I encountered the Charismatic Renewal during the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years of school. A friend had invited my mom to a prayer meeting, and she asked me to go with her. Soon after our first prayer meeting, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit at the age of twelve. I begin my vocation story here because this experience jump started my personal relationship with Jesus and my personal prayer time. I experienced the scriptures as alive and speaking directly to me. It was one of the ways that Jesus enticed me to want to pray every day.
When I arrived as a freshman at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I had some decisions to make. For the first time in my life, my time was my own to determine how to spend it. Fortunately, I knew that my studies were a priority, but I also knew that the faith environment at Franciscan was the reason I applied to study there. I decided I would attend daily Mass and take some personal prayer time each day. There are numerous chapels around campus, so it is always easy to find a place to pray, but the Portiuncula Chapel held a special charm for me, and I was drawn there frequently. In that small, rustic chapel, where there is perpetual adoration during the semesters, Jesus wooed me.
When I originally sensed the Lord asking me to consider the possibility of a religious vocation, however, I was not open to the idea. I thought that my greatest desire was to get married and have a bunch of children. Jesus was gently persistent in his request that I just think about it.
During my years at Franciscan, I made friends with the religious sisters who were around and other young women who were discerning a call to religious life. Their friendship and support helped me through many of the challenges of the discernment process. Somewhere along the way, I found out that the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R. had been founded in an early morning Mass in the very Portiuncula Chapel I had grown to love so much. I watched the community take shape from its earliest years. I was interested, but for a long time I was not willing to admit that to anyone.
I had the opportunity to study in Austria the first semester that the study abroad program opened there. Just before going, I had gotten to a point in my discernment process in which I could see the beauty of both the consecrated life and marriage. I thought I would be happy in either state, but I needed some direction, some little push from Jesus. I began a 30 day novena to St. Joseph, asking for this direction. When I finished the novena, we had been in Austria a little over two weeks. I was in adoration (of course) when I asked for the grace I had been praying for in the novena. In that moment, I sensed Jesus ask me, “What is the deepest desire of your heart?” The question startled me a little because I had been asking Him for years, “What do you want me to do with my life?” Now I felt He was turning the tables on me. With amazement at my own answer, I told Him the deepest desire of my heart was to belong entirely to Him. With that, I sensed Him invite me to be His bride. I knew that for me that meant a call to the religious life, and I was filled with joy and deep peace. That was the evening of my 21st birthday. It was the best birthday present I ever received.
Since I knew I was called to be a Franciscan, I had only to discern which community I should join. I visited two different Franciscan communities, one being the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R. When I visited, I felt at home almost immediately. Since I had loans to pay off, I went to work for a couple of years after graduating from Franciscan University, and came back to enter the community in the summer of 1995. I made my first profession of vows on September 4, 1998, and professed perpetual vows on July 5, 2003. The joy and peace I felt when I first received my call to religious life has never left me. Praise God!