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Vocation stories: The unexpected call, by Sr. Cynthia, O.S.F.

A continuation of the Register's series celebrating the Year for Consecrated Life. See more stories here.

The unexpected call

by Sr. Cynthia, O.S.F.

 

“Do you have any regrets of becoming a Religious Sister?” was the first serious question I asked Sister Kathleen as she started to drift off to sleep after a busy day of 1993 World Youth Day Events in Denver.

The Holy Spirit never tires of speaking the truth, for it was about 1 a.m. when that question was asked and, like St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica who on their yearly visitation spent the day and night speaking of the glory of God, we too, spent the remainder of our sleeping hours speaking about religious life and the beauty behind that special call from God.

As the sun rose ready to greet a new day, so did we, for sleep was not a part of God’s plan for us that night. More events needed to be attended, including a 5-mile hike into Cherry Creek National Park where Pope St. John Paul II would hold a Vigil Mass for the Assumption. The power of the Holy Spirit inflamed our hearts and once again, we literally spent the day and the entire night enjoying one another’s company, developing a friendship and marveling at how God’s providence continued to unfold.

Let me take you back in time so you, too, can see God’s loving hand in all of this. My mother used to attend Mass and Our Lady of Perpetual Help devotions on Tuesday evenings. I would go with her so she would not go alone. After Mass one Tuesday, our pastor had a meeting. As he went through topics, he briefly mentioned that the pope was coming to Colorado in August. Anything Father said after that was lost to me. Growing up in Wisconsin, I knew God’s beauty, but to see mountains and the pope - this was too exciting to pass up. I told him I had an interest in going with anyone from our parish to Denver. Father knew of no one who was going, so redirected me to the Archdiocese who in turn connected me with Brother Tim who planned a youth group trip there. Going as a chaperone enabled me to have a seat on the bus.

The day finally arrived for our trip to Denver. Not knowing a single person, I boarded the bus. Upon arriving in Denver, I learned that I would be sharing a hotel room with a Religious Sister. “Praise God!,” I thought - this assured me of getting a much better night sleep than rooming with a bunch of noisy high school girls throughout this trip.

We arrived in Denver Wednesday, Aug. 11, and made all the preparations necessary to get our tickets for the WYD events. Exhausted from the highly energized 15-hour bus ride and the ‘busy-ness’ of our first day, Sister Kathleen and I collapsed in our beds. Thursday we experienced all the events of the day together as a group. It was not until Friday as we were walking 2 miles to meet with our bishop that a persistent voice in my head kept telling me to ask Sister, “Have you ever had any regrets answering the call to Religious Life?” I did not know where this thought was coming from, and why I wanted to ask this question, until later that night during the Stations of the Cross.

In the midst of this prayerful devotion, with 80,000 other participants packed into Mile High Stadium, I again heard a voice in my head and this time it went straight to my heart. The Voice said, “I want you to become a Religious Sister.” “What?” I asked back silently. Again, He said, “I want you to become a Religious Sister.” “Why me, Lord? I’m young, full of energy, fun-loving and athletic,” I responded. A third time He said, “I want you to become a Religious Sister.”

I do not remember saying anything more to Him after that. After all, God spoke the same thing to me three times, so what else could I say? At that point, my participation in the Stations of the Cross became a blur and I became oblivious to the 80,000 people who surrounded me because I just kept pondering what had happened. I didn’t say a word to anyone that night about my experience.

We arrived at the hotel late that night and prepared for bed. Sister Kathleen and I did some chatting before we decided to call it a night. However, that night turned out to be like no other in my life. Why should it… because that day was like no other either. All that I had experienced had touched my inner soul deeply.

Around 1 a.m. I finally asked Sister “the question” that had been lingering in my mind all day. It was a simple question but her answer filled me - and the next 32 hours of my trip - with thoughts, feelings and a desire to follow “That Voice” in whatever He was asking me to do.

Our Heavenly Father, in His goodness, not only allowed me to experience the beauty of the Colorado mountains and the joy of so many faith-filled young people, but He also spoke directly to my heart and opened my ears to hear Pope John Paul II say at the closing Mass, “Young people, the Church needs you and the pope believes in you.” These words penetrated deeply.

On the bus ride home I began to express to Sister Kathleen my desire to visit her little Franciscan Community. The Lord kept that inspiration burning in my heart for days and the very next weekend, I was on their doorstep. I visited the following weekend as well. The third weekend, away competing in a Tae-kwon-do tournament, I stopped by the convent on my way home to proudly show off my victory trophy. Every weekend after that for the next month and a half, I was with the Sisters experiencing a joy-filled, peaceful, prayerful, fun-loving new way of life.

I requested permission to be received as an aspirant into the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother Nov. 1, 1993. I became a postulant Jan.1, 1994, and a novice Aug. 14, 1994. Twenty years later I now look back, smile and thank our loving Father for asking me personally to become His Bride, His Spouse.

Let me share with you just one more little bit of Divine Providence at work. The day prior to boarding the bus for Denver, Sister Kathleen came down with a severe case of strep throat. She saw the doctor, got on an antibiotic but naturally still felt quite miserable. Sister Ana Maria was concerned whether Sister Kathleen should go but Sister wanted so much to uphold her commitment to Brother Tim. On the bus it was loud, active and not a place for any possible moment of rest. Sister Kathleen moaned inwardly, “What am I doing here? I should be at home in bed.” Little did she - or I - know, that I was the reason she was there. My vocation was on the brink of blossoming and she was the gardener God sent to cultivate it.

When I gaze at a crucifix I see the tremendous love God has for each of us. Sometimes I focus with great gratitude at the letters (INRI) on the little plaque above Christ’s head. I know the true meaning of it but on occasion I replace the letters with another message: “I’ve Never Regretted It.” I know our Lord is true to that statement and so was Sister Kathleen when she answered my 1:00 A.M. question about Religious Life. Sister did add another statement onto her reply of no regrets in which she said,  “I only wish there were more young ladies in our Community to share in the joy.” I can’t say it any better.

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