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When I first told people that I was pretty sure I wanted to be a Catholic sister, I received a range of responses from incredulous, to worried, to overjoyed! The encouragement and affirmation were very helpful and very much needed! I struggled a lot with those who did raise concerns because I still wasn't sure 100% myself (nobody is!) and I didn't always know how to respond.
One of the concerns was that I would somehow be less of myself as a Catholic sister, that I would somehow be limited, boxed in, not free. This is a legit concern! I realized that the people who asked the question cared about me and had a very different perception and experience of religious life. Just as I was getting to know what it was like -- very up close and personal! -- they were learning about it too! Unfortunately sometimes our only sources of information are what we imagine it was like or experienced it many years ago or what we see in pop culture. Not all of this is bad, indeed, there is much that points to the truths about religious life! But some of these sources are no longer accurate for today, and some are just plain wrong -- Nunzilla. Enough said.
Wherever the concern about being limited, less oneself as a nun came from, I found it to be a good point for reflection in my discernment. When asked the question about being less myself as a nun, I felt like I would explode with unicorns, hamsters, and rainbows! (Seriously, my interior life is an interesting place.) I felt this intense joy rise up in me and I wanted to say, MY GOD! Can you not see how infinitely fabulous this is?? I have never felt more alive in my life!! As I reflected on these encounters, I asked myself, am I in fact limited? Am I less than myself? These questions were odd to ask because even as I heard them or posed them to myself I felt that explosion once again -- it was like an expansiveness, a feeling of utter freedom and possibility. I remember describing this to my family after they met my nuns for the first time. I don't know that any of us could really explain this, but my family saw something in me, they could feel that freedom that I felt and I think for me, as for them, it was a major sign (cue the choirs of angels) that I was at home with my nuns, that I was not simply the same "myself" but more myself than I could imagine!
While this explosion of goodness was and continues to be felt spiritually very deeply within to this day, it also manifests itself in my relationships with people, in my ministry, in how I envision my future, in how I pray ... pretty much in all things! Granted some days I do feel I bit like hiding under a bushel, that's normal. But life as a Catholic sister has made me so much more myself -- allowing me to be fully me yet fully a community woman, fully a person for others.
As you think about the choices in your life -- maybe to become a nun, maybe to go to grad school, maybe to choose a path of a lifetime! -- ask yourself the question, does it make you less of yourself or more yourself than ever? Whatever the responses may be, it is good and will help you make choices and move ahead. Be assured of my prayers!