Sister Sara, principal at Peoria Notre Dame High School, professes perpetual vows

Sister Sara Kowal professes perpetual vows with the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary during a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami on July 1. Receiving her vows in the name of the church is Mother Adela Galindo, SCTJM, foundress of the religious community. (Provided photo)

As she looks back over her life, Sister Sara Kowal sees how the Lord has been leading her all along to the moment on July 1 when she professed perpetual vows with the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. She can’t talk about it without smiling.

“From the very beginning he has a plan for your life, a plan for our life,” said Sister Sara, the principal of Peoria Notre Dame High School in Peoria. “Sometimes in the midst of discovering that plan you see how from all eternity he set that plan in motion and uses the smallest of things to speak to your heart and form that plan as you walk it, the beauty of it.”

His plan for her included bringing her to a religious community that is Marian, eucharistic, open to the Holy Spirit, and faithful to the magisterium of the church. Sister Sara said her life meshes perfectly with those four pillars, since she was born on a Marian feast day and the vigil of Pentecost, and baptized on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The last piece — eucharistic — fell into place on July 1, when she took her final vows at a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami on the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.

GRACE-FILLED ‘FIAT’

A teacher by training, Sister Sara entered the Servants of the Pierced Hearts in 2007 while working in Miami, where the community is based. She professed her first vows on Dec. 12, 2009, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“You never think it’s going to be temporary. In your heart, from the moment you enter, you’re entering forever. That’s always the vision.” — Sister Sara Kowal, SCTJM

In her community, there is no set time for perpetual vows, she said. Rather, Mother Adela Galindo, SCTJM, foundress, invites members to take that step when they are ready and receives their vows in the name of the church.

The decision to remain with the community isn’t something that happens at the time of final vows, but is something that happens when you enter, Sister Sara said.

“You never think it’s going to be temporary,” she explained. “In your heart, from the moment you enter, you’re entering forever. That’s always the vision.”

So while nothing changes on one level, “there is something that does change in your heart by the grace of that permanent and eternal ‘fiat’ that you make with perpetual vows,” Sister Sara told The Catholic Post.

She taught theology and was director of campus ministry at Peoria Notre Dame for seven years before being named principal for the coming school year last February. The staff has been working all summer to prepare to welcome the students back to school on Aug. 19.

“I’m looking forward to the beginning of a new year and seeing what the Lord wants to do with our school,” Sister Sara said. “The goal is the same as always — based on Christ, doing everything we do with excellence and doing that as a family. . . . It’s exciting to be able to build on that.”

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