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Finding My Path to Holiness

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.::This story first posted on November 11, 2011 – it was *so* good, we just had to repost it!::

Hello, Catholic Sistas  –  from a Catholic Sister! When Martina invited me to do a guest post, she had two aims in mind: to help the Dominican Sisters of Mary get the word out about our new and growing community, and to help shed light on the mystery of religious life in today’s culture.  After much thought and prayer, it seemed best to simply share my vocation story, my own personal journey to accepting God’s call to be consecrated to Him as a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.  So here goes:

I stared at the simple white host in the monstrance and waited. It was silent and still in the small, brick building that served as a perpetual adoration chapel on the campus of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  It was an ideal place for listening, and that’s what I was there to do.  I was in the middle of a crisis of sorts, and I had come to present my problem to the Lord and beg Him to show me the way.

Everything in my life was going so well. I had every reason to be happy. And yet I was not at peace.  Deep in my heart, I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

It was like this.  From my first few weeks on campus, I’d witnessed couples going to Mass together, praying together, respecting one another as I’d never seen before and helping one another grow in holiness.

I wanted that. I was afraid to admit it to myself, but I wanted it. I wanted to be one of those sought after women, one of the lucky few who met her husband at Franciscan. And with the ratio of men to women on that campus being what it was (made even smaller by the large number of men removed from the dating pool because they were actively discerning the priesthood), my chances seemed slim indeed.

And then it happened. I met this great guy. He was so easy to be with, and so much fun. And, wonders of wonders, he wanted to be with me! But as our relationship progressed, I became more and more restless. I was not at peace.

How could this be wrong?  That was what I couldn’t understand. Our relationship was pure and holy.  It was based on a great friendship. How in the world could there be anything wrong with that?

As I continued to gaze at my Lord, really present before me in the Blessed Sacrament, light began to break in on my understanding.  A phrase from a vocation pamphlet I’d picked up a couple of years ago flittered through my mind.

“When you discover how God intends you to become holy, you discover your vocation in life.”

Slowly, slowly, it became clear. There wasn’t anything wrong with my relationship with this man. It was good.  But the reason I wasn’t at peace with it, the reason I couldn’t say “yes” to it was that it wasn’t my personal path to holiness.  God intended me to become holy in another way.

I saw clearly that I was not meant to love this one man and the children we might be blessed with one day. My heart was made to be fully given to Christ and open to embracing all people as my children.

This idea of belonging completely to Christ wasn’t new to me. I had experienced a deep, personal conversion to Christ as a teenager, and during my senior year of high school, I began to have a growing desire to give my whole life to Him.

The problem was, I didn’t know what to do about this desire.  I had been raised Catholic and had been taught by a few Sisters during elementary school and high school, but at the time, I didn’t know any young people who were considering a religious vocation.  I honestly thought religious life was a thing of the past, something to look back on with nostalgia while watching movies like The Bells of St. Mary’s.

But from my first few months at Franciscan University, I not only witnessed Catholic couples dating in accord with God’s plan for love and marriage, I also met people my age open to discerning a religious vocation, and, for the first time, I met vibrantly joyful consecrated women radically loving Christ and living the Gospel.  Yes, I wanted to be part of the “dating scene” at Franciscan, but I found myself even more strongly attracted by the witness of these women who had made a total gift of themselves to Christ.

It just seemed so strange that the Lord would call ME to be a sister.  But I knew that He was. I couldn’t deny it. And I had to be honest. It wasn’t going to be as difficult as it might have been to give up this relationship with this great guy, because I had never really given my heart to him. I had surrendered my heart to Christ as a teenager, and it was as if He came to claim it for His own that night in the adoration chapel.

There was no reason to be afraid. I wasn’t being asked to love less, but more; the Lord wanted me to give up something good only for the sake of something better.

My experience in the chapel was a real turning point in my discernment, but it wasn’t the end of my journey.  After discovering how God intended me to become holy, I still had to find out where I was meant to live out this call.  The Lord continued to lead me and, after spending time with consecrated women from several different communities, and after several visits to convents and a couple of retreats, I knew God was inviting me to follow my path to holiness as a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

**Sr. Elizabeth Ann, O.P., entered the Dominican Sisters of Mary in the Jubilee Year 2000. Prior to coming to Texas, Sister taught fourth grade social studies in Michigan and adult faith formation in California. She is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist is a Roman Catholic community of women religious based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The community was founded in the Dominican tradition to spread the witness of religious life in accord with Pope John Paul II’s vision for a new evangelization.  The Dominican Sisters came to Austin in 2009 to assist in the work of Catholic education and to establish a priory of their community in Central Texas.

To learn more about the Dominican Sisters and their plans to expand to Texas, visit www.sistersofmary.org/expansion.**