Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Autobiography for Sisters of St. Joseph


TO BEGIN:  A crucial aspect of my personality which has affected the course of my life, is my determination to be a person of great courage, willing to try anything. When I was 21, I read by chance a study in a psychology journal, which reported that the main cause of depression in the elderly was the feeling of “what if?” How might my life have been different if I had dared to do that thing that I was too afraid to do?  At that moment, I resolved that would never be me:  I would go through every door, explore every path, if I thought it might be interesting or lead to happiness.  I have been faithful to that resolution all my life.

Although I was born in Detroit--and my mother was born and raised there--on her side of the family we were rooted in Western New York State.  Her father’s father emigrated from Poland in 1890 (they were Catholic) and settled in Depew NY—and on the other side, they were German and Jewish immigrants who arrived in the Springville area about 50 years earlier.  My father grew up on a farm in Northeast Missouri, the youngest of 9 children.  Their backgrounds were totally different, since my mother’s family was middle-class, while my father’s family was extremely poor; their paths would never have crossed in a million years, had not both of them decided to join the Navy during World War II.  They were trained as medical corpsmen, and both were stationed at the same Navy hospital near Memphis TN.  Despite their socio-economic differences, it was love at first sight, and they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on May 10, 2016.  After they were married, they briefly settled in Detroit with my mother’s parents, but about six months later, moved with them back to Western New York, where I grew up. 

1  My parents, Norman & Wilma Goodson, c2000
For reasons unknown to me, in our family, religion and God were never discussed. My father was raised with no formal religion, and although my mother had been baptized a Catholic (her Catholic grandparents saw to that), she was a member of a Lutheran church as a child, but stopped attending during high school. I, however, had an inexplicable interest in Catholic things, and managed to use my allowance to secretly buy a crucifix and a Rosary at the local dimestore, even though I had no idea what to do with them.  I would have been terribly embarrassed if my parents knew I had these things. We had a Catholic Church and school in our town, staffed by Sisters of the Order of St. Francis;  I had occasionally seen them, and when I was a very small child, I used to dress up like a nun, which gave my mother considerable amusement. 

I have one brother, who is a year and a half younger than I am. He and I had the usual brother/sister animosity as we were growing up, but once I entered college, we bonded, and have been very close ever since, although we don’t see each other very often.  Our parents were warm and loving, and I had a very happy childhood, except for the fact that I was overweight and thus endured some bullying (although back then we did not call it that) from my peers.  I actually think those bad experiences made me stronger, more independent and self-confident.  I was one of the academic “stars” in my school, and my parents were strong proponents of education (although neither one graduated from college), so I grew up believing that intellectual accomplishments were much more important than physical attributes. 

2   My brother, Jonathan Goodson, at his youngest daughter's wedding in 2011

When I was 7 years old, my parents must have decided it was time for some religion in our lives, so they joined the Lutheran Church in town and we began to attend. My brother, my father and I were all baptized the same day, January 17, 1954.  It had almost no impact on me whatever, and although we went to church quite often and I was also forced to attend Sunday school, I hated it and only went because I was taken and had no choice in the matter.   

At the appropriate age, I was enrolled in Confirmation classes, memorized the Catechism and prepared for Confirmation.  I had an epiphany one day in class, when the pastor put a diagram on the blackboard which was supposed to prove to us that the Lutheran Church was the one true Church:  it was very clear to me--and this was a shock--that he was WRONG!  His diagram demonstrated to me that it was actually the Catholic Church which had descended to us from the Apostles--and at that moment, I knew that I would eventually become Catholic.  I still had to go through with the Lutheran Confirmation, however, which made me feel very guilty.  I did not have the nerve to tell my parents that I did not want to be a Lutheran.  I told God I was sorry I had to do it, and during the ceremony I had my fingers crossed behind my back, a childish symbol of the fact that I was making promises I did not intend to keep.

During the summer between my junior and senior years of high school (1964), I had the opportunity to attend a National Science Foundation program for gifted students at Grinnell College in Iowa.  Before I left, my mother made me promise to go to church every Sunday.  It was the first time I had ever been away from home for an extended period, and for the first Sunday I was there, I suggested to my new friends that we should visit different churches in town just for fun, to see what they were like.  However, there was a very charismatic boy from Leavenworth, KS there, who questioned my faith, asking me WHY I believed in God.  No one had ever asked me to defend my faith, and I had no answer, since it was not very deeply rooted, almost nonexistent, actually.  He recommended the books of Bertrand Russell to me, which they had in the college library.  It did not take long after reading Russell before I considered myself to be an agnostic.

Needless to say, my mother was horrified when I came home and declared myself to be an agnostic. I gravitated into the sphere of another fascinating person during my senior year, my Chemistry teacher.  I had a crush him, and I started hanging out in his office whenever I could, so we could talk. He was an atheist; it is a very short step from agnosticism to atheism, and before long I decided I was really an atheist too.

We were living 35 miles from Buffalo, a city which was heavily Catholic. A man running for mayor of the city was written about in a newspaper article, which mentioned a rumor that he was an atheist.  This made me very angry, because I knew that this was the "kiss of death" to his political career in such a Catholic city, so I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper complaining about the fact that a newspaper had repeated a rumor, and in my letter I mentioned that I was an atheist myself.

Somehow my letter came to the attention of the elders of our Lutheran Church, and they contacted my parents to ask if they could come to our house and talk to me about it.  I did not want to see them, but my mother insisted, so they came.  They asked me if what I said was true, and I confirmed that it was and refused to recant.  Soon after that I started college, and during my Freshman year, I received a very stern document telling me that I had been excommunicated from the Lutheran Church and damned to Hell for all eternity.  Even though I did not believe, I still found the letter frightening (although I would not admit it), and I tore it up.  Now, I wish I still had it. 

During my college years, I was a very aggressive atheist, and actively tried to destroy the faith of others. Despite that, I was somewhat of a spiritual seeker: I was interested in and read about Eastern religions, flirted with Theosophy, est (Erhard Seminars Training), Transcendental Meditation, and became friends with a Rabbi I met at the Library (considered converting to Judaism). 

I naturally have a passionate and loving heart, which caused me to very easily develop crushes on men, and since I had no sense of morality related to sex, I did not hesitate to act on those feelings—and had many short-lived relationships. I remain profoundly grateful to this day, that I never needed to have an abortion, because I absolutely would have done it, and I would be crushed with remorse now if I had. In my junior year of college, I finally found one guy that I thought I might be able to love, and we were informally engaged for a while--but I wanted to get married right away while still in school, so I frightened him off!  In retrospect, what I really wanted was to get married just to prove to myself that someone cared enough to ask me.  As a person without any religious values, I had absolutely no conception of what marriage was supposed to be about:  to me, it was just what people did, and being a very normal and conventional person, I thought it was what I was supposed to do too.  After that, I did not have another serious relationship for several years.

