CFR Sister Candidates - 2011
May peace and joy fill your heart!
I think I first felt called to religious life as a little girl. Some evenings in my childhood, our parents would take me and my siblings to vespers at a Cistercian Abbey near our home in rural WI. How happy those nights were for me! The monks chanted the psalms as dusk fell, and afterwards we would stop at the local Dairy Queen for dilly bars. I remember wondering as monks prayed if I could stay and live there forever. Only years later did I realize my sisters weren't sitting there dreaming of moving in too.
However, it wasn't until college that I began to seek God's will persistently, to desire religious life, and to respond to that call. A couple months into my freshman year at UW-Madison, I was attending Sunday Mass, and somehow signed up for "spiritual direction", even though I didn't know what that was. This joyful, lively Italian nun began meeting with me and showed me real love. She and a faithful, kind-hearted priest would be my spiritual directors throughout college. They guided me to receive the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion regularly. I was also blessed to make sincere spiritual friends and began to pray a Holy Hour every day before the Blessed Sacrament. God used all of these things, especially those hours of silence and conversation before the Eucharist to really teach me that He loved me and to draw my heart to love Him back. By the time sophomore year rolled around, I felt this nagging desire for religious life, but was confused by it as I was in a long term dating relationship with a young man who was also my best friend. My plans were to marry him, have a dozen kids, coach a softball team and teach, and settle down happily ever after in a small town. We pretty naturally discerned marriage together. As time went on, I felt less and less peace about marriage. The more I prayed, the more I felt I couldn't give my whole heart to a husband and children. My heart longed to be all God's, to be a mother to many, many children.
One Sunday after Mass, praying before the tabernacle, I was filled with great joy and the words of psalm 139-- "Fly with the wings of dawn, and alight beyond the sea." For me this was God's proposal. He was the dawn touching down on me with love, and I wanted only to 'alight' with Him forever as His spouse. It seemed He wanted that too. At least He gave me the grace to finally trust He was calling me and to act in faith. The young man I was dating and I went our separate ways, and in time God filled that sacrifice with sweetest peace. He overflowed in my emptiness with the fullness of Himself.
For a couple years I visited various communities, and thought maybe I was called to a cloistered order. Much to my surprise, on my first "Come and See" with the CFRs, I felt right at home with the sisters, already feeling like a Franciscan in their chapel. I couldn't stop smiling! I wanted to enter immediately, but God seemed to grin at my zeal and say, "Be patient. Be patient." and so did the sisters. They suggested I finish my English degree, and so I did. I visited the sisters twice more, prayed, studied, and worked as a cleaning lady to help pay off my student loans. I applied to enter with a heart full of hope at Christmas and graduated from UW-Madison in May. With the mercy of God, the loving acceptance of the CFRs, and a heart full of gratitude, I entered the community in September. Alleluia!
May our Lord bless you, and please pray for us!
From my childhood, Jesus was diligently working to prepare my heart for the day when I would give my whole heart, soul, and person to Him, here in the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. Despite my own unworthiness, my own sinfulness, my own weakness, God still called me to live a life all for love of Him to have a foretaste of Heaven on Earth. May God be praised forever for bestowing upon me the gift of this incredible call.
I think back upon my little second grade self, eager to learn about the saints for the first time. Without a real concept of who God is or His love for me, I knew that the saints were amazing people that knew something, some secret that I didn't. St. Tarcisius instantly became my hero and it was in that moment, that I knew I wanted to be a saint when I grew up. However, I was met with opposition when I expressed this desire and even though I placed the desire in a dark corner of my mind, the Father placed my desire close to His heart.
Oh, how Jesus wanted my heart. At the tender age of 14, He bestowed upon me the wonderful grace of conversion at my first experience of adoration. Yes, before the Blessed Sacrament I knew that Jesus was humbly hiding within that little piece of bread and He loved me. Yes, He loved me in a way no other could. He loved me so much that if His Passion was to save only my soul, He would have still freely suffered for my sake. I spoke to my Savior in the silence and He spoke to me. Only simple words, but they contained great beauty; "Love me. Follow me." My vocation was set before me. Love Jesus completely. Follow Jesus to Calvary. Give my whole being, everything I have for love of Jesus. Fire consumed my heart. Yes, all for Jesus!
The "yes" became complicated when high school began. I allowed myself to become mediocre in my faith. Turning away fearfully and selfishly when Jesus reached out for me, I wanted a way to be both in the world and in the Faith. But, once I allowed my schooling and music to take over my life I soon found myself lost. I found myself as a Junior begging Jesus to take me back. By my own surprise, He did instantly. Once again, I found my heart on fire with His love and I knew I was to begin to maturely pursue the religious life- after college that is.
I assumed that college was to be a part of my future. I dreamed I would attend Franciscan University of Steubenville and I greatly wanted to double major in Theology and Philosophy with a minor in Franciscan Studies. But, the Lord knows the desires my heart truly has. After graduating early, I was intensely studying and preparing for the day when I was to attend Franciscan University, while in the midst of a deep discernment of religious life. I began looking at a Poor Clare Community and as beautiful as the cloistered life was, it just was not intended for me. Then God showed me that college was not either.
Jesus continued to remind me to not be afraid for He had been preparing a community for me; He had been preparing me a new home. Through the Youth 2000 in Fort Worth, Texas and knowing a few of the friars, I was aware of the CFR Sisters and always had been attracted to the order for numerous reasons. Not being able to resist the CFR Sisters, I contacted them and in January of 2011 I was able to visit them for the first time. How Jesus opened wide His arms to receive me! How walking within the walls of the convent brought peace, joy and excitement. College became a dream of the past. The Trinity, St. Francis, St. Clare, the CFRs, and so many others were to be my teachers. After returning home and much discernment, I visited one more time and then applied for the Community.
Now I live here in New York surrounded by my God, my sisters, and the poor. I can do nothing but sing out His praise! Jesus is giving me all that my heart desires. It is here that I can become the saint, the spouse of my Crucified King. Love pursued me. Love chose me. Love captivated me. I could not resist Him any longer. Now, I'm His little future spouse; His little candidate of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.
The Novices and Candidates working together to prepare food for the poor.