To the Heights

NASHVILLE DOMINICANS, ST CECILIA DOMINICAN SISTERS, DOMINICAN SISTERS OF ST CECILIA CONGREGATION“Be a nun.” These three words unexpectedly entered my mind during freshman year of high school, and the thought never left me.

Around the same time this thought surfaced, I had the opportunity to go on a ski trip with my youth group. It was my first time to go snow skiing, and I looked forward to the adventure. Ski lifts are wonderful contraptions that enable you to go to the heights of the slope so that you can enjoy the ski downward. Much to my horror, the ski lift I chose during my first trip rose beyond the bunny slopes to a much higher slope. I found myself at the top of a very high and steep slope with barely any ski instructions or experience. Though I tumbled down the slope, I began to grow more and more confident and actually enjoyed the challenge of the downhill trek.

My vocation story is not unlike my first skiing experience. I had my own ideas of what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to go, but Our Lord invited me beyond myself to the heights of his plans and desires—a life shared with Him as his bride.

Though I first attributed the “be a nun” thought to randomness and religious nonsense, I now know it was the fruit of my family’s faith life and a powerful prayer experience I had enjoyed a few months prior. On a youth retreat during a holy hour, I sat before Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, and I was blown away by His great love for me. Because I felt loved by God in those moments, I had the freedom to look at my own life and where I fell short in my journey with Him. I experienced a true inner conversion, and I desired to leave behind habits of sin and entrust my life to Jesus.

A year later I went to the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto, and I saw the Nashville Dominicans for the first time. I was shocked—they were happy, engaging, and I was very attracted to the fact that they were wearing tennis shoes and playing Frisbee! I thought, “Okay God, if you want me to be a nun, I guess I could look into that Order, but you’re going to have to show me the way because I have no idea how that would happen!” Two years later I went to college and enjoyed many friendships. There I encountered my own desire for marriage and family life, and I prayed about my vocation. Every time I prayed about my relationships with young men, the Lord would remind me of the thought He planted in my mind five years earlier. He was saying, “I have called you for Myself. I desire all of you.” I resisted his voice for a year and sought to understand why my desire for marriage conflicted with his desire for me. This tension culminated when I finally told Him in prayer, “Lord, I know what you want for me—I know you want me to be a sister, but I want to be married, and I know you will leave me free to choose either path. And if I choose marriage, I know I will be reasonably happy, and I’m okay with that!” Afterwards I literally felt sick. I realized that God loved me so much that He would never force his plan on me, but He was gently inviting me to trust that He knows what is best for me. I imagined Jesus on his knee proposing to me, and I was refusing to entrust my life to the King of the Universe. This image shook me out of my selfish stupor, and I began to be open to the idea of becoming a sister. As soon as I allowed myself to be open to his plan, I felt an incredible joy, and I knew that I wanted to say “yes” to Him. I slowly realized that my desire for marriage was fulfilled in his desire for me to be his bride.

I met our Sisters at a vocations fair, and I came to a retreat at the Motherhouse. The life just seemed to fit, and I was very happy there. I left knowing that someday I would probably enter the Nashville Dominicans, but I also knew I had to wait for his time. I decided to graduate from college before entertaining thoughts of entering the convent, but a few weeks before beginning my junior year of college, I felt a tug in prayer. It’s hard to explain what happened—I just knew that it was time to go now. I called the Vocation Director, and we talked about the possibility of entering that year…in just two weeks. I took a leap of faith, and the Lord guided me swiftly and gently into the doors of the convent. I was filled with joy on the day I entered, and that joy has deepened each year I spend giving myself entirely to Jesus and to his Church in this community. God’s desires for me surpassed my own, and He continues to lead my beyond my own plans to the heights of his great love!

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Sister Mary Lawrence professed her perpetual vows in July 2013.