A Vocation Story by Sister Betsy Conway, CSJ
Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston
One of my earliest memories was knowing that I wanted to be “on God’s side.” As an observant child, I took in the news and was aware that there was too much trauma and violence, and that people’s words and actions made life’s circumstances either better or worse. I wanted to be on the side of better. As I grieved all that was sad and hurtful, I imagined that God did too and felt a connection to all of it, a sense that I needed to do my part to bring about what God dreamed for us – peace, harmony, enough for all.
Though I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel both this desire and responsibility, it was not until I had finished my junior year in college that I ever considered a call to religious life. My life, I felt, was already given to God. It was purposeful. I was meant to be a part of the goodness that promoted God’s dream.
But then, I accidentally ended up on a retreat that was, I learned later, a “vocation retreat.” This was something that I was sure I did not have, knowing that I was born to be a mother. But as I listened to this Sister of St. Joseph talk about the signs of a vocation, which today I cannot name, I felt with a strange certainty that she was talking to me. And that, literally, was it! I began the process immediately, first as a pre-candidate, then entering the Sisters of St. Joseph the September after I graduated from college.
Though I didn’t know it at that time, what religious life, life in community, would give me was the support I need for a radical following of Christ – as radical as any of us chooses to make it. In college, I had a poster in my room that said, “I long to live rejoicing. I cannot bear to live lukewarm.” Jesus warned us in the Gospel about lukewarm living, calling us instead to wholehearted response, radical loving – being open to be changed by our prayer and our learnings. In order for me to even attempt to live this way, I have come to know that I need companions, sisters also desiring to live this radical response. Together in daily communal prayer, we name out loud all that is possible when we give our lives to God, when we use Jesus as an example of who we can be and become, with God’s grace. As we pray, minister, and celebrate life together, we remind each other of whom we are in God’s eyes, beloved, and whom we are to each other and to “every kind of neighbor without distinction.” In community, our faithfulness is nurtured and strengthened as we work for unity in a world so torn apart with division, separation, and alienation. Every relationship is an opportunity to promote healing, goodness and reconciliation.
As a Sister of St. Joseph, living God’s story of love for all of us, I have come to know that we are, as Jesus dreamed, all One, as he is in God and God is in him. There is nothing more worth my life and breath than to know this and to help others know this – at the deepest level. And because of this, I live my life rejoicing.