Sister Barbara Kelley, OP

Vocation Story by Sister Barbara Kelley, OP
Adrian Dominican Sisters

As I began writing my vocation story on the Feast of St. Augustine, I thought of his famous quote: “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” This restlessness characterizes my search for my vocation during my young adult years.

I grew up with examples of two wonderful vocations. My parents, both devout Catholics, were deeply in love with each other and showed me what it means to thrive in a sacramental marriage. At the same time, I had the examples of the Sisters who taught me in the various places where I lived and attended school as a child. Both my parents and the Sisters were examples to me of sacrificial but joyful love, dedicated to God and to others.

In high school, God showed me part of my calling: writing. I received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and sought ways to use my training and skills while contemplating a religious vocation. Many of the communities I came into contact with, however, seemed to focus on teaching.

One day, I saw an ad for a new volunteer program: The Claretian Lay Missionaries, sponsored by the Claretian priests and brothers in Los Angeles. For two years, I experienced community living with women and men volunteers and had various experiences of ministry. One ministry was as co-editor and assistant for the Peace and Justice Center of Southern California. There, while honing my writing and editing skills and learning about peace and justice issues, I came to know a number of Sisters from various communities whose ministries were varied. Their passion and commitment to God and to suffering people inspired me and broadened my view of religious life. I could be a Sister and still use my gifts and training!

At the end of my second year with the Claretians, I wrote, sight unseen, to a number of diocesan newspapers, wanting to use my journalism skills for the Church. I was hired by The Catholic Weekly, the authorized newspaper of the Diocese of Lansing based in Flint, Michigan. The Adrian Dominican Motherhouse is located in the Diocese of Lansing.

I spent nine happy years with The Catholic Weekly – covering stories, meeting priests and Sisters, and becoming involved in my parish life – all while dating and exploring the possibility of marriage. I felt strangely at home at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse and came to know our Sisters at parishes and schools throughout the diocese. Their deep sense of joy and their commitment to God and to the people of God attracted me. Still, I wavered between the call to marriage and to religious life until I went to Adrian to cover a one-woman portrayal of St. Catherine of Siena by Sister Kathleen Harkins. As she spoke in the voice of this 14th-century mystic, I finally heard God’s specific call to me.

As a Dominican Sister of Adrian, I have had numerous opportunities to use my writing gifts for the community and continue to do so through my ministry in our Communications Office. I have found a home and loving Sisters who are my companions and who challenge me to continue to grow as, together, we continue our restless pilgrimage to God in service of the people of God.