From Convert to Convent

NASHVILLE DOMINICANS, ST CECILIA DOMINICAN SISTERS, DOMINICAN SISTERS OF ST CECILIA CONGREGATIONMy journey to the convent is intimately linked to my journey to the Catholic Church. In order to share my vocation story, I must first share my conversion story.

When I was growing up, I would never have guessed I would become a Sister. It wasn’t until high school that I learned that there was a God and that He loved me immensely and had an incredible plan for my life. A drama teacher at the performing arts school I attended first shared with me with the most basic truths of our faith. Very quickly I fell head over heels in love with God and when I shared my growing faith with her I distinctly remember her asking me one day, “You’re not going to become a nun, are you?!” I was quick to reply, “I’m not even Catholic!” But deep in my heart I knew I would.

After I graduated from high school I was privileged to attend a six-week dance exchange program in Surrey, England. Towards the end of the program, a friend invited me to Mass for the first time. I was blown away by the experience and all I could compare it to was a “show,” complete with fascinating choreography, costumes, and songs. I was eager to experience the Mass again and again. Knowing that no ticket was necessary for this public event, I decided to attend as many Masses as I possibly could!

The moment of my conversion occurred at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Paris. It was 1999 and I was sitting in the last pew on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Catholics came back to their pews after receiving Holy Communion (up until this point every time I went to Mass) I would simply sit and wait for the “last part of the choreography” and prepare for another “show.” But on this particular day a complete stranger kneeling next to me smilingly took my arm in her hand and gently pulled me down to my knees. At the instant my knees hit the kneeler I suddenly realized the truth that this was not just a “show” and that the Man nailed to the cross before me had outstretched His arms not just for “all these Catholics” but for me too. I also knew that the statue of the woman with her arms extended towards me, whom these Catholics called Mary, was the one leading me to her Son. Most of all I knew that Jesus was truly present in the little gold box and that only one thing was keeping me from receiving God inside of me – Baptism. On April 22, 2000 I was baptized, confirmed, and received my First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil. It was a glorious night I will never forget.

Ever since the first time I was asked the question of a religious vocation, the desire to give my life to God as a consecrated religious continued to grow. After my Baptism, my heart was truly exploding in gratitude and I knew that I could never repay Him for the joy He had given me in my faith. I also felt confident that He alone could satisfy my heart. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect Bridegroom.

A priest friend encouraged me to contact our Sisters who were teaching at Mount de Sales in Catonsville, Maryland, which was very close to where I lived. It just so happened that the Vocation Director was in town for the March for Life! I drove to the convent the next day and, not knowing of any protocol, I decided to “interview” the Sisters with questions designed to help me gauge whether their community was a good fit for me. I explained to them that I was seeking three things in the congregation I felt God was calling me to join: a profound love for the Eucharist with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the Source and Summit of the day; a true devotion to Mary manifested by wearing the rosary and praying the rosary together daily as a community; and a love for our Holy Father and a great desire to spread the great news of our Catholic faith to the whole world, particularly to young people. When the Sisters heard me say these three things they smiled and said, “we have those three.” Only then did I agree to sit down and hear more!

I met the Sisters in 2001, visited Nashville in 2002, and entered in 2003. The best decision I ever made in life was becoming Catholic. The second best decision I ever made in life was entering the convent. Every day when I put on the holy habit of St. Dominic, I am awestruck by God who has such tender love for each of us. He has truly poured out his goodness upon me and I am filled with joy knowing that I am totally His!

Sister Mary Bethany professed her perpetual vows in July 2010.