A Vocation Story by Ellen Coates
Dominican Sisters of Peace
India. Laos. Madagascar. Ethiopia. Ellen Coates’ passport is a virtual roadmap of her efforts to help the ill, the poor, and children around the world. But it took coming home to her roots in the Church to find her true path to service as a Dominican Sister of Peace.
Ellen studied art history in college in North Carolina, but her life took a dramatic turn when she decided to earn her Master’s Degree in Public Health from Boston University. “The desire to serve God had a lot to do with the public health career I chose,” she said.
Upon receiving her degree, she spent more than 20 years working with international aid groups, including USAID, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, managing public health projects to fight polio, encourage vaccine use, and improve maternal and child health.
Ellen met another bend in the road in 2013, when she began to see God’s hand moving her towards more dedicated service. Her mother had invited her to attend several silent retreats at Dominican Retreat in McLean, VA, L so later that year she went back there and met with Sister Agnes Bernadette Gott, OP. In that quiet, reverent space, Ellen began to hear God’s voice. and began the journey towards becoming a Dominican Sister of Peace.
“In the silence and stillness of retreat, Ellen pondered what God might be asking of her,” Sister Agnes recalls. “On one retreat Ellen signed up to chat with me, and she hesitantly spoke out loud her persistent, unanswered question… could God be inviting her to become a Sister? We listened and shared, and felt that God could definitely be putting the question on her heart.”
With Sr. Agnes’ help, Ellen continued on the path of her own discernment. “Ellen continued praying and listening to that inner voice, and eventually came to an inner peace. It was an invitation from God that she must follow and wanted to pursue. The Holy Spirit led Ellen to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, where she felt at home. This is where she can place her life and her gifts at the service of God's people,” Sr. Agnes continued.
“I am becoming a Sister because I want to be more fully in service to God, and come to know God better. It’s also an incredible gift to share faith, service, and life - joys and challenges –with other women who are living God’s Word and trying to do the right thing in the world,” Ellen said.
Ellen began her official candidacy program on Sunday, February 19, 2017, at the chapel of Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT. She took the next step in her journey on Saturday, July 24, when she was welcomed into the Novitiate for the Dominican Sisters of Peace at their Tenth Anniversary Celebration in St. Louis. Ellen is currently in her Canonical year at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in St. Louis, MO.