How does any significant relationship begin? When asked to share my vocation story, I realized that our vocations are always part mystery, part history. Our reality is an invitation as well as a response.
The invitation I first heard was from our parish priest when I was about 10 years old. Our pastor, Father Gerace, was explaining to the congregation that we should foster religious vocations in our parish if we expect to have Sisters serving in our midst. I remember wanting to stand up and say, “I will go. I will be a Sister and teach in our schools.” That feeling of representing our parish has never left me and I, to this day, remember that my vocation is for them.
A lot of history follows that original invitation and it begins, of course, with family and the formation of attitudes and directions in life. Gratitude was a foundational virtue in our large and healthy family. My parents, three older sisters and six younger siblings modeled for me the values of generosity, care for others, responsible choices, and joy for life. My family moved to Beaverton when I was just six months old and my oldest sister was ready to begin first grade. The home they bought is just one mile from Valley Catholic School (St. Mary of the Valley for our generation). This would allow us to walk to and from school. This means that the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon have been a part of my life from the very beginning. With the four boys’ attendance at St. Cecilia Grade School and the six girls at St. Mary of the Valley for both grade and high school, my family received 72 years of education from the Sisters. Whether it was the joy of the Sisters in the school or the fact that I had so many little brothers and sisters who would play school with me, my dream has always been to be a teacher.
The desire to seek truth, to learn more and to make a positive difference in our world led me to realize that it is in a deeper relationship with God that this would be possible. As a teenager I became aware that this hunger could be satisfied as a teacher and that teaching in a Catholic school was the only way to be able to seek the truth that we name God. I could share my joy in learning as a member of a community dedicated to education. The Sisters seemed to have the same hungers and hopes as I. High school provided opportunities to experience new responsibilities, new awareness of the gift of friendships and ways to have fun. While enjoying the regular teenage experiences, I silently wondered if joining the community of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon would be my way of following my dream.
When I left home for Gonzaga University in Spokane, I knew that in the next year I would apply to join the Sisters for a lifelong commitment to seeking truth, sharing joy, making a difference in our world. This decision has opened many opportunities for just this. My years of teaching and serving with so many wonderful people have affirmed and strengthened the gratitude with which I continue to seek truth and celebrate life.
The years of theological study and the opportunities to seek truth have been highlighted by Vatican II and its extension to our own lives. Living and growing in an understanding and awakening of hope generated by Vatican II has meant endless learnings of how the Spirit moves among us. The years of renewal have included some painful adjustments. Yet, the hunger remains to know and serve the God who blesses us every day with new surprises, new hope and new resolve to live faithfully. Gratitude remains that basic virtue that I pray will focus all that I do in the years to come. My life, part mystery and part history, is preparing me to share more fully in God’s love and mercy.