Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Personal Statement for the Acceptance Ceremony on September 17, 2016

On the night of September 17th, I will formally be received as a Candidate for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas at the end of Mass in my parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Part of the ceremony will include my personal statement about why I feel called to join them.  Although all of this has already been written about in my previous blog posts, I decided to post the text of what I plan to say that night.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what God has done for me, and I can never thank Him enough for His goodness, mercy and kindness!



I left the Dominican Sisters of Nashville in 1990--just before Final Vows--when I finally accepted that it was not the place God wanted me to be.  However, I was 43 years old, and I believed that I was too old to be admitted to another community. 

I came home very distraught, because I interpreted what had happened as God rejecting me—which I now recognize, of course, is completely crazy, because God never rejects anyone who loves Him!  But, except for the fact that the charism of the Dominican Sisters was wrong for me, I was very happy living in the convent, and although I tried, I could not adjust to being in the world again. I never found a parish where I felt at home, including this one, and gradually, over a period of several years, I drifted away from the Church completely. 

When I came back last November, as I was making my very long Confession to Father Rafael, explaining where I had been for the last 20 years--he commented that despite my age when I left the Dominicans, he thought I was wrong to believe I could not have entered another religious community.  

Although I did not pay attention to his remark at the time, over the next few months, I could not forget it.  Suppose I had been wrong?  And if that was true, then I’d made the worst mistake of my life—all the professional success I had had as a librarian suddenly meant absolutely nothing to me--and even worse than that: it was too late to fix it.

For a while, I tried to force myself to accept this as my Cross, but I simply could not. I began to suffer terribly as I recognized that I had totally screwed up my life by not following the vocation I had been given, and there was nothing I could do about it. 

On the night of March 10th I was feeling extremely depressed, and in complete despair, I said to God:  “Lord, I am going to ask You for something 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 will do whatever You want.”  

Don’t ever tell God that something is impossible.

Two nights later—Saturday--I went to Mass as usual.  I sat in about the same place where I always did—but that night, for some unknown reason, about 5 minutes before Mass started, I decided to move up a few rows.  During Mass, when I knelt for the Consecration, I looked down, and on the seat of the pew directly in front of me was a piece of paper:  at the top it said SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH OF CONCORDIA KANSAS.

*Although I didn’t know this at the time, we have a member of the Community here in our parish--Sr. Crystal Payment—and the paper I saw that night was her script for a speech she was supposed to give at the end of Mass, in honor of National Catholic Sisters Week. Father Rafa forgot to call her up to give it--but that didn’t matter, because God arranged for me to be in exactly the right place to see it. 

So, I looked them up on the internet when I got home, and discovered that one of their Vocation Coordinators lives in Cartersville, and I emailed her.  She emailed me back that same night, inviting me to meet her a few days later.  Amazingly, despite my age, she was very encouraging, and suggested that I come to Kansas to visit the Community in June, during their Annual Assembly.

I went, and was welcomed with open arms.  They are remarkably transparent, and I was allowed to attend most of the Community meetings while I was there—so I had the chance to hear the Sisters talk about their own apostolates, and the work of other Sisters in the Community.  I also learned some of their background while I was there:  

The Order was founded in 17th Century France, and, consistent with their history, they do not wear a habit. While most women religious of that time were confined to convents and monasteries, these Sisters lived and worked among the people they served: the sick and homeless poor, prostitutes who wished to learn a trade, the insane and the orphaned. Their ordinary dress in those early times was the same as local widows, signaling their desire to be in union with those whom they met, without any kind of exclusion.  

From the very beginning, inspired by Jesus’ invitation, their charism has never changed: to love God and to love their neighbor—which is exactly what I am already trying to do…. But I believe that I could be a better follower of Jesus by being united with these good women who are obviously so totally dedicated to Him, and--inspired by their example--to strive for perfection in charity.

So, here I am, Lord!  As I promised on that night in March: if You would grant my impossible request, I said I would do whatever You want, and I truly believe this is it.  And I want it, too:  If they will have me, I want to join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia Kansas.

I would be very remiss if I failed to thank my many dear friends in this parish who encouraged me and prayed for me--and special gratitude goes to Joyce Barrett, Maureen Peal and Father Rafa who wrote letters of support. 

Now, I ask you all to pray with me for God’s help...

Lord, my God and my loving Father,
You have made me to know You,
to love you, to serve You, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings.

I know that You are in all things,
and that every path can lead me to You. 

But of them all, there is one especially by which You want me to come to you.
Since I will do what You want of me,
I pray You, send your Holy Spirit to me:
into my mind, to show me what You want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength, right to the end.

Jesus, I trust in you.


Gottlieb Bickelhaupt said...

Hello Carol, I just finished reading your post and saying the prayer you posted. I wanted to thank you for sharing as I can relate to some of your journey. Especially being away from the church and coming home after decades! God bless you and your new works of mercy! ~ gottlieb

JustMe said...

Thank you so much! And God bless you, too... we have both received a great grace, to come back and be received so warmly and lovingly by the Lord!

Chandie said...

Dear Carol, I'm hoping that Catholic religious orders start accepting people that are seeking a religious monastic life to raise the age requirements. One of the largest obstacles in these modern times is that the cut off limit is usually set for the late twenties or early thirties for both men and women. In today's society, I don't think that is a realistic age limit, and would like to see more religious orders in the Catholic faith raise the age limit or evaluate each candidate that is over the age limit separately and individually.

I always though if I was an unmarried Catholic, and interested in starting a religious order, I would start one that would accept all age limits. It would be inspiring if the Vatican would give their permission for a Catholic mother to establish an order where the age limit was raised significantly. Then monitor this order for the next few decades and observe if this population of religious are keeping their vows that they established as their order.

JustMe said...

Dear Chandie: I could not agree with you more! But the only monastic Order I am aware of that accepts older women, is the Visitation Order; I don't know their upper age limit, but they were established specifically for widows, I believe. If you are unmarried, you should check them out.

As far as starting a new order, I don't believe you have to have the Vatican's permission, or anyone's permission, for that matter. I am not sure, but I think people can just start one, and if it flourishes, later on ask the local Bishop to recognize them. Vatican approval is years after that: first you have to get the local Diocese to recognize you (I think). If you are interested in doing that, you should ask your Bishop about it, just to get some background information.

The Church is vibrant, and new Orders are being started all the time, and take MANY forms--some include married people too. I encourage you to pray about this and if you feel called, take some action in the direction you wish to go: life is short, and doing God's Will is the only thing that can really make you happy here on earth (at least that is what I have discovered). God bless you!