Inspiration can come from unexpected places. By age 31, Jessica Vitente had earned a college degree and worked her way up in a Los Angeles company. She had never entertained the idea of becoming a sister. But then she met some Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in 2015. Impressed, she took them up on an invitation to attend a Come and See retreat 2,000 miles from her home. The more she discovered about them, the more she envisioned their life for herself. “God was tugging at my heart strongly,” she says. In 2018, she moved to Indiana to begin life as a Sister of Providence.
Sister Maggie Slowick, O.S.F. has been listening to poor families in Cuernavaca, Mexico for almost two decades. When they asked for help with their kids’ schoolwork, she started a tutoring program and never looked back.
Sometimes a chance meeting makes a lifelong difference. As a college student Sister Liz McGill, I.H.M. heard a sister give a talk. “I really could not believe she was a nun,” she told The Wood Word. McGill’s notion of who nuns are got blown up at that talk, leading her to take more seriously some inner nudges she had already experienced. Today, after earning her doctorate and serving as an assistant professor of family medicine, McGill has stepped back from teaching and coaching women’s soccer to immerse herself in becoming an I.H.M. sister.
“Celebrity” and “nun” don’t often go together, but Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J. has gained international attention for leading efforts to tend to the many migrants who pass through the U.S.-Mexico border.
As a young girl Sister Chioma Ahanihu, S.L.W. wanted to see the world while helping the poor. Since she was raised in a devout Nigerian Catholic family, by the time she was a young woman she had connected that dream to sisterhood. Fast forward through plenty of discernment and a few life changes, and now Ahanihu has brought her passion for service to her work as a therapist and her membership in the Sisters of the Living Word in Chicago.
When I was a novice I was intensely learning our values of communal and private prayer, work, study, leisure, and hospitality. Today, I'm trying to take what I have learned and actually apply it to real life.
“Are people worth more than the worst thing they have done?” This is what Sr. Helen Prejean of the Congregation of St. Joseph challenged students at the University of Michigan to ponder while speaking on campus in November about her calling to advocate against the death penalty.
Whatever Sister Jamie Phelps, O.P. “gave up" to become a religious sister, has “come back a hundredfold," says the educator, psychiatric social worker, community organizer, liturgist, choir director, spiritual director, and theologian.
Sister Graciela Colon, S.C.C. loves to Rollerblade, especially downhill at high speed. Maybe that’s what it felt like when she first thought of abandoning her careful plans for life. They involved a successful legal career, a husband, and a family in Brooklyn. An active Catholic with a law degree freshly under her belt, she spent three weeks with Mother Teresa’s sisters in Calcutta where “I was inspired by their total self-giving,” she says. Upon her return she looked seriously at religious life. Today Sister Graciela is preparing for full membership with the Sisters of Christian Charity and providing legal help at an immigrant resource center.
Starting life as a Catholic sister is a big change: for the newly minted sister and her family too! When Angelique Joy Marcantel entered religious life, her family saw her off with a mix of emotions and camera in hand.
God’s call can be slow and quiet; and it can be strong and sudden. After some subtle clues that a religious community might be the place for her, Sister Christina Cńe Chavez, C.D.P. was at her grandmother’s funeral when she felt a strong message to devote herself to Christ. Soon after, she picked up her phone and Googled “How do you become a nun?” and the VISION Vocation Match website popped up. That began an earnest journey that eventually brought her to the door of the Congregation of Divine Providence in her home state of Texas.
Xiomara Méndez-Hernández grew up in a large, close family and had no intention of joining a religious community. She had a talent for fashion design and launched a career in that field. But after meeting the Adrian Dominican Sisters, she couldn’t shake the thought of living as they did. “It took me 13 years to listen to that voice in my heart,” she says. “It wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I did!”
The daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Sister Maria Kim-Ngân Bùi, F.S.P. grew up in Tempe, Arizona with plans for a career, children, and plenty of family nearby. “I dreamed of my siblings and cousins purchasing homes in a cul-de-sac so all the children could play in the center.” She met a Daughter of St. Paul through her parish, and as her faith grew, so did her call to religious life. Many people, she says, “have continued to inspire and enflame my love for the Lord.”
If you think being a sister is only for people who are always proper, serious types, think again. Felician Franciscan Sister Desiré Anne-Marie Findlay, C.S.S.F. enjoys dancing, saving earthworms, and telling about the time she got her whole 12th-grade religion class to stage a practical joke. At the same time Sister Desiré is quick to reveal her passion for the mission and the camaraderie she has found in religious life.
Sister Guerline Joseph grew up in a devout family of Haitian immigrants. She dreamt of being a flight attendant or maybe a professional athlete, but at the same time Feed the Children TV commercials made her heart yearn to help others. She donated enough to regularly hang photos of “her kids” on the family refrigerator. Then one day she met the Salesian Sisters through their youth ministry and her journey into religious life began.
My choice to enter religious life was not only about ministry or being part of a group, but more about a conversion to thinking about things differently, to throwing whatever gifts I may have into the ring to help foster the reign of God.
What drew me, a 30-something high school teacher, to monastic life? From my first visit to the monastery in Virginia, I felt a tug on my heart. Each time I returned, I could feel myself falling more deeply in love with the life
Sharing and openness with the other sisters is built up little by little. In community we are not necessarily living with our best friends, so it takes time and a sense of growing in trust to share faith this deeply.
As a child Sister Julie Vieira chose Saint Teresa of Avila as a confirmation name and pretty much forgot about her. But over the years Teresa remained with this I.H.M. sister, waiting for Sister Julie to come by her convent cell and chat awhile.