Sr. Donna Marie of Jesus

Why can't I have a baby sister? I need someone to talk to too! In my family I was the only girl with two older brothers, a regular tomboy to the core. At night when all the lights were out I could hear my parents softly talking to one another in their room and my brothers' muffled giggles coming from the room they shared. As I lay in my bedroom alone, it only seemed natural to turn to God since I wasn't going to get a sister. Every night God and I had long conversations until I would fall asleep. Because of these nightly conversations I never questioned the existence of God as many teenagers and young adults do. But, there were times when I felt I really didn't need him in my life every day.  



As I grew, life became more and more involved. School work and my social life became the all-important things and God was relegated to the back burner where, I thought, he was content to be for the time being.


Leaving home for college was a challenging time for me where I found myself on my own for the first time. New ideas and beliefs were introduced. It was a time for a fresh start, to establish my life anew and head in the direction I felt drawn. I was studying to become an elementary teacher and was enjoying my studies. But, my old friend, God, decided that he wanted a say in my decisions as well.


Ever so gently, God would come and nudge me reminding me of his presence in my life and calling me into a deeper relationship with him. At the time, I was not yet Catholic but was being drawn to the Church. I didn't understand where this desire was coming from since I knew no Catholics and, at first, it scared me. I would sneak off to the college library searching for anything I could find to read against the Catholic faith. The more I read the more I found myself defending the Church and identifying with what I read. In time, I found myself knocking on the rectory door asking the parish priest how I could become a Catholic. 


I settled happily into my new faith-life and my new profession as a teacher. I thought now I would live happily ever after. But God, had other plans. Once again the nudges came, but this time stronger and more persistent. I didn't understand. I had become a Catholic, I had graduated from college and started a career. What else could he want from me?


A vocation to the religious life is a gift of pure love from God. It is the continuation or fuller expression of one's Baptism, in which we are called to holiness. In Baptism each person is called to share the mission of Christ and is given the capacity to grow in the love and service of the Lord. God was giving me the means to concentrate more fully on him and his work by offering me the gift of a religious vocation. He waited patiently, yet lovingly nudging me until I was ready to accept his gift.

 My life as a Discalced Carmelite Nun has been a time of great joys yet mixed with some pangs. It was not easy to let go of my independence and to ponder the Lord's law day and night as is demanded in our Rule. Yet, I know that God will give me the grace I need to face the many challenges that are a part of religious life. In Carmel, I have found peace and fulfillment. God has given me abundant blessings and continues to lead me deeper and deeper into his love.



Sister Ruth Miriam of God

The first time I saw a nun I was eight and had no idea what this woman dressed in black was. We were singing Christmas carols at the hospital and my Blue Bird leader told me a nun belonged to God. That was enough for me! Right then and there I decided I would be a nun. The fact that I was not Catholic did not matter! My journey to Carmel was not simple, however, and I had a few detours along the way.

I joined the Church at sixteen and was in the convent at eighteen. At fifteen I learned about Carmel but for the sake of my family I tried a community of active Carmelites. . . it did not work.

I visited several monasteries after I left my community but Carmel did not seem in my future. I was really torn--while I believed God wanted me in Carmel, it was not happening. I began to question if this desire was my will rather than God's. I needed a place to pray and found it when a friend going on retreat asked me to drive her to the retreat center which was also a convent. The Sisters were very nice and began to invite me to dinner--several years later I entered the community.


It was not an easy decision. I still felt called to Carmel but it was not a choice. My spiritual directors told me repeatedly, you have a vocation so what are you going to do about it? I had grown to love the Sisters at Mercy and one day I heard myself saying, Why not here? It was something I never expected to happen.

Fast forward fourteen years. By this time I was working as a chaplain at a Level I trauma center. Anyone who has worked in trauma knows it is a heart wrenching experience. It also shows how fragile life is. Trauma was as demanding as it was draining but I loved it. People could not understand how I loved working in a place where the patients were either victims of violence or of terrible accidents. It was not the broken bodies that attracted me, it was the broken hearts of those who had to endure these tragic situations. I ministered to both the families and the staff and saw it as a chance to be God's compassionate presence.

During this time, I again started to feel the call to a deeper life of prayer. It became a real issue and my spiritual director finally told me that I was killing myself spiritually by remaining in an active community. I knew she was right but it tore me to the quick. I loved the religious life yet was being advised to leave in order to live! Leaving was a difficult choice. I still worked in the hospital but I missed community. I knew I had to be faithful to this call even if it meant life as a single person.

Several months after I left I received a letter from a Sister in my first community. Her letter was short and to the point. She simply told me, I was sorry to learn that you left your community but I told you twenty years ago that you belong in Carmel. Included in the envelope were a listing of Carmels and their addresses! I was so angry I threw the envelope across the room and said, she must be crazy if she thinks I am going to try Carmel!

A year passed and the envelope remained in a drawer. God nudged and I pushed back; he gave me signs--I tried to ignore them. During my annual retreat my spiritual director told me I should listen to my friends. I told her she must be crazy too! She looked me straight in the eye and said, You have never said, "no" to God in your life and I cannot imagine you going to start now! I just stared at her. . .it was finished.

I surrendered. Why? . . She was right. I have always tried to do what God wanted although I have not always succeeded. In the hospital I often heard dying people say, I wish I had . . . or heard a dead person's family say, he/she wanted to be . . .and had so many dreams . . .Regrets and lost dreams. I didn't want to face that when it came time to die.

I believe God calls us to do specific things at specific times in our life even though we may not know when or what it is. God wanted me in Mercy and now in Carmel. God has a plan for each of us, no matter how many detours there seems to be along the way. It took courage to start again but I had to take the risk and live the life to which I truly felt called. No regrets.