A Vocation Story by Laura Downey
“I am answering what I believe to be a call from God to the religious life.”
This past February I went on a discernment retreat in Ann Arbor, Michigan hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. While there, after spending a night in Adoration with the Blessed Sacrament, I decided to talk with the Vocations directress in order to possibly come home with papers in my bag (side note: “papers” is the code for “an application to enter to the convent”).
It was no small feat to make it into the Vocations directress’s office. There was A LINE of girls waiting to talk with her, although she had already met one-on-one with each of us—almost 160 women within the last 36 hours. I waited for 4 hours in that line to talk with her on the last day of the retreat because there were so many others who wanted to do the same thing, either to receive spiritual direction or their own applications. The waiting surprisingly felt natural, normal, and peaceful.
Thoughts of religious life captured my heart when I was about seven years old, but I entered into more serious discernment of religious life about five years ago when I went to college and attended my first “nun run.” I did not always desire the path towards which it seemed God was leading me. I think I’ve been a pretty slow mover in this regard, even after it became clear to me a couple of years ago that Jesus does want me for Himself.
Looking back on my journey and on the work I had to let God do in my heart before I said Yes, I am convinced that prayers (of those whom I know, of those whom I don’t know, of those who don’t know me, such as those around the world who pray during every Mass for an increase in religious Vocations) played a part in bringing me to a point where it seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to apply to enter a convent. I did not do that in my own heart. That openness, those moments of clarity, and those Yes’s along the way were purely grace. Prayers for Vocations in this diocese have played a part in priming my heart for all the construction God has to do in there and in asking for those graces on my behalf.
Vocations to the priesthood, the religious life, to consecrated life of some sort . . . they are alive and well. There are 21 young women who are planning to enter the Dominicans Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan with me in August. That community has grown from 4 sisters to more than 100 in a matter of 15 years. The average age of the sisters is 28. Sarah Nesbit, now Sr. Mary Ignatius, who graduated from Dowling Catholic High School the year before me, entered this same community about four years ago.
I have about 11 friends currently in formation in religious orders. In addition, two friends are in formation to become consecrated lay women. Two friends plan to enter religious orders either this Fall or when their college debts are paid off. These are primarily young women I met at Benedictine College in Kansas. Many left after their sophomore year to enter convents because they heard a call to religious life so strongly that they felt they were not supposed to wait. The same is true of a lot of young men I met at college. There are groups of men and women “dropping out” of college every year in order to begin formation in seminaries or convents. I also know of high school students who have experienced a draw towards the religious life or who are considering the seminary.
In my own family, this past year, I have seen the joy, fullness, and growth my younger brother James is experiencing in the seminary for this diocese. On a much broader level, there is an immense number of young people who strive after Christ, love the Church, and desire to follow whatever good plan God has for them. God seems to be growing a remnant for His Church who would much rather be faithful, radical, humble, and generous, than merely comfortable.
Please continue your prayers. Thank you for continuing your ongoing support for Vocations in this diocese. God is using them. He is using you. Thanks for allowing Him to produce all of this good fruit through you—I’d guess this is just the beginning of that fruit. Thank you.~ Laura