By Sister Audrey
How many of us long for something more in life? How many of us live our lives content that we are on our journey with God? What started for me as a journey to discover myself, turned into a quest to live my life with authenticity and integrity, in harmony with God and those I meet along the way. As a second vocation, God has invited me to religious life with the Sisters of Mercy. The call to religious life is truly a gift from God and I am genuinely humbled by this radical change in my life.
I am a second year candidate with the Sisters of Mercy. With reverence and awe I still ask God “How did I get here?” Ten years ago I was married and very successful in my career as a project leader for the Hearst Corporation. I was living the “American dream”. I was not a practicing Catholic in those days and God was a God of convenience. On September 1, 2001, the bottom fell out of this neat little world I had created. My husband Anthony was diagnosed with leukemia. Our life changed forever with the doctor’s proclamation. Three short years later, my husband’s battle ended and so much of who I was died with him.
The darkness that enveloped me in the next few months frightened me immensely. I had lost my meaning and purpose for being. I thank God for my family and friends who tried to help but nothing seemed to alleviate my pain. In my despair, I got down on my knees and asked God to save me. God, being ever merciful, heard my plea. I found hope. From that day forward, I vowed never to stray so far from God again. To keep that promise, I needed to make God the focus of my life. I had no idea how to live this, so I asked God to show me the way.
A young man recently asked me when I first knew I wanted to be a Sister of Mercy. I said about a year after I was living in community with the Sisters. In those early days prior to living in community, when God was first stirring the desire to be a Sister in me, I’d ask “Why me?” After all, I was a project leader, I owned my home and I could consider early retirement within ten years.
The first conversation I had with my vocation minister, Sister Jill, went like this; “I don’t want to talk to you. I have to talk to you. Why am I talking to you?” My head was absolutely opposed and yet I was being drawn into this mystery. I had enough faith to follow this path because I was already on my journey to discover the “me” God wants me to be. I’d been loyally following God for a few years, but was this even conceivable? Was God really asking me to walk away from a six figure compensation package and sell all that I had? I’ll be the first to admit that I went kicking and screaming to the convent door. I did not even know who these Sisters of Mercy were.
What can I say about that first day when I showed up at the convent? These were the happiest, sweetest women I had ever met. I felt like I was back in grade school, which was the last time I had any interaction with women religious. I was overwhelmed by stories of what these women had accomplished in their lives. To this day, I marvel that the Holy Spirit was with Sister Jill and me. Even though I did not grasp why I was there, Sister Jill recognized something in me.
In the first year of inquiry, I visited the community regularly. I looked forward to my visits, but I was certain that I’d never be one of them. While I wasn’t sure why God had me on this path, I was convinced that the Sisters wouldn’t accept me. Of this I was sure!
To my amazement, the Sisters did invite me to “come and see” and on August 3, 2009 I moved into the Community. Now I was leading a double life; project leader by day, fledgling religious by night. What was God thinking? Two disparate worlds and I was caught in the middle. I didn’t know enough about my new world to take more of a leap of faith, but I had discerned enough to know that I didn’t want to stay in the old one any longer. Fifteen months later I felt called to deepen my trust in God. Though not required at this time in the process, I sold my house and ended my career so that I could fully embrace this new life I am living.
Who are these Sisters of Mercy and why do I have to be one of them? Sisters of Mercy are women who commit their lives to God, deepening their relationship with God and serving God’s people, especially those who are sick, poor and uneducated. This is the charism of the community but what does it mean for me? God is, above all things, mercy. I have needed mercy in my life. God has been the loving, compassionate Father patiently awaiting and joyously celebrating the return of His defiant daughter. Now I find that I need and want to be mercy to those in my world. I am not sure even now if I understand what it means; I rather doubt that I do. Yet my very being cries out that entering into this mystery called God through religious life – this path less chosen – is my way. The path that will show me how to find God in all things; to let God use me; to be Christ to those God wants to reach out to through and with me. My deepest desire is to live out my relationship with God as a Sister of Mercy. The peace and inner joy I’ve experienced already is worth a thousand times more than the material wealth I had and I know that I’ve only just begun.
Will I become a perpetually professed Sister of Mercy one day? God only knows. But I live with the curiosity of a child waiting to discover what new gifts she’s received for her birthday. I know that it is only through God’s grace that I can live this life. I trust that God’s grace is sufficient for me.
Religious life is a radical form of discipleship. Radical by definition is fundamental. I believe that in every generation God calls individuals to a fundamental life of vowed service to God If God is stirring this desire in you, be open and allow God to transform you. Discover the contentment of living in harmony with God. Have enough faith to answer the call. God will show you the way.