It was not until I found God in my early 30s, that I understood why I never succeeded in finding the love I always looked for, desperately wanted and often imagined that I had found--but it never lasted. Now, all that passion is directed toward Jesus, who is the center of my life:  I have a relationship with Him that gives me an ecstatic joy that I would never have imagined was possible on earth.  I love to be with Him in prayer—I am person who needs to pray—it is an urge so strong, I cannot resist. Often, I will be doing something else, and I can literally feel Him pulling me away from what I am doing, wanting me to come to Him. Jesus is just always there, and all I have to do is turn toward Him—and so I talk to Him throughout the day: it feels on some level as though I am always praying. I am overwhelmed with the love that I feel for Him—it overflows me and drives me to try to share it with everyone I meet. 

PSYCHO-SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT:  First of all, I should admit that I do not understand at all what you want from us this category. I have never taken any psychology courses, so perhaps that is why, even though I can read the words, I don’t grasp the concepts behind them.  A friend of mine recently told me that “…our sexuality is where kindness and compassion and love come from.”  That was news to me, and if it’s true, I don’t really understand that either.  I don’t associate sexuality with what I think of as love, perhaps because I never knew true passion with any of my lovers, because I was not in love with any of them.  I definitely have the capacity for passionate love, however, and frankly, it is overwhelming—almost too much for a human body to bear sometimes--but it is all directed to Jesus in the cherished relationship I have with Him.  I believe this is because God created me from birth to belong to Him exclusively.  In prayer, I address Jesus as my Love, because He is—my one and only love on that highest level of reality.  He is the only person with whom I have experienced true, deep love—that is, the kind of love that I imagine exists in earthly marriages that are good.  Of course I love people too—but my love for Him is completely different.  It possesses me… it involves my entire being: heart, soul, mind, body and spirit.  I just belong to Him totally, and I could never give that up.

For some reason, I don’t, and never have, thought of myself in terms of gender—to me, I am just a person. My theory is that everyone is arranged along a continuum ranging from feminine to masculine, and that some are more to one side of that scale than others—which determines whether they are gay or straight.  Although I am not sexually attracted to women, I think I may be closer to the middle than many women, in that I never was a typical female.  I care very little about my appearance, hate doing anything that involves hair, never wore makeup, and have no sense or concern for fashion. Not being very feminine in the usual sense used to bother me, but only a little bit: when I was young, I had only a few friends, because girls were interested in stuff that bored me; I got along great with boys.  When I got older and began dating, I was too honest and direct to master the art of playing games with men, which everyone says is necessary in order to trap them into marriage—unless, of course, one is lucky enough to find real love with a man—I never did. Again, my belief is that this is because I was chosen by God to belong to Him exclusively, and I am very happy with that!  I also believe that men and women were made intrinsically different by God, and that they have different roles to play in life, and thus—although I know some Catholic women feel excluded by the Church—I don’t feel that way: I calmly accept that the Church only ordains men to the priesthood, and that does not upset me in the least.  I would like to know why Jesus only chose men to be His disciples, and I look forward to learning the answer to that in Heaven, if I am fortunate enough to get there. 

I went straight from earning my Bachelor’s degree in English, to beginning Library School at the University of Buffalo. A life-changing experience for me, was an encounter I had with a reference librarian at the University Library during my first semester of Library School.  I needed help finding something in the card catalog, and he was as cold and rude as he could be: he found what I needed, but in the process made me feel completely humiliated. On that day, I vowed that I would never be like that: that when I was a librarian, every person I assisted would feel loved and respected, so they would want to come back and receive my help again. For the rest of my working life, I thought of that incident every time I went out of my office for a shift at a public service desk, and I took great pains to teach that value system to everyone who worked for me. I am very proud of the fact that several of our student workers went on to become librarians, inspired by me (they later told me).

Just as I was receiving my master's degree in Library Science, I was offered a job at St. Louis Public Library during a conference I was attending in Dallas TX, and I accepted it. While in Library School, I had been working full-time in the main campus library through a state-sponsored internship program which provided a salary and free tuition.  Even at that early point in my career, I was already being pressed to start publishing, which I resented.  I have never wanted to write professionally unless I had something to say, and I did not feel at that time that I did--so working in a public library seemed very appealing.  I have always been quite altruistic—I attribute this to my parents, who are very generous people, always trying to help others—and I believed that I could have a more positive impact on the world in a public library, rather than working with college students who were already pretty well assured of being successful and prosperous in life, simply because they had managed to go to college; I have always been drawn to helping those who are “disadvantaged” in one way or another.  I am blessed with a grateful heart, and I always recognized that even though our family was not well-off financially, I grew up with crucial advantages many others did not have: a stable home with two loving parents who believed strongly in education and in the value of work (I got my first paying job, waitress/cook/dishwasher at the local Country Club, when I was 14).

I didn’t admit it to anyone, but I was secretly frightened by the idea of moving to St. Louis--leaving home, friends, and my established support system—so I felt that I needed to do this in order to prove to myself that I  could make it on my own in a strange city.  I arrived there in January 1972, knowing no one other than the man who had offered me the position, who was the Associate Director of St. Louis (City) Public Library.  I vividly remember being painfully lonely for many long months;  although I tried hard to “break in” to the social dynamic at work, it seemed as though people already had their own friends and activities. Gradually, things changed and I got integrated into the place: I developed my own network of friends and interests--but I will never forget how hard it was at first.  I have often shared this experience with young people, whom I encourage to do as I did.  You can always go home again, but you can’t move like that once you get too old, because you become tied down and are not that free anymore.  The self-confidence I gained from that experience is of incalculable value to me, including dealing with the pain of extreme loneliness:  I refused to give up, and it ultimately worked out just fine.

Meanwhile: I found out when I got to St. Louis that the job I had been offered had not yet been approved by the Director, and to my dismay, I was put into a “holding” position at the Main Library downtown, with much less responsibility and autonomy than I had been led to expect. I really enjoyed it, however: I and my two colleagues at the Information Desk, both my age, were running all day long, helping people find the books they needed, and it felt very rewarding.  My supervisor, an African-American woman about the age of my mother, was a born mentor: she took me under her wing and taught me more about being a librarian than I had ever learned in Library School. (We became very close friends, and she was my Matron-of-Honor at my wedding a few years later).  However, after a year of waiting for the job I had been promised to become a reality, I got impatient and asked for a transfer to Branches. 

