A Vocation Story by Sister Vicki Lichtenauer, SCL
“Can you separate yourself from all your familiar conveniences?” My spiritual director asked that question as I considered entering religious life. Could I live a simple life?
I grew up attending public schools, but my family was very involved in our parish life. I studied gerontology & recreation therapy and then worked with traumatic brain injured patients in rehabilitation facilities. I remained involved in church life, and my friends commented on my joy when talking about my faith. They asked me if I had ever considered becoming a Sister. Honestly, I had never known a Sister when I was growing up, until I met one while going to school at Kansas State University. I did not know if the religious communities were even taking new women any more.
I attended a day of prayer offered by the Sisters of Charity where I met my spiritual director Sister Mary Pat Johnson, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth. In our conversations about religious life, she suggested I spend a year of living simply to see if I could envision a simple life focused in service to God.
I spent a year and a half in an intentional community, volunteering with the Christian Appalachian Project. I found that I could indeed live without my familiar conveniences. But beyond giving up earthly conveniences, I had to answer questions about giving up the possibility of having a nuclear family—giving up the idea of marriage and my own children. Once I changed my frame of reference of what family could look like, I told my friends and family they had to help me by letting me be an auntie to their children. I’ve discovered that by changing my view of what I thought a family would look like, I’ve been free to have many more versions of family.
Through the encouragement of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, I pursued a master’s in pastoral ministry. I’ve worked with high school students at Cristo Rey Kansas City High School and then college students at multiple universities. One of my favorite experiences was the joy of living in the Xavier House in Kansas City. We were an intentional community of Sisters, women discerning religious life and women who wanted to invest in simple living. The revolving door of housemates joining us from one week to up to two years was both a challenge and invigorating.
Today, I am blessed to minister with clients and caregivers dealing with the journey of dementia through the Deeper Window Association. I use all the skills I had prior to entering religious life, along with the pastoral ministry skills I learned and have practiced since becoming a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth. I love supporting our Alzheimer’s clients and their families as they navigate what can be difficult waters. Our community at The Deeper Window Association is like family. We celebrate happy milestones together and support each other during times of sadness.
My ‘yes’ to God’s call to religious life has been such a blessing for 26 years-- and counting. I have been able to use my gifts to serve in a variety of ministries and have met wonderful people along the way. I am so grateful for the gift of my vocation.