A Vocation Story by Sister Jane Riha, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, Green Bay, WI
A vocation is a gift of God—a gift for one’s journey of life and a gift for others. Gifts are given and received. Having lived as a Franciscan Sister for 55 years, I have been blessed by the presence of many people and circumstances that I consider beautiful gifts. Living one’s life as a Religious Sister is relational. A life well-lived is balanced; it is not only about giving and serving but includes openness to receiving.
The vocational call is many calls within the initial “yes” to enter into a new way of life. As a young teenage girl, I was attracted to my particular community, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, by the witness of the Sisters. They were joyful, prayerful, relational women, clearly at ease with people.
Growing up in a rural area, the church was the center of many events in my little village. Renowned author, Hillary Clinton, said it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that is true of my life. A life of prayer, closeness to church, and the witness of the spiritual lives of others in my family and small village community were tugging at my heart even as a young child. Sitting on a small stool at my grandmother’s side while she prayed from her prayer book in the Czech language is one of my most blessed memories.
The following Scripture passage has been abundantly experienced in my life: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt. 19:29)
Over these many years, I have experienced joys, sorrows, difficulties, challenges, and accomplishments. Continuous discernment and prayer, has led me to people and places I might not have chosen on my own. I have met the Lord many times in my encounters and relationships with people living on the margins. I have learned the meaning of holiness and humility in the person of the Hispanic immigrant struggling to live in a different culture, through the African-American striving to live a full life in the midst of racism in the South, through those living in poverty and the working poor.
A life lived within a Religious community and nurtured by a prayerful, contemplative approach to life, has strengthened my commitment. Living as a vowed woman Religious is a continuous process of choosing to say “yes” many times to God’s call. In the course of life, the commitment takes on renewed vitality. At this stage of my life, I understand and honor that commitment in a deeper way than when I first entered my Franciscan community.
Writings concerning St. Francis often indicate how he saw the “footprints of God” in the world. I believe that God has led me to see God’s presence in so many people and circumstances over these many years. All of life, with its many dimensions, is a holy gift.