A Vocation Story by Sister Annie Killian, Novice
Dominican Sisters of Peace
Experiencing contemplative prayer in community awakened in me the call to religious life.
It was my first year of graduate school in the UK. I was pursuing a Master’s degree in English Literature with a focus on Medieval Studies. On the one hand, the intellectual atmosphere energized me. I dove into the strange world of medieval spirituality and religious writing. On the other hand, however, spending most of my day reading left me off-balance. I needed to “be a doer of the Word” (James 1: 22), not merely a reader.
Through the university’s Saint Vincent de Paul Society, I met a Sister who invited me and two other women to join her local community once a week for their evening meal and prayer. The Sisters in the house had ministered internationally with young people in education and spirituality. Over dinner, I saw that they were ordinary women with different personalities and backgrounds who all shared a passion for talking about God. They reflected on their ministry in light of faith and discussed issues facing the church. We had conversations about feminist and liberation theology. They recounted their journeys in religious life.
After washing up, we went up to their prayer room, empty apart from the tabernacle. It had a wide window facing the garden. We settled on cushions on the floor. One Sister read the Gospel of the day; then we sat in contemplative silence for an hour. Never before had I experienced such unbroken stillness. Toward the end, we would share any insights or movements of the Spirit and conclude with intercessions.
The weekly experience sparked a longing in me for deeper prayer. One spring evening, looking out the window in the prayer room, all I could see were branches of a tree in the garden, a flowering tree in full bloom. Its fragrance wafted through the open window. Surrounded by such beauty, I felt my heart resting in a deep sense of peace. Then the idea came to me – I could likewise blossom in religious life. Rooted in contemplation and community, I could grow and flourish “like a tree planted near streams of water” (Psalm 1: 3). Here was a way of life that could contain my love of teaching and learning and also my desire to work for justice and peace. In community, I would be nurtured, encouraged and challenged to grow in wisdom.
With my Master’s program ending, I needed to discern next steps. I desired to continue my studies and received training to teach. I wanted to explore religious life in a North American context. So, I chose to pursue a Ph.D. in English back in the U.S.
After a transitional year, I reached out to different congregations. Providentially, I was referred to the Vocation Director for the Dominican Sisters of Peace who, to my surprise, lived right down the street. I hadn’t considered becoming Dominican, but right away their contemplative spirituality, communal prayer, emphasis on study, and commitment to peace-building resonated with me.
They had just opened a new “House of Welcome” for women in formation. This intergenerational, multicultural local community reflected Christ’s desire “that they may all be one” (John 17: 21). These were the women with whom I wanted to throw in my lot!
Upon completing studies for my Ph.D., I graduated in May 2019 and entered the congregation on July 6, 2019. After a year of candidacy, I am now a canonical novice at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in Chicago. I look forward to the ongoing flowering and fragrance of my formation with the Dominican Sisters of Peace and experiencing God’s presence on the journey.