Not Without a Sense of Humor!
The gift of my religious vocation unfolded gradually. It wasn’t until my senior year in college that I took notice of a desire inside of me that I was not even then able to name for some time.
I grew up in North Little Rock, Arkansas and went with my family to Immaculate Conception Parish. The only religious sister I remember was my First Communion teacher. After that, I really had very little contact with any sisters. After graduation from high school, I went on to the University of Dallas, and there was taught by Cistercian and Dominican priests.
In my final semester of my senior year, I opted to take a theology course entitled “Christian Marriage.” Assuming that I would eventually marry and have a family, I thought this a prudent course of action. Divine Providence is not without a sense of humor, for it was in this class on marriage that I first heard the religious life explained. The lay professor beautifully explained marriage and how its ultimate end is for the spouses to bring one another to God. He also mentioned that the religious life anticipates here in this life the union with God to which we are all called. This idea pervaded my whole being, and I remember wondering why everyone didn’t become a religious. As intense as this moment of realization was, I put it aside and continued to be wrapped up in my college life.
After college graduation, I returned to North Little Rock and was at a loss as to what to do with my life. Looking back, I see this as a critical moment, because it was one of the rare times in my life when I had no plans. My lack of plans gave God room for his plans. That summer I was invited to make a retreat in Rhode Island led by a Legionary of Christ priest. And here the seed of vocation blossomed into an overwhelming realization of God’s love for me. All I wanted was to live my life in response to his love.
After the retreat, I was offered a teaching position at a private girls' boarding school in Rhode Island. At the end of the school year, I came back to North Little Rock and while working on my master’s degree and teaching certification, I looked into religious orders. A classmate of mine from college had entered the Nashville Dominicans, so I came to visit. Everything fit together: my desire to teach, my love of study, my attraction to the monastic life. Most of all, I realized during this visit that the religious vows are taken to make one free to love God and in Him, all people.
As far as initial fears, I was haunted by two kinds. The first kind was the “what-if’s”: “What if I go and find out that’s not where my life is? What if I somehow fail? What if…?” I also was scared to tell anyone at first, including my family. When I finally mustered up the courage to tell my parents that I was thinking about the religious life, all fear was dispelled. My father said in his strong sure voice, “If you feel any inclination towards that life, check it out.” I received much support from my family, especially my mom and dad.
To anyone who is discerning his or her vocation, I would offer the advice of my dad: Don’t be afraid. If God is calling you to religious life, you are being invited to a life of fullness and joy.
Sister Anna Laura professed her perpetual vows on August 8, 2003.