I was put in charge of the Barr Branch Library, which was in an unusual neighborhood; one side of Jefferson Avenue was becoming gentrified and affluent, while the other side of the street, a major thoroughfare, remained as poor as it had been for the past 75 years, about half white and half black. I bought my first house for $6700, a wreck in the gentrified part of the neighborhood —an 1875 rowhouse that I restored over time. 

3 My house was the light-colored one in the middle, 1116 S. 18th Street

Meanwhile, I had the chance to direct my branch library as I saw fit, with little interference from my supervisor, who was miles away at the Downtown Library. I am a natural leader, and I developed important administrative skills there. When I first arrived, the existing staff resisted my authority quite a bit; the librarian who had retired from there was very old, had little energy (she used to take naps at her desk during the day), and had allowed them to run the place without her intervention.  I was much younger than any of them, and at first, they were not about to let me change anything, or make any decisions!  I learned a valuable lesson, the necessity of closely involving my staff in all decision-making, so that they had “buy-in” and would support changes. Eventually we all bonded very closely, and it was one of the happiest periods in my life.  In order to increase traffic and community involvement, I invited a local neighborhood organization, The Southside Coalition, to move into our unused basement. They managed a variety of federal programs that existed back then (the 1970s), all of which were designed to help people get out of poverty. After I discovered that a significant portion of my library’s local population could not read or write, I wrote a grant proposal (which was funded), to start an adult literacy program in the branch. 

4  Barr Branch Library, St. Louis

Because of my status and reputation within the local community, I was encouraged to apply for the job of Coordinator of the St. Louis Board of Education’s Sigel Community School, just a few blocks from my library. I decided to do it, mainly because one of the fears I had not yet overcome, was that of public speaking. I knew this was holding me back in my career, and would continue to do so if I did not conquer it.  I was aware that a big part of the Community Schools job would be going out to give presentations to groups about our programs, and so—although the thought terrified me—I determined that I would do it, in order to force myself to overcome this fear.  The first year was rough:  I was out 2 or 3 nights a week giving talks in the community, and it was excruciating; however, in time, I did get used to it and was able to function speaking in front of large groups. This ability was very important to my eventual successful career as an academic librarian, because it was vital for me to be able to go to state and national conferences and give presentations.

Going back for a minute: while I was still working in the Downtown Library that first year in St. Louis, I met a man who reminded me of my father, and I thought I was in love with him.  We even drove around looking at houses we might buy, so it was a horrible shock when he confessed that he was married.  At first he was going to leave his wife for me, but then she had a breast cancer scare, and he went back to her and his two young sons.  I was devastated, and when I met someone else soon after, I took up with him and married him, as they say, "on the rebound."  Secretly, I did not give the marriage much chance of succeeding; I was just in the mood to get married--again, needing to prove to myself that someone wanted me enough to ask me; getting married was like a validation, a trophy to be acquired, and nothing more. I remember telling my mother the night before my wedding (May 10, 1974) that I gave it 50/50, and she said that in that case, I had no business getting married at all!  Of course she was right.

By chance, my husband-to-be and I had gotten to be friends with a Ukrainian Orthodox priest who was pastor of a rather moribund parish right behind my house (St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Rite), and although we had never attended his church or any other, we asked him to marry us. My fiancé had been raised Catholic, and wanted to have some kind of Catholic ceremony to please his grandmother; getting married in that particular church proved to be a very fortunate accident, as I will explain later.  

5 St. Mary's Assumption Church, St. Louis
6  My Wedding Day: Lawrence J. Price and Carol F. Goodson

There was no way in which it was a sacramental marriage. For one thing, the priest asked me if I was open to having children and I lied about it;  I was on birth control at the time, and had no intention of getting pregnant until I was sure the relationship was going to last (and I was far from confident about that).  I quickly learned that my husband was a free spirit who was not willing to be tied down in the kind of relationship I wanted.  I had a full-time job, while he was doing a wide variety of freelance things, including theatrical set design and being a minor drug dealer. He often worked on our house renovation during the day, and although I had no proof, if I came home from work unexpectedly, a woman from the neighborhood was often hanging out with him, and I suspected that he was not being faithful.  As a psychological defense against being hurt, I started having affairs myself.  He was also verbally abusive, and our marriage began to deteriorate rather quickly.

I got divorced in November of 1977.  In order to help cover household expenses, I took in a friend from work as a roommate, the teacher I had hired to run the literacy program I had started at my library.  I have a tendency to want to “save” people, and she was one of those people: part of the reason I had hired her originally was because—distraught over the fact that her mother was dying from cancer--she had walked out on a teaching contract in the public schools the previous October, and because of that, had been having a hard time getting another job. She had had a very unhappy life as the child of two alcoholics (and she herself was an alcoholic), and I made her my "project" to fix. 

I persuaded her to enroll in the Master’s program in Education at the University of Missouri/St. Louis, which she thought was beyond her (it wasn't).  I wanted to do whatever I could to make her successful and confident, so whenever she decided to do something which I thought was positive, I encouraged her, usually by joining her in whatever she wanted to do.  She was a wonderful person, very generous and funny, and had “adopted” my parents as her substitute parents—and they loved her too.  With both her parents dead, she really had no one, while I still had my parents, whom I loved but hardly ever saw.  At about this time, they had relocated to the Atlanta metro area; after 3 years of it, I was tired of my stressful job with the Community School, and after we visited them in their new home, we decided to move to Georgia in 1980 to be closer to them. By the way—and this turned out to be very significant--she had also been raised Catholic, although she was no longer practicing. 

We both got jobs very quickly, and bought a house not far from my parents. The school where she was employed was fundamentalist Christian.  People in the South can be very aggressive about religion:  I was working in downtown Atlanta, and I remember being stopped occasionally on the street to be asked, "Are you saved?" One day, early in her first year, a student approached her and said she wanted her to come to church with her family the next evening:  would she meet them there, or should they pick her up?  She was completely annoyed by this aggressive approach, and rather harshly responded, "I am Catholic!" which definitely silenced the student, because Catholics are the anti-Christ to many fundamentalist Southerners.  That night after we both got home from work, she told me about this, and to my amazement, she said she actually might like to go back to the Church.

As I said, I always acted on anything positive she wanted to do, but, although I told her immediately that I was willing, secretly I knew there was no way I could be that much of a hypocrite: I have too much personal integrity to fake something like that.  What a dilemma!  I wanted to help my friend do something I thought might make her life happier, but how could I possibly accompany her?

I had just one idea, born of desperation.  For two nights, right before I went to sleep, I made this "prayer," if you can even call it that: "God, if you are really there, make me believe in You, because I don't."  I only did it twice, and of course I did not think anything would happen.

At that time I was temporarily working as librarian for an awful proprietary school in Atlanta, one of those places that keeps students around until their federal aid runs out, even though they are not really able to do college-level work. The next day after my last snarky prayer, my boss gave me the keys to his car and told me to go down to the Georgia State University Bookstore and meet one of the book buyers, who had offered to give us some books for our library.  I was a little early, so while I was waiting around for her, I wandered around the store looking at the books.  I found myself next to the Religion section, and I started browsing.  I was laughing to myself, to see the bizarre collection of books that college bookstores will insist on shoving into a Religion section, just as in my own college bookstore. I noticed a book about St. John of the Cross by Thomas Merton, an author I recognized because my mother had persuaded me to read The Seven Storey Mountain when I was in high school.  It was very unusual for me to actually have any cash with me because I was very poor in those days, but I had exactly enough and so for some unknown reason I bought it and put it in my purse.

At the end of that day (September 11, 1981), when I was once again on the bus heading to the Park 'n Ride lot out near my home, I remembered the book, took it out, and started reading it.  Although I still have that book, I have never been able to find the sentence that I read that day, which precipitated what I believe to have been a true miracle.  I read a sentence, and suddenly I was flooded from head to toe with a feeling of incredible warmth.  I was in the presence of God—somehow I knew it--just like that, He was there, and I believed.  It happened in seconds, and I cannot explain it.  Luckily we were very near my stop, because I was about to fall apart.  I stumbled off the bus to my car, unlocked it, threw myself into the front seat, and sat there sobbing for a very long time. All of a sudden everything in life made sense: I realized that I had found what I had always been looking for--but didn't know it--and I was indescribably happy. When I finally was able to compose myself, I drove home and told my friend that I was going to call St. Matthew’s, the local Catholic Church, the next day, and ask to start receiving instructions in the Faith.
The parish in Fairburn was very small, and so they had no RCIA program—and thus my weekly one-on-one instruction by the pastor in his office began immediately. Learning about Catholicism was absolutely wonderful.  First of all, the priest who was in charge of that church—Rev. Frederick R. Flaherty, M.S.--is one of the most incredible human beings I have ever met, in addition to being a really holy priest.  We are friends to this day.  I loved everything I heard about the Catholic Faith, and I just soaked it up like sponge.  I could not wait to be brought into the Church, so I could receive the Eucharist. I wanted it so much, I know Father Flaherty shortened my preparation a little bit, because I pressed him so hard for it.

I received the Sacrament of Confirmation and my first Holy Communion at Mass on a Saturday morning, December 5, 1981, and my friend and I began to attend Mass regularly. 

Since I was working in downtown Atlanta, I had the privilege of being able to attend daily Mass, usually at The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which was only a few blocks away from my workplace.  If I missed Mass in the morning for some reason, I took a MARTA train down to Sacred Heart and went to Mass during my lunch hour.  

7  Shrine of The Immaculate Conception, Atlanta

From the first, I loved being Catholic—I knew it was what I was meant to do, but such a long time coming—so I quickly got very involved in parish life:  Father Flaherty asked me to revive their St. Vincent de Paul Society, which had become inactive, and I became its President. I was a Lector, sang in the Folk Choir, took on some of the duties of Sacristan, planned and coordinated fund-raising events, etc.  I was born cursed with the gift of empathy—I laughingly call it a curse, because it means that whenever I notice someone who is in pain or has a need—either a person or an animal—I am compelled to do something. I really can feel others’ pain, so working with those in need through St. Vincent de Paul was right up my alley, and I found it extremely rewarding.

I was very devout and loved to pray. Father Flaherty gave me a key to the church so I could make visits to the Blessed Sacrament whenever I wanted to, since the church was locked at the times I could go after work.  Prayer comes very easily to me; for some reason, I am continually aware of God's presence in the background, and whenever I am in a quiet place where I can approach Him, I just "fall" into prayer. I can’t really explain this, but I open my heart to Him and just allow His incredible Love to flow into me; sometimes I feel as though “I” disappear, and just become part of Him. Often I end up in tears, because being with Him is so unbearably sweet, I can hardly endure so much joy. 

I don’t remember how long it was after I became a Catholic, but I gradually began to wonder if I might have a vocation. All my life, I had looked for love, but never found it until I fell in love with God. Everything in my past life seemed to be part of a coherent narrative then: it all made sense at last, and I felt in my heart that I was destined to belong to Him exclusively. At first, it was very hard for me to even imagine that this could be true, because I had led such a sinful life, and knew I was so unworthy of that!  When I finally had the nerve to bring this up with Father Flaherty, he surprised me by agreeing with me, and encouraged me to pursue it--so I started writing to communities for information.  Telling my friend of my plans, which meant the breakup of our household, was hard, and she was understandably upset.  However, since I would not be needing money where I was going, I gave her nearly all the proceeds from the sale of the house so she could start life on her own again, which mollified her somewhat (she moved back to St. Louis).

The first thing I had to do in order to be free to enter a religious community, was get an annulment.  This turned out by a stroke of good luck (although personally, I don't think it was luck) to be very easy:  my ex-husband was nominally Roman Catholic, but we had been married in a non-Roman Rite church.  Under RC Church rules, he was supposed to get permission from the Archbishop to be married outside his Rite, and because he had not, the marriage was deemed invalid on the grounds of "defective form."  In very short order, I was free.

During this period, I had been working at the Division of Public Library Services, a State agency, still in downtown Atlanta.  I was invited to go with my supervisor for a week’s visit to the Library of Congress.  I made a very positive impression on them, and was offered a job at the Library of Congress during the visit—which is every librarian’s dream—and although it was terribly tempting, I declined because I had made up my mind to try to enter religious life, even though I knew it would be difficult because of my age (over 30).

Unbelievable as it now seems to me, I spent no time on what is normally called “discernment.”  I don’t remember ever asking God for guidance as to where I should go, although I did visit some communities around my area and in St. Louis during a long Vocation Weekend I attended with some women I’d met through a Vocation “club” I had started at Sacred Heart Church downtown. All I remember is that I wanted so much to give my life to God as soon as possible--I just could not wait to go--and where did not seem to matter.  Of course I later realized what a terrible mistake that was, because the “where” does matter, a great deal!  I now know only too well that you have to be in a setting in which you can live as your true and authentic self—but in those days, I was still in the unconscious habit of remaking myself in order to fit into the world of whatever person or situation I was in at the time.  Unhappily, it took me years to recognize that I even did that--and, then, to resolve that I would never do it again.  

One of the things that I appreciate so much in my relationship with Jesus, is that I do not have to pretend with Him at all.  No self-censoring, no worries about how He might react to what I need to say to Him, no wondering if He is tired of me telling Him how much I love Him, no fear that if he really knew me He would reject me: because he DOES know me--totally--and He loves me anyway!  I think this is at the foundation of what God wants for you in consecrated life as well:  for you to be able to live your life fully, as your deepest and truest and most authentic self--because it's impossible to be fearful that they will discover who you really are, and happy, all at the same time--those two emotions are simply not compatible.    

The first place I wanted to go was the Discalced Carmelites of Danvers, MA. I had developed an interest in St. Teresa of Avila, initially because of a trivial coincidence: I discovered that we have the same birthday, March 28th –so I bought her works, started reading them, and grew to love her ideas and her spirit.  I had been secretly disappointed that Father Flaherty did not invite me to choose a patron saint when I was confirmed: I was aware of that custom from going to school with Catholic kids—but I privately chose her as my patron anyway.  I also was attracted to that Community because it was Father Flaherty’s favorite community—he talked about them a lot--and so I thought they might accept me. 

8 Discalced Carmelites of Danvers in Choir

He knew them well from giving many retreats there, and loved them very much--but this was not a good reason for me to enter the community. And, of course, my parents were understandably upset, because it basically meant not seeing them, unless they were willing to come to Boston, which my mother said they would never do (she was angry).  At that time—other than the fact that I knew I’d miss them--I was not particularly concerned about leaving my parents.  For one thing, they were only in their late 50s and in very good health.  Also, my brother’s first wife (she has since died) absolutely adored them, and I knew she would never let them be neglected in any way.  So, I visited them, and after I passed the psychological testing the Carmelites required, I was allowed to enter; I went in January 1983. 

The nuns were wonderful, and I loved much about the life, but I soon began to realize that I could not tolerate being so strictly cloistered.  I felt like I was in a cage, and when I found myself pacing the floors of the Novitiate to relieve stress, I knew I was going to have to admit I’d made a mistake and go home.  Besides my inability to endure cloister, I also became acutely conscious of how much I needed to DO something—to be engaged in some kind of apostolate, in direct contact with people.  Although I admire the Carmelite life of prayer, and completely believe in the importance and efficacy of what they do, it is just not for me.  I was there for almost ten months, so I believe I gave it a fair try.

I returned to Georgia crestfallen, but not completely discouraged.  I found some temporary work in the Federal Archives in East Point, thanks to a friend from my parish, and then a couple months later, a full-time, but temporary job in the library of Mercer University/Atlanta campus, which was perfect, since I fully intended to try again. A few months later, I met a woman who was closely connected with the Dominican Sisters of Nashville; I went there for a vocations weekend, and was quite impressed, partly because I share their strong loyalty to the Church but also—and I am embarrassed to admit this because it does not reflect well on me—because I loved their beautiful religious habits.

I became a postulant there in August 1985. The Mother General who accepted me was Mother Assumpta Long, O.P., and I loved her.  I adjusted to their life very well, although it was also quite strict.  During my Postulant year, I was assigned to St. Henry School as librarian, and I enjoyed that a lot. Obedience was strongly emphasized in our life, and that was the only problem I ever had there—one cold and snowy winter day, I discovered a dying dog wandering in circles in the tennis court behind the Motherhouse, and I wanted to help him.  My Novice Mistress forbade me to do anything, and I was very distraught about this.  I have always loved animals (she did not), and it seemed incredibly cruel to do nothing to help this poor creature—and it still does; I have never forgotten it, and I am not sure I have ever forgiven her. I got past it, however, and after a year as a Postulant, received the habit and the name, Sister Mary Magdalene, and became a Novice.

Although traditionally, Novices do not leave the Motherhouse, Mother Assumpta made a couple of exceptions for us. When Pope John Paul II came to New Orleans, she took us there to see him, which was incredibly wonderful. Before we went to the Mass he would be celebrating in an open air setting, we were waiting along a dirt path for him to come by in the Popemobile.  It was not even a street, so we were only a few feet away when he drove by.  He was going very slowly, because the path was all muddy and rutted, and when he went past, he looked straight at me, deep into my eyes as if he could see into my soul.  It was a very dramatic moment I will never forget, and to this day, I have a great devotion to him, because I feel as though he knows me.  She also took us to Louisville KY to hear Mother Teresa speak. At the end of the year, I made my First Profession, which felt like the happiest day of my life. 

My first assignment as a Professed Sister was back to St. Henry School to teach 4th grade.  During that time, I was also sent to take the college courses in education which I lacked, in order to be certified as a teacher in Tennessee. Although I am not a natural teacher, I loved my kids, and cried when I had to let them go at the end of the school year. 

My next assignment was Our Lady of Angels School in Woodbridge VA.  It was a small mission, just me, Sr. Luke (the Superior), and Sr. Judith.  I was given the duty of Procurator, which meant that I did the shopping and prepared all our meals.  I have never been much of a cook, so I did not enjoy that responsibility at all!  
I also was teaching 5th grade that year.  There were some very kind lay teachers at the school who took me under their wing and tried to help me learn how to teach—a skill I had still not mastered.  I also had some personal struggles there, since I did not like Sr. Judith very much; she was also the assigned driver and the way she drove irritated me all the time!  As Sisters, we went to Confession every Saturday, and I certainly needed it. 

We were not far from Washington DC, and Sr. Luke often took us into Washington to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which I enjoyed very much.  My parents also came to visit me there, and we spent a couple days touring Washington together as well.

Anyway, it was a relief to me when that year was over and we returned to the Motherhouse for the summer.  We only had one librarian in the Community, and she was quite old, so the next year, I finally got the assignment I had been coveting, Librarian for Aquinas Junior College (now Aquinas College), our little school near Vanderbilt. I had a lot more independence then, even though I was living in the Motherhouse, because the Sisters who worked at Aquinas were allowed to go to campus on Saturday afternoons, once we had gone to Confession and finished our cleaning chores in the House. I loved working at Aquinas, and one of the things I accomplished for them was connecting our library with OCLC, which is the national bibliographic database in which all libraries of any significance participate.  In order to do that, I had to spend a week in Atlanta at SOLINET headquarters, which was great because I was allowed to stay with my parents and drive into the city each day.  SOLINET was also right next to the Chancery, so I could go to Mass there every day as well.

