I entered the cloister on October, 16, 2008 Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After praying and hoping for many years, my dream and desire to live a cloistered and contemplative life was realized, if only in its very nascent steps.
I’m from a large Catholic family; numbering third in a long line of four boys and five girls, and all of us are blessed with two of the most incredible parents. From a young age I had an attraction to and admiration for consecrated religious, especially those wearing the full habit. My Mom grew up attending the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA, run by the Pauline friars. It was here that my parents first met and where our family frequently attended Mass during my early years. My first experience of religious sisters came when I was about six years old; my family and I were at Mass at the Shrine one day and there, sitting in a pew ahead of us, were a small group of sisters. After Mass I asked my Mom to take me to meet them – I was in such awe of their long, black habits! The sisters graciously invited me to sit between them and we talked for a little bit. I remember asking if I could join them, and one of the sisters said I could, but I’d have to wait a few years. But before we said good-bye she wrote down their address on a scrap of paper. Being only six I lost the address, but I know that it was at this moment and through this small yet significant encounter with these handmaids of the Lord that God first planted in my heart the little seed of my vocation. I never forgot those dear sisters, nor the desire to “become one of them”. As a child I new they were “something special”; later I would come to learn that that “something” was undivided love: total and complete consecration to God.
Over the years Our Lord kept this desire for Him alive in my heart. I have since been blessed to know the Poor Clares here at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. They too have been essential in my discernment of a religious vocation through their witness of love and devotion to Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Their love for Him is evident on their shining faces and in their perpetual adoration. May God grant me the grace always to seek and faithfully carry out His holy will in this vocation of love and sacrifice.
~ Sr. Chiara Marie of Jesus, True Light
I come from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a town right on the banks of the Mississipi River. My father came from Vietnam in 1975, and my mother is from a small town in Southeast Missouri.
Since our family is a blend of cultures and religions (Mom is a Catholic and Dad is a Buddhist), we have some interesting traditions and have always had very vibrant dinner table discussions! Our house was always filled with books, and visitors could alternately be treated to the aromas of rice, Vietnamese foods, or fried chicken and biscuits and gravy. Most importantly, our household revolved around faith. Mom made sure that all four of us kids received a solid upbringing in the fundamentals of the Catholic faith. She took us to Mass, prayed the Rosary with us, taught us about the saints and about the Blessed Mother, and instilled in us a great love for the Church. She set the example of how to answer the Universal Call to Holiness and taught us the importance of family, hard work, persistence in the face of adversity and trial. Dad and Mom have always stressed the importance that their children play in their lives, and we never doubted that we were vitally important to them. My siblings and I were fortunate to attend great Catholic elementary and high schools, where dedicated teachers and priests reinforced the lessons our mother taught us about the faith. Our parish has always had fantastic priests who were great examples of religious vocations.
As I grew up, I always admired the sisters and priests with whom I came in contact regularly. As I got older and began to think about what God wanted me to do with my life, I began to think on and off about a religious vocation. I went to college and graduate school, where I studied literature and music and math. I became a math teacher at a local Catholic school, where I was privileged to teach some of the greatest children I’ve ever met. I also began to read more and more about my faith and truly fell in love with what G.K. Chesterton called the “romance of orthodoxy.”
All through college and graduate school and even as I made lesson plans and graded papers for my students, I still had the thought of a religious vocation in the back of my mind. I visited various orders and gradually became more and more attracted to the cloistered, contemplative life, an attraction that at first did not make any sense to me because I was already a teacher and thought that an active order would be the most logical. However, our God is a God of surprises! After making a pilgrimage to Hanceville with a dear friend, I got up the courage to write to the PCPAs and was allowed to come for two visits. Even though it took a long time discerning to get to this first step in my new vocational journey, I can see that all the side roads that God leads us down are valuable and full of learning. My experiences have been so great and have helped me to grow closer to God in ways that I never would have envisioned if I had made the plan. It’s a good thing, then, that God made the plan and not me! With your prayers, I will continue upon this new journey to see what great things God has in store for me!
~ Sr. Edith Marie of Our Lady, Ark of the Covenant