things in a day that can just rub a person the wrong way. We’re human and we have faults! I’m pretty strong willed and have expectations of how I think things should go etc., and sometimes these aren’t exactly what is best or what should happen, or I’m completely wrong, and I have to let that go and put my sisters and the community first, not myself — which by the way, is so hard. There are times we disagree, because, believe it or not, we are all entirely different people. And that’s okay! It’s awesome actually, and necessary! Part of living in community is to learn the daily little virtues of dying to self, humility, charity, patience, mercy, trust, presence etc. So of course there will be opportunities to forget myself, humble myself or be humbled, and to choose to love when it might be tough to do so.

Is it hard to think about the idea of giving up the chance to be married and have kids? Why or why not? Do you think you’re missing out on anything by not dating or having a boyfriend in your early twenties?
YES it is hard. I would love to be a mom and have kids of my own and a husband. It’s just the truth. Marriage is an absolutely beautiful vocation and is an amazing witness of sacrificial love and total gift of self. Marriage is one of those things a religious sister sacrifices in order to give her whole, undivided heart to Jesus.

And as far as feeling like I’m missing out on the dating scene in my early twenties… my first reaction — ugh! Sometimes it really seems like I’m missing out. We were all made for relationship and with a heart that loves and wants to be loved. This is universal. So my human heart wants human love. At the same time, we were made to live not for our own desires, but for the Lord’s desires for us. Since Jesus called me to be a sister, I look to Him to fill my heart because ultimately He is the only one that ever could. And He does! Jesus fills my heart every single day. He is pure love. He is the most faithful, constant, unchanging love. And love means sacrifice too. So I willingly and freely sacrifice dating and marriage, so that I can be with Jesus because I love Him and He’s worth it!

It might not make a whole lot of sense to the world to give up being married or dating. It may be that some people only see what a sister is giving up, or what she’s missing out on, and not the gift she is receiving. The religious vocation is a gift, a beautiful invitation to be totally given to Christ and to receive His love. What a life of chastity allows me is the opportunity to be a total gift of self to Jesus and to others. I am unattached to a husband and kids so that I can be a sister to all, by being present to the person in front of me, and loving them as Jesus would. All of this done out of love for Jesus, because after all, He is Jesus.

What do you think are some of the most misunderstood aspects of religious life?
“Religious life is boring.” – I’m not bored friends! I have so much fun being a sister. It brings me so much joy!

“All sisters do is pray all day.” – We do pray a lot (I mean c’mon. Gotta spend time with Jesus) but we also play a lot! One of my favorite pastimes is playing ultimate frisbee with the high schoolers or young adults that come on expedition retreats with us. We often go hiking or for an adventure of some sort too. And if it’s a special day, we get ice cream – what?!

“They just didn’t want to get married or couldn’t find the right guy.” – Marriage is a beautiful vocation and I think it would be awesome to be married and raise a family. However, I love Jesus and I freely choose to say yes to the Lord’s invitation to give my life to Him, and for Him. I found the right guy.

“They’re perfect.” “They never sin.” “Sisters are already saints.” – I am not perfect. I have many a flaw. I am a sinner and in great need of God’s mercy. I am not a saint (yet!) but strive to be one through God’s grace. Sisters are people, who like to do fun things, who make jokes, who mess up, who eat ice cream, who drink lots of coffee, and most importantly love Jesus a lot.

What advice do you have for young women that think they might be called to religious life?
“Let it be done to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38. These are Mary’s words. Her response to God’s invitation to be the Mother of Jesus. It’s a beautiful prayer for us today and words we can say to the Lord now. Let it be done to me according to how you desire my life to be, Lord. Let it be done to me according to the plan and story you’ve written for my life, Jesus. Let it be how you would like it to be, God. It’s a prayer of abandonment to the Father’s will and it’s so sweet and precious to Him. Be patient with God’s timing. Be patient with your discernment. Be patient. Don’t be afraid to open your heart to the Lord. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is loving. He is unchanging. He is awesome. He is worth it. Also, you don’t have to figure it out today. Be who you are meant to be now, as a student, daughter, friend. Stay close to Him and talk to Jesus daily. Deepen your friendship with Him. He wants to be with you and loves you as you are now. God will lead you. Trust Him, for He is trustworthy. Take courage, dear heart!

About the Author

Sr. Amy

I'm a sister in formation with the Missionaries of the Word, in the great Door County, Wisconsin on mission with Catholic Youth Expeditions. I was a Life Teen missionary in Haiti - Mesi Bondye, Mesi! I've encountered several tarantulas in my life and chickens flying through my room. I absolutely love a good holy hour, celebrating Feast Days, and most of all being with Jesus on the daily. I'm also a big fan of chocolate, anything pumpkin, and ultimate frisbee, just sayin!

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