It is well known in community that Mr. Cummings gave his blessing to his first daughter to enter St. Cecilia Convent but was not happy when his youngest declared that she wanted to go as well. “After all,” he remarked to their parish priest, “lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place!” At the end of each visit he would ask his youngest, “Are you going to come home?” Eight years later Sister Marie Blanchette made her final vows, but it was her father who made a profession of his own. As the Congregation filed out of the chapel, he quietly announced, “I haven’t lost two daughters; I have gained 140 more.”
Without doubt, the families of our sisters become our families as well. Sometimes that becomes a literal reality when sisters become sisters. One has only to look a Scripture to see that there is a biblical precedent to repetition of lightning strikes. Peter and Andrew, James and John, James and Jude – the enthusiasm resulting from the call of Christ is not something easily contained.
While every vocation is a very personal invitation and is unique in its reception, God can use the exposure of one sibling to the happiness of another as encouragement. While it was seven years before Sister Anna Grace realized her vocation, she remarks that her visits with her sister, Sister Mary Angelica, caused her to ponder the religious life. “I desired that freedom (happiness) I saw they possessed. My sister was the instrument that planted the seed.”
The biological bond can sometimes result in confusion. Sister Anna Grace has had whole conversations with sisters who thought she was Sister Mary Angelica. Once as they were walking through the airport a little boy exclaimed to his mother, “Look! They’re the same!”
While sisters may look similar, each comes as a unique individual. The Titus sisters are a trio who have always cherished the difference in their personalities and now enjoy the candor that enables them to say whatever is on their minds. It was the middle sister who entered first, followed several years later by the youngest. When their older sister Martha joined them, Mrs. Titus acknowledged that she had always encouraged her children to do God’s will. Her deep and unselfish faith, expressed by her personal commitment to prayer, was a constant example to her daughters. The hundred-fold that God promises does affect our families, and in a mysterious way the Titus sisters share in the joy of their brother’s prolific following of his vocation. Several times a year the Motherhouse is treated to a visit by Mark and Debi Titus and their eleven children. Indeed, Mrs. Titus has an abundance of both spiritual and physical grandchildren.
In the case of the Halbmaier family, as in many others, it was the younger sister who entered first. During the postulant year of Sister Mary Aquinas, her older sister visited and left with a conviction that her next trip would be made on a one-way ticket. Even before she entered, her name was on reserve. Both sisters were devoted to St. Thomas Aquinas, and attended the college in California with the same name. When Sister Mary Aquinas submitted her name choices, she omitted the option of Thomas Aquinas so that her sister could freely take it. Today, they are known as the Aquinas Sisters, and Mr. and Mrs. Halbmaier are affectionately called Mr. and Mrs. Aquinas by the sisters.
For all sisters with sisters in community there is a joyful realization that the strength of their bond is primarily a spiritual one. In the words of Sister Mary Angelica, “It is a constant meditation for me that I should love my sisters in religion just as much as I do my sister by blood. I should be just as protective, just as concerned for them, and wish just as much happiness and holiness for them as I do her. As we increase in our love for our Spouse, so we will increase our love for each other.”