I grew up in one of the sunniest and warmest climates in the world, in La Jolla, California, in San Diego. We lived 2 miles from the ocean, and hence in my teens I was a regular ‘beach bum,’ doing lots of swimming, body surfing, ‘hanging out’ at friend’s pool-sides, horse-back riding and, of course, shopping for the latest fashions in clothing. I was baptized a Catholic, but the family stopped going to Church when I was just 3 years old. After that, our family had no affiliation with any Church or denomination, but my parent’s avid search for truth led me to be exposed to various beliefs. During high school, my core values were materialistic: good looking guys, popularity, nice cars, and cute clothes. I often attended party’s with excessive drinking, experimented a little with drugs, dulled my conscience and gradually grew more empty inside.
During my senior year of high school my mother returned to the Catholic Church and began to invite me to various events including Healing Masses, Bible study, diocesan retreat days, etc. Finally, after I resisted for months, I agreed to attend Mass. I was shocked to find the people at Mass so ‘outward’ in their expression of their love for God, raising their hands in praise, singing loudly as they participated in the liturgy, and hugging me as if I was a family member although they never knew me. I saw something in them that I began to see in my mother, and that I wished to possess, true peace of soul, genuine kindness and acceptance of all people, and a love for God that seemed tangible and was an abundant source of joy in their lives.
Once, when my mother prayed with me, I began to understand why she was so excited about God and why she spoke about God so frequently. As she prayed with me, and invited me to ask Jesus to come into my heart and reveal himself to me, I had an adult experience of my infant baptism, in which I felt God’s presence like liquid love flow through my entire being. From the top of my head to the tips of my toes I felt God’s love fill me, make me new, wash me clean like a newborn infant, so that my life was a clean slate for God to write my future upon! Just like an infant is submerged in the waters of baptism and made new by the grace of Christ’s dying and rising, so I experienced being made a new creation, purified, and given a new identity as a member of God’s family.
At age 18, after checking out the local churches, protestant and catholic, I decided to join the Catholic Church, and to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This was the beginning of a new life for me, as I dove into Catholic belief wholeheartedly, praying daily, attending weekly bible studies, retreats, serving in music ministry, doing works of service and veraciously reading all kinds of spiritual classics to satisfy my new spiritual thirst. My whole aim was to discover God’s will as past empty values, sins and selfishness vanished away, and I began to understand what it meant to live a holy, Spirit-filled life as a disciple of Christ. No longer was I bound by my former insecurities or fears, but deeply understood that God loves me as a precious daughter, and Jesus wanted to be Lord and Savior of every area of my life, not to “lord it over me” but to set me free to live, love, laugh, find my purpose in life, and to be all that I was created to be.
This led me to seek my vocation and to pray about what God created me to do in this world. One day while I was praying, the word ‘consecrated’ popped into my mind, as if from nowhere. I knew I couldn’t have thought of this word on my own, for I didn’t even know it’s definition. Not having been raised Catholic, this word was foreign to me. I went into my house to look it up in the dictionary, and read, “Consecrated: to be set aside by God for holy purposes, such as a vessel or a person.” For the first time, I wondered if God wanted to set me aside, to be consecrated to Him. Throughout my 20’s, I began to visit convents of sisters and learn about religious life. Over the course of the next 7 ½ years my desires wavered between the desire for marriage and for religious life. While attending Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio I met other young women also discerning their vocation, and we began a support group which helped us each to discern our life’s call. During this time, one of the confirmations that I received from God about my vocation to be a religious sister was while reading my bible. It was as if the words from the prophet Isaiah jumped off the page at me, “…as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your God marry you, and as a Bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” Is. 62:5 I understood God to be inviting me to marry Him, to be consecrated and to belong to Him exclusively as a bride.
In 1988 I watched our new Franciscan Order begin before my eyes. My own friends at Franciscan University were forming a new community of sisters on campus who intended to follow a contemplative and active way of life, including much prayer and also dedicated to ministry. Since I had, in years previous, visited a number of convents including those committed to full time ministry as well as those committed solely to prayer (cloistered), none of which I was drawn to join, I decided I was called to this new order which combined both aspects of religious life, prayer and ministry. In 1989 I joined the Franciscan Sisters, Third Order Regular of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, and made perpetual or final vows in 1994. It has been an exciting journey as a religious sister, so full of grace beyond measure. To watch our Order grow each year, becoming more stable, and pursuing the life of prayer and ministry that God has called us to live, has absolutely been the greatest joy of my life. To God be glory and praise forever!