During my years as a Professed Sister, Mother Assumpta had gone out of office due to a Constitutional requirement of term limits.  The new Mother General who was elected was Mother Christine Born, O.P., and she was very different from Mother Assumpta.  I did not feel the same connection with her, and I had the definite impression that she did not like late vocations, which I certainly was (I celebrated my 40th birthday while I was a Novice).  She was always watching the junior professed and judging them, and I sensed that she was especially watching me, which made me very uncomfortable. One Saturday during a meal, I unexpectedly had to go up to the dorm where I was sleeping for the summer (although I had a private cell during the school year, the Junior Professed had to move to the dorms during the summer to make room for the older Sisters back from the Missions).  I came upon one of my friends, Sr. Joan of Arc, packing to go home! (People who left always had to do that during meals so no one would know about it until after they were gone.)  I was terribly shocked, because she was one of my favorite people, a wonderful Sister, and she was only a few weeks away from Final Vows. She was being sent home against her will, and that shook me to the core, because she was an older vocation like me. I began to worry that this could happen to me, and I knew that if it did, I would be so devastated, I would never recover emotionally. 

After that, I began to examine my feelings about being there more closely, and I gradually saw that I had—just as I always did with my love interests--transformed myself into a different person in order to fit in with them.  In other words, I became aware that I was not living an authentic life, true to who I really am. During the years I spent in the Community, without admitting it to myself, I had become increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that the schools in which we worked were almost exclusively available only to very affluent people, since the tuition was so high—and a relatively small percentage of our students were Catholic.  We also spent a lot of time schmoozing with wealthy donors, who doted on us because of our beautiful habits—we were like little dolls to them, and most did not really know who we were as people.  I was approaching Final Vows, and so I began, over a period of several months, to question whether it was really God’s will for me to be there—a question I had not previously dared to ask. You may recall that my motivation for going to work in a public library was a desire to serve the disadvantaged.  I should have remembered that myself, because it is my true charism. Eventually, I had to accept that this was not where I should be, and that it would be wrong for me to take my Final Vows—and so I asked to be released from my temporary vows to leave. In a few weeks, the necessary documents were received, and I was free to go. I remember being quite distraught, and I honestly don’t know what I thought I was going to do after that—it’s all a big blur in my mind.

I do know that I came home in a state of shock, despair and humiliation.  My dear friend, Father Flaherty, had been assigned to a parish in North Carolina while I was gone, so he wasn’t there to counsel me. One huge mistake I made was not going up there to see him, because I know he would have given me wise advice and I almost certainly would have avoided the terrible depression and lost years which followed—but I was too embarrassed to face him, after all he had done to help me. Although the new priest in my former parish was also a LaSalette, I did not know him at all, and the thought of going back there was too much to bear, after I had failed again.

I was 43 years old when I came home:  the religious orders I had investigated prior to entering all had strict age limits, usually a maximum of 35—plus, I had left two communities and I thought that would be held against me--so I believed that it would be useless to try to find another religious community where I could belong.  Although I did date a little bit for the first few years, I knew that marriage was not my vocation—and frankly, I was afraid of falling into sexual sin, so I decided to avoid “the near occasion of sin,” and stopped going out with men.  I never intended to leave the practice of Faith, and so I tried out different parishes around the area, but none felt like home; in fact, I had a difficult time adjusting to being in a parish at all, since I had gotten so accustomed to convent life, which was austere and quiet,  Around here, people waiting in the pews for Mass to start are busy chatting instead of preparing their hearts to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, which was difficult for me to deal with—and still is, although I have reluctantly accepted it as reality.  The churches I could go to which were different from that were in downtown Atlanta, but I had an old car and I was afraid of being stranded by the side of I-20, getting to them. Gradually, I stopped trying, and eventually did not practice my Faith at all for many years.

It seemed to me at the time, that I had only one option: to resume my former career as a librarian—and so I threw myself back into that with a vengeance.  I worked for about a year as an Assistant Director at the Clayton County Public Library, and then was recruited to come to work at the University of West Georgia to begin a brand new service for distance learners. That seemed like an interesting challenge, and I would pretty much be my own boss, since no one knew anything about this unique and emerging field of librarianship—so I accepted the position, even though it meant taking a $5,000 per year salary cut.  I have never been a person motivated by money, and this was not the first time I accepted a salary reduction in order to do something that felt more worthwhile and interesting to me.

My life from then on was extremely busy, and I needed it to be, because although I concealed it very well from everyone except myself, I was profoundly unhappy over my failed vocation. To be quite blunt, I blamed God for it.  I felt as though He had rejected me, when all I wanted was to give my life to Him.  I thought that He should have kept me from making wrong choices, and should have led me to the right Community in the first place. Immature and unfair—I know!  But you have heard the old saying: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," and that was exactly how it was.

For all those intervening years, while I was pursuing my career as a librarian, my hidden life at home was completely different from the way it appeared when I was at work.  I drank heavily at night to try to make myself feel better, and yelled at God all the time.  "Why do You hate me so much?"  "Why did you let [that bad or annoying thing] happen to me?" I blamed Him for everything. I took prescription anti-depressants for several years, but of course they did not work. When you have a good reason to be depressed, drugs can't help you. . 

I tried, with partial success, to drown my sorrow by becoming professionally accomplished, loving our students, developing the talents of my staff so that they could be successful, getting tenure, and ultimately, trying to reach the top of the prestige pyramid by becoming a Full Professor.  In order to do that, it was necessary to earn a second Master’s degree (got that in 1996) and get on the “publish or perish” wagon, and so I did, full-tilt. I started travelling a lot to give presentations at conferences; I wrote articles and book reviews; I started an online professional journal; and I even wrote two books, in order to clinch my tenure and promotion application.  Although I had no trouble getting tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, becoming a Full Professor turned out to be very difficult, because there were three long-time librarians on the staff who were openly anti-Yankee.  All of them, native Southerners, had started working in the library as students, then left to attend Library School and came back to join the professional staff. They had never worked anywhere else, and they did not appreciate the fact that I came in with a lot of new ideas and wanted to change some things.  Also, instead of complaining about what I did not have (like they did), I asked the Library Administration for what I needed, and usually got it—which they resented. As far as professional accomplishments, because of my determination to over-achieve, I also raised the bar considerably, which made them look bad in comparison. They tried to block me from getting that last promotion, but I refused to give up and finally, on the 3rd try, they were not able to keep me from getting it. 

