A Vocation Story by Sister Linda Volk, PHJC
Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, Donaldson, IN
I’m in eighth grade fuming and embarrassed. Our teacher had created a bulletin board using our graduate pictures clothing each of us in an outfit predicting our future. Among the girl graduates there was a classmate dressed as a ballerina, a nurse, a mother, a singer. . . and then me. . . dressed as a nun! Are you kidding! Why would she suppose that? And then - out of sight. . . out of mind (I thought).
The summer following graduation my cousin kept talking about going away to a girls’ high school in Indiana and asked me to come with her. Since I lived in Illinois not far from the Indiana border and, not scoring high in geography, I supposed Donaldson, IN to be close by. My cousin kept after me and without much forethought and obviously not too many questions I thought it might be fun to go to a boarding school with a lot of other teenage girls.
Though I knew this was a convent school it did not really sink in that there might be intentionality in going there. When I arrived after a 300-mile bus ride and saw the place was actually a motherhouse for the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ my mind went back to that picture on the bulletin board and I panicked. This was not only a lot farther away in miles than I had supposed but a lot further away from what I had imagined.
Even though I had never met a Sister of this congregation until I arrived, it wasn’t long before the confusion and muddle gave way to a feeling of an at-hominess among these women committed to a chosen way of life. But I continued to not give a second thought to being part of that life. I enjoyed studying, friendships, and community activities.
I finished high school and entered as a candidate because I didn’t want to disappoint my classmates or the Sisters. The rest of the journey from novitiate through final commitment was bumpy and uneven. Instead of the movie version of entering religious life through the big open front doors of the convent complete with shining eyes and holy music, the Holy Spirit had me fumbling around at the side door, peering inside, half-closing the door, hanging around at the threshold, eventually reopening the door and finally stepping through with recognition that I belonged to this life and that I found joy and fulfillment in it. My relationship with God became central and my commitment to religious life as a Poor Handmaid became real and non-negotiable.
God has kept my attention for all these years by alluring me into the divine connection, the ever-evolving search for the heart of the matter. All are called to seek God and my way is through the call of religious life. The joy of this life gets me up each morning and causes delight in what love has in store for me that day. I am happy and I am grateful!
Sr. Linda Volk, PHJC has a wealth of experience in the fields of elementary education, vocation ministry, formation accompaniment, and leadership. She is a prolific writer for community purposes. Sr. Linda presently serves as the Sister Coordinator at the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Motherhouse in Donaldson, IN.