Once Upon Eternity

“We love him because he first loved us,” (1 John 4:10). This is my vocation story—nothing radical or dramatic—it is really just a love story that began once upon a time long before I was even born. My vocation is a mystery that unfolds in time and by grace.

NASHVILLE DOMINICANS, ST CECILIA DOMINICAN SISTERS, DOMINICAN SISTERS OF ST CECILIA CONGREGATIONI grew up in a Catholic family where faith was something very real and tangible. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a sister and give my life entirely to God. At a young age, I accepted the Catholic Faith as my own, and my relationship with Christ became something personal and real. Through involvement in a Catholic youth organization, I discovered that God had given me a specific mission in the Church that only I could accomplish, and He was depending on me to “help” Him save souls. I wanted to make a difference in the world and live my life for something more… I prayed every night to the Blessed Mother that she would show me my vocation and I became more and more certain that my vocation was to the consecrated life—to belong to Christ alone. Even during junior high and high school this conviction never went away.

Now the big question was, “Where?” I had specific criteria that the community I would enter had to fit, it had to be: centered on Christ and the Eucharist, strong in love for our mother Mary, in the heart of the Church, faithful to the Holy Father, and vibrant and growing. The Nashville Dominicans definitely fit the glove! I was also immediately attracted to Dominican simplicity, the monastic traditions, the sisters’ authenticity and individuality, and to their prayer—especially the Divine Office.

The major part of my vocation discernment process boiled down to discerning between two communities: one was a community of consecrated lay women and the other was the Nashville Dominicans. I was attracted to both and I wrestled back and forth, not knowing which direction God was leading me; they were so much alike and yet so different! After visiting the consecrated lay women in October of my senior year of high school, I pretty much decided that I would enter there, but I was not at peace. I started to get excited, but inside I was still restless. As the January vocation retreat in Nashville approached, I found myself being more and more drawn to Nashville…was this where I was being called?

The vocation retreat was beautiful, hard, and awesome! During the retreat God really stripped me of all the “vocation ego” I had unknowingly built up for myself. I was faced with the question: Is God really calling me to leave all and follow Him, or have I been making it up all my life? Something I had been told finally clicked for me: a vocation is totally a gift and I have never done and never will do anything to deserve or be worthy of one.

I discovered that my vocation did not depend entirely on my decision. God knew what He made me for; I just needed to take a leap of faith. I decided to apply, not because I had absolute certainty, but in recognition of a sense of peace and a deep-rooted conviction that St. Cecilia’s was where I would become the saint God intended me to be. After graduating from high school, I entered the Dominicans and I have loved every moment of it since!

…And I lived happily ever after. The end…well, not quite. Yes, I am very happy. But this is not the end of my vocation story—only the beginning. It goes without saying that this life is not always easy, but Christ never said it would be. He continues to call, purify, and strengthen me with His grace and love. It is overwhelming when I think of the awesome gift and responsibility He has entrusted to me in my vocation and formation. I am learning to let myself be stretched, poked, molded, transformed and loved by the divine Potter who holds every part of me and my future in His loving hands. Indeed, what began “once upon a time” will be fully realized in eternity.

Sister Theresa Anne professed her perpetual vows in July 2010.