My program to serve distance students was very successful, and because of that, I was eventually promoted to Administration and became Head of Library Access Services in 1996, which covered four key public service areas of the Library.  As an administrator, I gradually became less and less directly involved with students and more and more occupied with meetings, planning and personnel problems, which I did not like.  That was not why I had gone into librarianship, however, I had also gotten deep in debt during the years when I had to do so much travelling, so I needed the high salary which I was receiving by then.

In January 2012, I moved in with my parents, who live on the other side of town from the campus.  My father has a serious heart condition, and both of them have macular degeneration (my mother is nearly blind).  I knew that I would eventually need to do this, and at the time I did it, the main reason was to protect my cats, who were being trapped and disposed of by a neighbor.  At my old house, which was very small since I lived alone, I did not have enough space to keep them indoors, but my parents’ house is much larger. However, this rationale for coming to live with them seemed perfect, because this way, I was not “swooping in” to save them, but they were actually doing me a favor, so there was no humiliation for them in having me come.  I knew, however, it was only a matter of time before it would be necessary to do it, and it was great not to have this happening during a crisis. 

I continued working as usual, but although I had for many years thought I would never retire, I could see that my parents were needing more and more of my presence at home. I also had people working for me whom I really loved and who loved me, so I didn’t really want to leave.  However, the man who had been President of the University during most of my years there—and who I admired very much--decided to retire, and I did not agree with the direction the new President was taking the institution.  I started concentrating on becoming debt-free, and I was thus finally able to afford to retire in August 2015. 

Being retired meant that I had time to think--could not avoid thinking!--for the first time in years. Over time, I had gradually healed, although I didn't realize it. A strong yearning to return to the Church began to penetrate my consciousness, but I didn't really know how to come back!  I began to pray again, very timidly.  In prayer, God made me understand that He had not really rejected me, that it was actually my fault that I was not patient, did not spend sufficient time in discernment, and did not trust Him enough to lead me to the right religious community. Then I started asking Him to fix things for me, like He always had: but I pretty much knew it would be up to me this time, so I called the office at my local parish and asked to speak to the pastor.  He was not in, so I left a message; when he did not call me back after a day, I decided I would just show up at the scheduled Confession the next night. Bad tornado weather was predicted, and I thought "perfect: everyone will stay home and I will be the only one who shows up," which was exactly what happened.  That was November 18, 2015.

I was very nervous and distraught, but Father Rafael, whom I had never met before, was incredibly kind.  While I was explaining to him where I had been for the last 20 years, he remarked that he thought I had been wrong to assume that I could not try again to enter religious life after I left the Dominicans.  That remark turned out to be extremely significant a few months later. After he gave me Absolution, he stood up, said "Welcome back," and gave me a big hug:  "This is the penance I give people who've been away from the Church for a long time!"  It was such an endearing and heart-warming thing to do, and I was very grateful.

9  Fr. Rafael Carballo, pastor, Our Lady of Perpetual Help

We know that God always loves the lost sheep the most, and I was totally inundated with love and joy over the next few days.  Overcome with happiness, I needed to DO something, so I decided to make a private Act of Consecration, to give my life to Him again:  it was the only thing I could think of to do, to express my gratitude.

I immediately resumed the very engaged practice of the Faith which previously been customary for me:  I love being Catholic, and the Eucharist is central to my devotion, so I started coming to daily Mass and the weekly Holy Hours as often as I could, monthly Confession, joined their St. Vincent de Paul Society, and a parish Bible Study group, etc. I am in the process of cataloging the materials in the parish library and creating an online catalog so that parishioners can view the collection on the web. I have also made many new friends among the parishioners, which is great because I had absolutely NO Catholic friends in my life, except for Father Flaherty, since I had lost touch with the people I had known at St. Matthew’s.

During the months which followed, I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I had ruined my life, and that there was no way to correct it.  The career success I had as a professional librarian now seemed completely meaningless to me:  what mattered, was that I had not lived out my vocation as I knew God intended.  I tried very hard to simply accept it, telling myself that this was my Cross, and I just had to bear it.  I actually thought how fortunate I was that I was as old as I am, because the misery would not last that much longer!  But I could not get Father Rafael’s remark out of my mind, that I had made a mistake in not trying again to enter religious life after I left the Dominicans.


Lord, Jesus Christ, my Savior, my Love:  I give myself entirely to You this day in an act of offering to consecrate myself–all that I am, all that You have given me–in union with Your Sacrifice of the Cross.
Lord Jesus, I offer myself for the salvation of souls and the consecration of all the world in Your holiness. Accept me as a living victim of Your Love, so that Your Church may be transformed in Your holiness to be a sign of salvation for all the world.
I offer myself for the Holy Father, for all bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and for all your faithful people, so that we all may have hearts made only for love. Help us to be victims of love, one for another, as You have given Yourself in love for us. As a member of Your Mystical Body, grant that I may participate in Your Eucharistic Sacrifice with ever greater love and reverence. 

For love of You, I promise, to the best of my ability and in accordance with my state in life, to live according to the evangelical counsels, and to seek perfection in charity.

Accept me, Lord Jesus:  accept the offering of my life to You, and help me to love You more every day. I ask this in the power of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

 I renew my Act of Consecration whenever I am in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I also bought an inexpensive sterling silver ring to commemorate it, and to continually remind me what my life is about now.  Father Rafael blessed it for me, and I never take it off.

I have a lot of self-confidence, perhaps too much, and it does not often happen that I end up thinking I was wrong about a decision I made in the past, but finally, I began to believe that Father Rafael might be right—and the horror of realizing that, was knowing that it was too late to fix it.  The interior suffering I was experiencing was becoming more and more unendurable, until finally the pain was so great, that one night in the middle of this past March, I made a desperate prayer:  “Dear Lord:  I know what I am asking is impossible.  IMPOSSIBLE!!!!  I KNOW!!!!  But I am in so much pain, if there is any way I could still have a consecrated life, even now, show me—and I promise I will do whatever You want.”  I repeated this prayer again the next night, although not in quite such a passionate way.  I knew it just could not happen. 

The next day was Saturday, and I went to church at 5:00pm for the Vigil Mass as usual (I like the folk music).  I sat in my usual pew near the back, but for some reason that night, a few minutes before Mass started, I moved up a few rows. When I knelt for the Consecration, I looked down and there on the pew right in front of me was a piece of paper facing toward me which said SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH OF CONCORDIA KS at the top of it.  It apparently was the text of a speech, introducing a Sister of St. Joseph to the congregation.  (I later found out it was Sister Crystal Payment’s script for a talk she was supposed to give at the end of Mass, but Father Rafael forgot to call her up to give it!—and of course, I did not know her then.)

