Led by Our Lady
The above prayer from Saint Augustine summarizes my vocation story. In early high school, I began to wonder: What is the meaning to all of life? What am I doing with my life? What will bring me true fulfillment? I came to realize that true fulfillment could only come from Christ. Popularity and achievement would not bring true happiness, only Christ can bring true happiness. I began to draw closer to the Lord, pray before the Blessed Sacrament regularly, and attend daily Mass.
After high school, I attended the University of California, Los Angeles. My thirst for prayer and union with Christ deepened. During this time, I consecrated my life to Our Lady and entrusted all completely to her. I longed for an environment where I could foster my faith and not be immersed in secular college life.
After a year at UCLA, I transferred to Franciscan University of Steubenville. Here I found the vibrant Catholic environment that I had desired. However, I knew that the Lord had more in store for me. I began to seriously discern my vocation. My longing for Christ had deepened over the years. I realized that I would never find fulfillment in an earthly spouse. My heart needed more. Then Christ began to show what more He had planned for me. He began to reveal the depths of His love in prayer. Saint John Paul II states, “In the countenance of Jesus, the image of the invisible God and the reflection of the Father's glory, we glimpse the depths of an eternal and infinite love which is at the very root of our being. Those who let themselves be seized by this love cannot help abandoning everything to follow him” (Vita Consecrata 18). I had encountered God’s infinite love, and I was ready to abandon everything to follow Him.
I began my search for a religious community. Initially, I was attracted to the contemplative vocation, and specifically to the Carmelites. I wanted to be “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3) offering prayers and sacrifices for the salvation of souls. However, everything changed after a trip to Nashville. When I visited the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, I was so touched by the rich traditions, devotion to the Eucharist and Our Lady, and the beautiful habit. I was most especially inspired by the joy and charity among the sisters, especially the elderly sisters. The Dominican motto, contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere “to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of our contemplation” helped me to realize that a Dominican leaves the cloister in charity to bring the Gospel to the world. Finally, as I prayed before the tender image of Our Lady in our Motherhouse chapel, I realized that this was the community that Our Lady had planned for me.
After a year at Franciscan University, I entered our community. I have grown so much closer to Christ and received that fulfillment, joy, and love that I had been searching for. I realize now that although I left many things to follow Christ, I have truly received much more, a hundredfold. I have also come to a greater love for my community – not only for its beautiful traditions, but for the deep charity that reigns among the sisters. The joy and peace that I have found in religious life is not only a great consolation, but also serves as sign of hope to realize that this is only a partial fulfillment of the joy and peace that will be found in heaven.
Sister Grace Mary professed her perpetual vows in July 2008.