Sr. Jean- I will show you the way

My vocation story begins when I was a child of about four or five years old, growing up in Lancaster,Ohio. My Aunt Mary Ellen purchased a new reel-to-reel tape recorder and she wanted to test out the recording device. So she invited my twin sister, Joan, and I to come over a number of times and record our voices. In order to get us to start talking, she would ask us various questions: Where do you live? What’s your name? What’s your mother’s name? What’s your daddy’s name? Then she asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Joan would always say, “I want to be a sister.” I would say, “I want to grow up and get married and have lots of children like my mother.” In my mind I knew that would be reversed, but I hesitated in saying that because I didn’t want to disappoint people if I didn’t become a sister.

When I was in 2nd grade, I remember during my second confession the priest also asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” This time, I told the truth: “When I grow up, I want to become a sister.” The priest said, “That’s a very good thought. What you need to do is pray and ask God what he is asking of you.” I took that very seriously. When I would go to Mass on Sunday with my family, our missals in the pew had a prayer for vocations. I still did not want to tell anyone what I was thinking, so after communion, when my family members were bowing their heads in prayer, I would open the missal just enough to read that prayer and then close it quickly. This happened throughout my grade school years.

Then in 6th grade, during Lent, my teacher Sr. Christopher showed a film strip on the passion and death of Jesus. In one scene, Jesus was shown suffering on the cross. The narrator said, “This is what your Savior has done for you. Now what will you do for your Savior?” It pierced my heart. I felt like I was the only one in the room. That was the key moment when I knew I had a desire to give myself completely to the Lord in some way. My vocation was a response to the cross. I knew then that it probably would be religious life. I didn’t understand it then but that was my thought.

During high school, I began to date and I got distracted, thinking perhaps I was supposed to get married. But on a retreat my senior year, I decided to ask God—once and for all—what He wanted me to do. I remember kneeling down in my room, looking directly at a cross on the wall across from me. I heard the Lord say, “I’m calling you to be my own.” Again, my heart was pierced, and I knew then that I had to take action.

The only contact I had with religious sisters was with the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs in Columbus, Ohio, who taught me throughout grade school and high school. Whenever the postulants and novices would visit my school, I was always attentive and would ask questions. So, after my retreat, I told my home room teacher, Sr. Sebastian, about my decision to enter religious life. She made an appointment for me to see a sister at the motherhouse in Columbus.

No one at my school knew about my vocation—yet. My father was a HAM radio operator, and he would often speak to other radio operators around the world. But sometimes his radio would interfere with our neighbor’s radio. One day during my last semester of high school, he told someone via radio that one of his twin daughters was going to enter the convent. Well, our neighbors found out and the next day at school there was a rumor that one of the Daugherty twins was going to enter the convent. Everyone knew it was me, and not Joan! Of course, I was upset with my father for spilling the beans.

I did end up visiting the motherhouse and made a decision to enter that fall, on September 8, 1959, at the age of 18. I made first vows July 9, 1962 and professed final vows July 9, 1967. During my first year of teaching, 1962-1963, I taught sixth grade in Steubenville, to which I would return more than 20 years later. One of my first students was a nephew of Hollywood star Dean Martin! I taught for a total of 18 years at elementary and Montessori schools in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan. I also served as principal for a total of six years at three schools in Newark, Coshocton and Columbus, Ohio. It was in Newark that I was first exposed to the charismatic renewal, when families at a local parish there began to pray for me and invited me to go to prayer meetings with them. I eventually went to a Life in the Spirit seminar and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

One summer, I attended a Bible Institute at the College of Steubenville, because I knew it was charismatic. A master’s program in theology was just beginning there at the time. I had been sensing that I was going to work with young adults, so when I heard about the master’s program, my community allowed me to attend. After my first year in Steubenville, 1985-1986, a position opened on campus for a residence director for Trinity Hall. I felt that I was supposed to stay in Steubenville, so I applied for the position and got it. I would serve as the dorm director for four and a half years.

In those years on campus, I was being renewed in my own fervor in living the consecrated life. It was a call to live my religious life in a deeper way—to embrace it in a fuller way. I also was being imbued with Franciscan spirituality, although I didn’t realize it at first. It was awakening parts of myself that had not been awakened before. At some point, I became aware that God was calling me out of my own community. But I didn’t know what the next step would be. It was a frightening time in my life, not knowing what was next down the road. But I had all the assurances from the Lord that I would know when it was time.

Also during that time, the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R. was founded. One of the original members of the community was another dorm director with whom I worked, one was a resident assistant and others were students I knew. I was very close to their founding. I watched the community grow and attract young women. I was the only woman religious on campus at the time, so whenever a young woman discerning religious life would go to the T.O.R. friars, they would send them to me. Often, they expressed a desire to join the new community. I remember thinking, “Gosh, it’s so easy for them.” My attraction to the community grew gradually.

The primary attraction was a call to a deeper contemplative prayer life. I knew that even before I felt called to join the new community. I also was drawn to their strong fraternal life, their focus on simplicity and poverty and the wearing of the habit.

I remained close to the community after it was founded—on August 15, 1988—attending Lord’s Day and dinner with them every Saturday and participating in a share group with the former dorm director, now the Reverend Mother. She and the other sisters invited me to join the community if I felt called. It hadn’t dawned on me that it was possible for a Dominican to become a Franciscan. I spoke to my spiritual director, one of the T.O.R. friars, to help me discern what God was calling me to next. At first, he thought I was being renewed in my Dominican religious life, although I knew that wasn’t the whole truth. There came a point when he invited me to go on a retreat he was directing for the candidates of the new community. On the retreat he asked me, “What do you think God is calling you to as the next step?” I said, “I think it’s to join the T.O.R. sisters,” and he said, “Go for it!” He helped me to take the necessary steps to request entrance into the new community. I moved in with the sisters in January 1991, entering into a time of discernment until I received the habit in July. I made final vows on March 18, 1995.

I am deeply grateful for how the Lord has worked in my life in all of its stages.  He has led me down paths I never believed I would travel. My life as a Franciscan sister has been very blessed and fulfilling in so many ways. The following scripture passage is truly a reality in my life: “I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk; I will counsel you, keeping my eye on you.” (Ps 32:8)Sr. Jean Daugherty, T.O.R

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