When I was growing-up, study was always a constant in my life. I followed my academic courses with great vigor and seized every opportunity to gain experience for my future, which I thought would be a career in politics, law, journalism, or academia. I was pursuing all the means to succeed and be happy according to my own plans, but what evaded my grasp was “the one thing necessary,” which is God’s will. I am embarrassed to admit that I simply had never bothered to ask Him.
After high school, I attended Providence College, where the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph have a significant presence. Only when the Lord transformed me by his grace and mercy did I come to understand the meaning of the college’s slogan “be transformed” and the “providence” of God’s plan in bringing me to my vocation by attending this college.
During my time at Providence, the Lord enabled me to draw closer to Him in so many ways. I attended daily Mass at Saint Dominic Chapel on campus, and for the first time developed a deep and personal relationship with the Lord in response to his continual gift of Himself in the Eucharist. Frequent opportunities for Adoration provided the further intimacy for me to ask Him what He desired of me. As I got to know them, the Dominican Friars on campus became like family to me, and I began to realize how much I loved the Dominican charism. God also gave me the blessing of many friends who had a living faith and gave me an example of virtue. I could love them so much more because we knew the same truth and desired the same good of friendship with Jesus Christ.
God also used my passion for study to draw me to Himself. In the midst of taking courses in the Development of Western Civilization program, I realized that Christ is at the center of all history and should be at the center of our lives too! During a class on the theology of St. Thomas, I was astounded by the warmth and love behind his words about Christ, especially how the Incarnation showed forth God’s optimum love for us. So my mind and heart came together, and I realized one day that I was in love with Jesus Christ!
As my relationship with the Lord was becoming stronger, my certainty in my future plans received an unexpected blow. While majoring in political science and history, I had resolved to apply to law school after graduation. However, while taking a Constitutional Law class, I was shaken by the realization that the study and practice of law prioritizes rhetoric over the objective truth sought in philosophy or theology. Although I knew one could still pursue a law career with integrity, my ardent desire for truth made me question whether or not such a career was for me. Suddenly, my so-sure future was frighteningly obscure.
When faced with my own confusion, I finally decided to ask God the simple question that I had previously avoided. “Lord, what do You want me to do?” And He answered me promptly through an opportunity to go on a “Day of Recollection” hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia at their mission convent in Providence. Though I went with absolutely no intention of discerning a religious vocation, I left with no other thought on my mind. From then on, God steadily drew me to Himself, and I had no desire to resist his invitations.
I attended the vocation retreat at the Motherhouse in Nashville, Tennessee, during my junior year, and I could not see a reason to wait another year even though I had not completed my studies. I loved everything about Providence College, especially my friends, professors, and classes, but the thought of delaying a year made me despondent while the thought of entering that summer gave me great peace, freedom, and joy. Especially through the writings and example of St. Paul, the Lord has shown me that even what I most loved about the world—the opportunity to study deeply—is subordinated to his love.
In response to this love, I entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in August of 2013. I continue to learn that the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience point to this most sublime reality: my whole life has always been God’s gift and now He offers me another grace by enabling me to return my whole self to Him in love. Looking back, I can see clearly that the unfolding of my vocation was all in God’s “Providence.”
Sister Paulina professed her first vows in August 2015.