“Why did you become a Religious Sister?” I was recently asked this question by a young woman, and I thought: “How can I answer that in one sentence?”, knowing that we had a very limited time to speak. “It was because God called me,” I said. She responded, “I know what you mean. God called me, too.” I elaborated, “I fell in love with Jesus and wanted to give my whole life to Him.”
I have often wondered why so few young women are becoming Religious Sisters. Is not God still calling young women like He called me? What do I need to do to help them open their hearts, to hear His Voice, and to answer as St. Francis of Assisi did when he heard the Lord call him to live the Gospel life: “This is what I long to do with all my heart!”
I heard the call to give my life to the Lord when I was 16. In the very core of my being, I knew that the Lord wanted me for Himself and that all my incoherent longings would be fulfilled in Him. Since my call to be a Religious Sister was completely tied up with my newly identified Franciscan way of being, I read all that I could about St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi and was drawn more deeply into the way of life that would eventually lead to becoming Catholic and entering the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth.
Becoming familiar with the Scriptures and the lives of the Saints are extremely helpful ways to figure out what spiritual identity the Lord has given us. Spending time with Jesus is also essential in developing a life-giving relationship with Him. I used to take the family dog for a walk so that I could pray alone without anyone asking me what I was doing. The dog was most uninquisitive and non-judging. I would also recommend finding a quiet place that speaks to you of God. St. Francis liked to frequent caves in the hillside and deserted chapels.
I also was blessed to have helpful spiritual people with whom I could talk about what was going on in my relationship with the Lord. Some of these were friends around my same age. Some were older people who helped to guide me in a good direction. Spending time with the Sisters, working alongside them, praying with them—these were all beneficial activities that aided my discernment that this was the community that the Lord wanted to me join.
These Sisters were not young. I did not join these Sisters because they were young. They were vibrant, faith-filled women who had given their lives to the Lord, who were living their consecration in their ordered, stable, prayerful, loving, communal, hard-working, Franciscan way, and I loved them for it.
So, I ask the young women who are reading this: What do you long to do with all your heart?
Written by Sister Dianne Turner, OSE
Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth
Photo courtesy of Sr. Dianne Turner.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers