|Sr. Maureen Sullivan|
As a new Postulant, people always seem to be asking, "So what made you decide to become a nun?"- As if there was a simple, straight-forward, easy to grasp answer that could be contained in one or two sentences. As if it is impossible for someone my age to make such a drastic change. As if I knew the answer myself!
One hundred and forty five days ago, I arrived at Saint Teresa’s Motherhouse, Avila on the Hudson, the Motherhouse of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. I was exhausted and freezing (it’s really cold coming here from New Mexico by way of Florida in February). Having just sold my house, my car, and gotten rid of most of my stuff which I had accumulated a lot of, I found myself wondering, "What the heck am I doing here? Is this truly Your Holy Will, O God, or am I making a terrible mistake and doing something seriously foolish?" After all, I had a good job, I liked my independence and solitude, I loved the desert, my friends, family, parish, and the residents and families at the nursing home where I worked. I found myself wondering how many of them I would never see again in this life. And so I grieved. I had tried to live a good and Christ-centered Catholic life and served the Lord through my work at home and at church. I really liked the life I had been living but I had this nagging feeling that it just wasn't enough. I couldn't escape the thought that I could do more and that God was calling me to a very different way of life.
For that first month at the Motherhouse in New York, I found myself surrounded by gentle, loving, kind, and understanding women-in-habit and I tried not to look too startled when they called me "Sister”. Would I ever get used to it?
As the first few weeks quickly passed, so too did the intensity of grieving, and I fell into an easy pattern of prayer interspersed with little chores, study, and letter writing. The awkwardness of reciting prayers in chapel, unsure of when to sit or stand or kneel resolved into a comfortable and somewhat predictable routine. Gone were the constant demands of productivity, documentation, patient care, and politics of the corporate world, housework, yard work, planning, shopping, cooking, various church ministries, and enjoying time spent in the company of the many family-like friends and loved ones that had become so dear to me. The busyness of my former life vanished. A peaceful quiet seemed to envelope me much of the time. I found myself thinking that I might have discerned His Will correctly and that maybe this is His plan for me.
Of course there is the joy and challenge of living in community with other people, each with their own unique personality, style, interests, and pet peeves. And then there were nights of Community Recreation: nothing quiet about it when Carmelite Sisters get together to have fun!
Before I knew it, I was packing my few belongings into a suitcase, and then settling in at my first mission experience. It feels good to be working in a nursing home again and getting to know a whole new set of residents and their families. Only now my role is very different. I am no longer a white-coat medical professional explaining diagnoses, prognoses, treatment options, and providing hands-on therapy. Now I wear a plain black skirt with a white blouse and a brown sweater and my name badge identifies me as a volunteer. I am being rotated through the various departments observing, visiting residents, lending a hand now and then as the need arises, and often simply being present for them.
I have recently been fitted for a habit. Being called "Sister" doesn't seem like such a strange thing anymore. By deciding to become a Carmelite Sister for the Aged and Infirm, I decided to give my all to God, and let him do the rest. And here I am. I think a vocation is too great of a mystery to understand, much less explain. What puzzles me most though is not why I chose to become a religious, but if it is my true vocation, and as such, a precious and rare gift from God, then why did he choose me? That's the real question...at least in my mind.
For now I have to learn how to be a Sister. The next big step will be the Novitiate which will start in the Fall and will take two years to complete. I miss being a Speech Pathologist and I miss many things. But I am at peace. I feel that I am doing the best I can in giving my all to God. Along the way I am learning to love and laugh, pray and sing, worry less and rejoice more. Surely this is living life to the fullest! "Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" Is. 43: 18-19