A Sister Candidate on being a Mom and a Nun

Blog Published: September 7, 2012
By Diane Brown

A Nun’s Life Ministry welcomes guest blogger Diane Brown, who writes about her experience of discerning and of being a candidate with the IHM Sisters of Monroe, Michigan. Be sure to read her other blog posts and join the conversation.

Being a Mom and a Nun, by Diane Brown

ApronIt’s not the way it used to be. Fifty years ago when young women showed up at the Motherhouse, they had a few interviews, kissed their parents and siblings good bye, and were not seen again for months. They lived, mostly in silence, with dozens of other women their age and older. They were often homesick and lonely until they adjusted to their new lives.

Time has passed and things have changed. Now a candidate continues with her life, her job, and her family throughout candidacy. In some ways, this is much easier; in other ways, much harder. Like a tightrope walker juggling plates and bowling pins, I move in tiny steps from my old life to my new.

The most difficult transition for me, so far, is that from mother to Sister. As a widow with a 24-year-old son, I drop everything when my son’s name appears on the phone in my pocket. Dead battery or broken heart, mom is the one who has always been there.

I pray for his welfare and safety, I hurt that I cannot be with him, and I have a huge problem turning off the phone when I need to be fully present in Mass, in meetings, or just being a good listener.

I know I’m not alone in this — anyone with a vibrant family life, a fulfilling work life, and a rich faith life does a balancing act, too.

It is my hope that during my candidacy I will slowly untie the electronic apron strings, that my son will become increasing more mature and able to deal with life’s difficulties, and that his calls will more often be about something wonderful or funny and less often about something which needs to be replaced or repaired.

I feel very fortunate that I have the time in candidacy to learn how to walk the tightrope and balance family and faith. I am very thankful that the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary understand that, like Mary, I will always be called mom, even as I am called to serve God in this new way.

In what ways have you had to untie various “apron strings” as you’ve transitioned into a new chapter of your life? What questions or comments do you have Diane and one another?

Archived Comments

Sr. Hildegard September 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

Oh, how I can relate to Diane’s separation process. I entered contemplative religious life at the age of 55 when my three sons were 29, 26, 23. But only 12 years ago we were not tied to cell phones. Isn’t amazing how quickly the social connection landscape has changed? I could see my sons at the monastery once a month (they never came that often) and talk to them any time but it was rarely were than once a week from one or the other of them. They were very supportive of me and respected the nature of contemplative life but never hesitated to call when in need. One of my sons said in a three way call between himself, another son and myself, “I don’t know why we are laying all of this on you because you can’t do anything about it but we just needed to talk to an adult.” Most of the time that is what its all about – their need for a steady trusted person with whom they can vent or reflect.

My most difficult times are holidays, particularly Christmas. I used to be the center of that, making it all happen for them. Their grand parents are very elderly and needy themselves so they cannot fill the vacuum. But I have seen that my sons have created their own new traditions with the women they love at their side. Another hard thing is the two grandsons. I used to teach 2nd grade so I am filled with notions of what I would like to do with them but I cannot. I do see them, visit them at their home and see them here but I am not the grandmother I would be if I were not a nun. I console myself with the thought that it is only my loss because they have other grandparents who lavish them with everything that I would. These little guys are not suffering for lack of that special grandmother relationship.

As a formator in my community I have been concerned about candidates who had to speak with their children every day. The advent of cell phones has made that need so much more prevalent. It is definitely something that has to be worked through during the years of formation. As a mother I would also add that the young adult child also needs, in my opinion, to gradually separate from the parent whether that parent is a religious or not. Mother is undergoing the transition into vowed religious life and the children left behind are undergoing the natural and necessary transition into full adulthood. Neither process is easy,; neither is free of growing pains; but each is absolutely necessary.

Joyceelaine September 7, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I’ve had to cut ties with several people I look up to in the past few years, including my great Aunt Sister Catherine who passed, my Aunt MaryEllen who helped raise me,my Great Grandma Charlie, and my own Mother. It’s hard when you realize you’ve got to stop wading and start jumping in to a different life. As a 19 year old, losing my Aunt MaryEllen,who was one of my best friends, was the hardest thing I’d ever dealt with. <3

Marsha West September 9, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I’m a mom – and a grandma – and a great-grandma – and, at the age of 73, feel I am being called to religious life. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I loved reading Diane’s blog and my friend Sr. Hildegard’s follow-up comment – and resonate with both of them.

My family – my children and grown grand-children are being remarkably supportive and understanding, but it’s not easy for them when the places I’m feeling drawn to are far from the centers of our family life. For them it requires some letting go. For me, I gather them to me here in my present life (Monastic Immersion Experience at Visitation Monastery in North Minneapolis) in a very intentional way. I do believe that there is a gift for them in my following this call. I don’t need to bandage their knees, sign their homework, or attend their concerts and worry about their curfews any more – now I can point to some larger issues and maybe demonstrate that God calls us at all times in our lives and that there may be more adventures out there than they can guess at in their lives now.

Christine42 September 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I kind of have an opposite problem. I am 50 and my mother is having a hard time cutting the apron strings.

lindy September 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm

i am 54 and have a grown son who is married . i have felt called to religious life for donkies years but when i finally accepted the call , i found that in most communities in the USA , my age was an automactic disqualifier…who puts an age limit on vocations ..what if there was an age limit on being the the Pope … we would never have one…i am a nurse and my age should not be the the only factor that is taken into consideration ..as it is i am returning to england on wednesday to enter the benedictines … they dont consider age … they look at the person …and yes they accept women from around the globe… if there are any women who would like to enter in england , email them ..they would love to hear from you

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