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Becoming My Most Authentic Self

June 9, 2011

By Sister Jenny

“Are you Catholic?”

This was a question a young college student asked me as we drove to mass with my friend who works on a college campus and some of her students. My friend and I looked at each other and she said, “Well, actually, Jenny is a Sister of Mercy.” The young man stopped and exclaimed, “Wait, you’re a nun! But we just had a totally normal conversation.” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes because his reaction is a common one. I went on to answer the questions he and his friends had.

When I reflected later, I remembered a time ten years ago when I was 23 years old and reacted in very similar ways. Many people assume that because I am a Sister of Mercy I went to Catholic school or grew up in a very religious home. I was raised Catholic—meaning my family and I went to church most of the time. My faith started to really grow in college and when I graduated from college I did a year long volunteer program called Mercy Volunteer Corps, where I met sisters for the first time.

I remember thinking how normal they were. I was confused because my image, I guess from TV since I had never actually known a sister, was that they wore habits. The Sisters of Mercy and many other congregations do not wear habits. The habit is a symbol and a powerful one. It is also just a symbol, an exterior sign.

The Sisters of Mercy I met were amazing women who have done great things for the church and many other people who are marginalized in some way. I was attracted to the Sisters of Mercy because they reached out to the most marginalized in our society. There was something different about the sisters I met. They reached out to others but there was something deeper and I soon discovered it was their prayer life and a deep personal relationship with God that each sister had and showed in different ways.

I wanted this deep connection to God but I was 23 and was positive that I didn’t need to be a Sister of Mercy or in any other congregation to have that relationship with God. My relationship with God grew and I had proved to myself that I didn’t need to be a sister or so I thought. We are all called in our own unique way to deepen our connection with ourselves, others and God. I finally admitted to myself when I was 28 that becoming a Sister of Mercy was how I could be my most authentic self. I made temporary vows in September 2010. Stay tuned for future blog posts about my life as a Sister of Mercy.

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