I had recently been talking to one of my prayer group friends about how important it is to be sensitive to the many ways in which God communicates with us, and so I immediately thought, “Could this possibly be the answer to my prayer?”  As soon as I got home, I looked up the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on the internet, and to my total amazement, I read in the Vocation section of the site about a form of religious life I could actually do—the “agrégée” program--and still fulfill my responsibility to take care of my parents.  I had never heard of anything like this before, and I was stunned.  I saw that there was a Vocation Director in Georgia, which also seemed amazing—Sr. Dian Hall—so I emailed her; she emailed me back the same night, and invited me to come to Cartersville a few days later to have dinner with her, which I did.

We liked each other immediately, and I loved what she told me about the Community.  She was also very encouraging, saying that my age would not necessarily be a barrier, and she invited me to come for a Vocation weekend in June. I did come, and I loved what I saw and learned. I feel strongly that I would fit in very well with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, and that being with women like that, who are so clearly devoted to God, would help me to become a more holy person myself.

MY FUTURE:  Despite being overweight, I have been blessed with excellent health my entire life.  My only chronic conditions are high blood pressure (which, with current medication, is ordinarily either at or below normal), and slight osteoarthritis in my knees and hands which is not disabling, although I can’t genuflect anymore!  I rarely drink alcohol and don’t use drugs. On January 1, 2016, I made a personal decision to fast on all Fridays for religious reasons; an unanticipated side-effect has been ongoing weight loss.

I have no debts, a secure income of just under $50,000 per year, and as a University System retiree, excellent health insurance.  Since my brother is very well-off, my parents are leaving their entire estate to me in their will.  My name is already on the deed to their house (no mortgage) and I own a small house of my own near the University campus (no mortgage).

Until it becomes impossible, I am resolved to continue to care for my parents at home: they gave us a wonderful childhood, secure and full of love, so I feel strongly that I owe them this. My brother is not involved in our lives; he is a widower, and his second wife does not approve of our lifestyle: we have a lot of cats (they are my father’s great love), so our house is not as clean as she thinks it should be.  To avoid conflict with her, he pretty much just ignores us.

To be honest, I must confess that I find my living situation very challenging, and it tries my patience and ability to maintain Christian charity.  Although my father used to be a very kind and loving person, his personality has changed a lot since he got older, and he is now a very unhappy man who is frequently angry and verbally abusive to my mother.  I know he needs God in his life, but he does not agree; God never forces Himself on people, so I just have to keep praying that somehow, he will find Him before it is too late.  He has a variety of health problems, including recently diagnosed lung cancer, so I do not expect him to live much longer.

My mother is a trial in a different way: old age has not mellowed a lifetime of being very domineering.  However, the more I observe her, the more I realize that she has some of the characteristics of a saint, and that I need to learn from her. She is legally blind, but quietly accepts a condition which I know frustrates her terribly.  She is extremely patient with my father, who demands that she wait on him hand and foot despite his lack of appreciation for all her service—and she does it with complete acceptance and humility, which I find remarkable.  I am sorry to say that humility is a virtue I did not come to appreciate until late in life; I hate to admit this, but for most of my life, I actually considered it a weakness.  Now, I realize how beautiful it is, and how much I don’t have it:  but I pray for it often, and try to welcome the occasions when it is forced on me by circumstances—and learn from that. I know that God has put me in this place in order to help me grow in virtue. 

I am a person who prays a lot, who needs prayer in order to live--and whenever I ask God to tell me what He wants me to do for Him, what I keep “hearing” is “Feed My Sheep,” which I take to mean that I should be involved in some form of evangelization.  This feels right to me, since I have a strong desire to bring people to Jesus, so they can have the same joy in their lives that I have.  Once you have Him, you have everything—but too few people know that!  To that end, I am starting a prayer group for women in my parish, because the way we get to really know Jesus is through unity with Him in prayer.  While participating this past spring in a Small Lenten Prayer Group organized by the parish, I discovered that most of the women in my group do not know what contemplative prayer is, or how to reach it.  Their prayer consists of vocal prayers, such as the Rosary, which, while good and worthwhile, are not enough (in my opinion) to nurture a deep spiritual life.  I could never teach anyone to pray the way I do, because I have no method:  it feels as though it is just given.  However, a variety of techniques exist, and some of them have been helpful to millions of people.  I participated in facilitator training for the Lord, Teach Me to Pray initiative, which is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (May 2016 (http://lordteachmetopray.com/), and I plan to implement that program beginning September 7th. 

I have also purchased some videos and books about Catholic evangelization, and contacted the Archdiocese of Atlanta to find out about courses I might take which would help me to become an effective evangelist; I am holding off on committing to anything formal until I find out what kind of study load the Sisters of St. Joseph formation program requires, because obviously, that would be my priority. I am also considering participating in our parish’s RCIA program; being a convert myself, that is something very close to my heart. I am also trying to find a conversational Spanish class around here, since at least half of the members of my parish are Hispanic.

Frankly, although people never seem to believe me when I say this, I am actually a rather shy person and the thought of doing evangelization is intimidating:  however, I absolutely believe that God can work with even the most inadequate person to achieve what He wants, and if He really has chosen me to do this kind of work, then I know He will give me whatever I need to be successful. 

I feel guilty that I am not participating in bringing Communion to the sick and shut-ins.  I hope this doesn’t sound too crazy, but I have not signed up for that yet, because I wonder if I could cope emotionally with having the Blessed Sacrament in my possession!  I go to at least one Holy Hour every week, and I am not sure that I could handle the transition from “adorer/worshipper,” to actually carrying the Body and Blood of Christ with me as I drive away from the church!

CONCLUSION:  For many years, I have had the feeling that God has given me a lot of special attention, way more than I deserved. I am overflowing with love and gratitude, but I have asked Him constantly, "Why me?" In prayer not long ago, however, I believe the answer was finally revealed:  the reason why He has been so good is because He wants me to have a deep desire—an absolute compulsion--to love as Jesus loves. That is all He wants, and it is the only thing I can do to give something back to Him in return for all that He has given me.  He wants each one of us, I think, to be so overwhelmingly grateful for what He has given, that the only way we can imagine responding--and we can't help but feel the need to respond--is to give Him what He wants:  our unconditional love of others, which is to love as He loves. Love is all we have to give, and love is all He wants.  And now I can finally stop asking, "Why?" +