9 women religious tell why they said “Yes” when God called

Editor’s note: The vital contributions to our country of consecrated women are being celebrated through National Catholic Sisters Week March 8-14, a brand-new addition to National Women’s History Month. There are more than 51,000 Catholic sisters in the U.S. today.

As part of the Vocations 2014 section in the March 16 issue of The Catholic Post, we invited nine women religious from various communities serving in the Diocese of Peoria to share why they said “yes” when God called. Their responses are in the order they are pictured above, clockwise from upper left.

The entire Vocations Section may be viewed via our e-Edition by clicking
here.

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SISTER ANNE GERMAINE PICARD
Sisters of Mary of the Presentation
Princeton

My “yes” to become a Sister of Mary of the Presentation began with a seed of faith planted and nourished within me through my parents in a strong Catholic family structure and Catholic education with our Sisters. This seed became the plant of my vocation that was cultivated, supported with grace until my heart was strong enough to listen, hear and embrace the gift God was presenting to me, and to let go of my own plans.

My “yes” meant I would go from being a farm girl to a bride of Christ. When I was confirmed at age 13, I prayed to be like St. Joan of Arc, not to lead an army but become a warrior for Christ. My “yes” is God’s gift to me for his people.

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SISTER KARINE
Apostolic Sisters of St. John
Princeville

I can say I am a living experience of a soul that was thirsting for a more fulfilling life than just being successful and comfortable with an easy path made of simple joys. Why was I confused and unsatisfied, in spite of apparent happiness and joys of various friendships? It is only when I sought to confront in truth the teachings of the Gospel and allowed Christ to give total sense to my life that I was drawn irresistibly to consecrate all my being to Him and let Him take over, convinced that this would be the only way to remain strong in my faith.

However radical the call was, there was no way I could say “no” and face God with peace. I give thanks every day, striving to remain faithful, for the grace the Lord granted me to experience both the erring and the discovering of the true purpose for my whole existence, allowing me to love more profoundly those who remain dear to me.

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SISTER AGNES CUNNINGHAM
Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary
Champaign

My interest in religious life began when I was 4, through my fascination with what Sisters wore — especially, the veil. That interest changed when I was 9 and began attending daily Mass. The Sisters from our Catholic school were usually there. I wondered why, even though I knew why I was. By the time I finished grade school, I knew I wanted to live with God and for God, the only one I could imagine loving me and letting me love as much as I desired. This conviction led to my reflections about religious life.

By the time I was 14, I knew I “wanted to be a Sister.” With the guidance of a wise priest, I had to learn if this was what God wanted me to be. Part of the learning came with the realization that I had been hearing a call from God and how to say “yes” to it.

There have been many calls over the years, invitations to knowing the ways in which God loves me and how I am to learn to love and be loved by others, often in situations that have been surprising, difficult, or challenging. In this 71st year of my life as a consecrated religious, I know there will be many other invitations, many other “calls.” I pray for the grace to say “yes” until the end.

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SISTER M. MICHAEL FOX
Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi
Lacon

When I recall saying “yes” I was giving my total response to a vocation calling. I certainly didn’t understand all the details of that “yes” at the time, but it was the initial “yes” that continued throughout these past 34 years.

“Yes” means going beyond the present moment of life to fulfill God’s will. It is an implicit trust in the one who calls me personally, individually and intimately. My “yes” is like a little stepping-stone so that our dear Lord can make the next step and build on what He started.

I think of Mary’s “yes” and her immediate response, “Be it done unto me, as you have said.” I said “yes” because I found that it would lead me to discover and fulfill God’s will. Is there any better way to respond to Him? I discovered that He is who He said He is. His love is permanent and true.
Our “yes” is a loving response to that.

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SISTER SHEILA McGRATH
Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery
Rock Island

No one was more surprised than I by my decision to enter religious life. Despite the fact that the Dominicans, Sisters of St. Joseph, Franciscans and Holy Cross Sisters had been part of my life throughout my childhood, and despite the fact that several classmates had been discerning during their school years, that option had not been on my radar.

That changed after my freshman year at Bradley University when I attended a Benedictine Women’s Retreat and, later, the reception of habit for two friends who had entered the Benedictines after high school. I truly felt at home with the Benedictines as I witnessed their wholehearted service to God and the community; saw their vibrant spirit of joy, peace, prayerfulness; and began to long for their meaningful life in serving others. I found it was impossible for me to say “no” to this inner call of the Lord!

This journey of 60-plus years with my Benedictine community has been fulfilling and meaningful. It’s been a life I could never have imagined before that visit to the Benedictines!

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SISTER ANA PIA CORDUA
Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary
Peoria

Love can only be corresponded with love. Nothing else would suffice. The adventure of the calling to religious life is an adventure of love. It is a personal love story between God and the person whom He has called. So it is with every Religious and so it was with me.

The first time I remember having thought about it was when I was 5 years old, in kindergarten. The religious community that ran the school had two dolls in the class, one dressed with the school uniform and one dressed with the religious habit. What an impact these dolls made in my life! The Lord gave me then a glimpse of the greatest gift I have received from His heart, a call to be His bride.

His call to spousal love is not a generic one but one that is rooted within His church, within a particular charism that has been given by the Holy Spirit. Mine is to be a bride of Christ as a Servant of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which is “to be a living image and presence of the Heart of Mary in the heart of the Church and place our Marian charism at the service of the Petrine principle.” And I’m called to be ardent witnesses of the power and fecundity of love and the splendor of the magisterium and treasures of the Church so as to form the human heart to build a new civilization of love and life in the heart of the Church and in the heart of the world.

Love can only be corresponded with love. Nothing else would suffice.

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SISTER ROSE THERESE MANN
The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis
East Peoria

Why did I say “yes”? Firstly, because He asked me. How could I say “no” to the Lord?

I did not try to hear the request for awhile. I did not want to be a Sister and had to struggle with the thought of giving up marriage. I came to realize that even though marriage seemed more attractive, it wasn’t going to satisfy me. I also struggled with leaving my family — my father had a terminal illness at the time. But I came to see that the Lord loved them more than I did. If He was asking me to leave and enter religious life, it wasn’t just for my good, but for theirs as well.

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SISTER SARAH ELIZABETH ROY
Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception
West Peoria

I said “yes” because God was gently, yet persistently, whispering to my heart. The God whom I loved with all my soul was inviting me to give my life completely and entirely back to him for his glory.

In paraphrasing St. Francis of Assisi, my heart desired to respond to God’s invitation by saying this is “what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart.” My “yes” to God has freed me to love him more fully and to serve him and his church. God has daily given me all that I need to continue to say “yes” to his invitation to religious life.

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SISTER AGNES MARIA PINEDA
Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
Peoria

I grew up with a great love of the faith, but it was while attending UCLA that my love for Christ grew exponentially. God surrounded me with faith-filled friends, a relationship with Our Lady and, most importantly, Himself in the Holy Eucharist. Daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration became the center of my week and I learned much about what it meant to follow His will.

Within that time, I saw before me the choice between the two beautiful vocations of marriage and religious life. I knew if I did not choose religious life I would always wonder what it would have been like to belong to Christ as His bride in this life and to live every action completely for him.

When I visited the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Sisters’ joy, the beautiful white habit, and their wholehearted belief in God’s tangible love for each of them, confirmed my desire to belong to Christ as a consecrated religious.

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Read stories from arount the U.S. and learn more about National Catholic Sisters Week at SisterStory.org. The initiative is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and housed at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn.

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