Sister Cheryl on the vocation journey in childhood.
No two vocation stories are the same. That mysterious call is as unique as the person being called. What made me certain of my call may sound strange or foreign to another person, but here’s how it unfolded for me.
I grew up with an awareness of God, not a scary judgmental God but a very loving Someone always watching over me. As a child, when walking to the store for my mother, I would talk to God and see God shining down on me through the clouds in the brilliant rays of light. Reading about the saints as a child, I fully expected—or hoped—I would someday be like them!
I had wonderful, kind and loving nuns in my grade school, but my life plan was to marry my grade school crush, Jeremy. I also thought maybe I’d become a Disney Mouseketeer on TV once some agent discovered me. I also remember asking my Dad if he thought I could win the Miss America pageant when I grew up and was surprised at his less-than-enthusiastic response to that idea. So I had many vocational dreams!
For the 7th grade essay contest on “Why I Want to be a Nun,” I didn’t take it seriously but had my eye on the $50 prize. At lunch on the day it was due, I begged my married mother of three to write a nice essay about why I’d want to be a nun. She bailed me out, and I didn’t win the prize. I kind of felt God saying “hey, don’t make fun of this!”
In my sophomore year at a big Catholic co-ed high school, something quietly was happening in my heart. A priest taught me how to pray with the New Testament Scriptures and I began to really read and HEAR the stories of Jesus and his amazing message and mission. There is no other way to say it: I fell in love! I couldn’t get enough of Him. I thought about Him all the time. I was totally involved in my social life of friends, school, dances, dating---but Jesus would pop into my mind in the midst of a football game, as I was jammed into the stands with my friends, or as I danced the last dance of the night with my boyfriend. It was as though Jesus was saying, “you know who you belong to….”
I decided I would live high school to the max and then do the convent thing. Back then, you typically entered the convent right after high school, and I knew, as my love for God grew stronger, that I wanted to become a Sister.
I could see myself teaching and guiding teenagers and being part of a group of dedicated women doing God’s work in the world. But the single most compelling reason I entered was out of LOVE! I wanted to give God my whole life—all of me, every minute every day—to be as immersed in God and God’s work as I possibly could. When you love someone, you want to give your life to them and be as close to them as possible!
So my call from God began in my early years and was unfolding all along in quiet, unsuspected ways. This call has been the utter fulfillment of my desire, and God has been faithful and lavish with me beyond measure or expectation.
Each of us has our own sacred story of our vocation, whether to marriage, the single life or religious life. Thanks for listening to MY story. And what about you? What is your sacred story? When did you first sense God’s presence? And how has God’s call unfolded in your life?