Vocation Stories

2014-12-13 13.46.11

Sr. Jess with volunteers at our Christmas party.

Sr. Jess, novice

When I was growing up, I had many ideas of what I could do to save the world. For a time I wanted to be a teacher, to relay wisdom to the youth. For a time I wanted to pioneer journalism, to make the workings of the government more transparent. For a time I wanted to be a civil engineer, designing water systems in impoverished countries.

Although genuine and well-intentioned, I hit a breakthrough in college when I began to rephrase the question: rather than asking what do I want to do, I started asking WHO AM I and WHO DOES GOD WANT ME TO BE?  This growth in maturity from a doing mindset to a being mindset paralleled my growth in faith during my college years, where I went from a me-centered attitude to a God-centered attitude.

When I met the Franciscans of the Eucharist my fourth year of college, I immediately loved their charism—I loved who they were, and how the men and women Franciscans lived out their faith through their work. As I grew in self-knowledge and the desire to work with God’s will (instead of independently of Him!), my vocation as a Franciscan unfolded. After volunteering, a discernment visit, and lots of time in prayer, I discerned with the community that I had a vocation, and I officially entered as a Postulant on September 8th, 2013.  Originally from the Chicago suburb Elmhurst, I’m now living on the West side of Chicago amidst beautiful people, trying to cooperate with God’s grace as we grow in holiness and do His work!

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Sr. Stephanie, temporary professed member

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Sr. Stephanie helps keep things neat and tidy in our Church Basement kitchen.

I grew up in Rockford, IL, a place rocked by violence, poverty, and high unemployment. I lived on the “good” side of town but went to school on the “bad” side of town because of the purposeful placement of my mostly white, academically accelerated program. The resulting social-cultural milieu shaped my view on everything from American History to the zoning of housing projects- everything really but religion. Simultaneously, I was also on my way to becoming an elite long distance runner.

I chose to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of their high ranking cross-country team and excellent academics. I was the 6th fastest freshman in the nation at the 2006 NCAA Cross-Country championship, with a fully picked academic scheme by the end of my first semester- major in economics and geography, minor in environmental studies. The plan was to get a degree, get a job with the government, reform the system from within by the age of 25 . . . Oh yeah, and qualify for the 2016 Olympic marathon trials in the meantime. God was certainly smiling at my plans.

My life shattered when my foot spontaneously fractured during a training run in 2008. My body decided it was done with running 65 miles a week. However, I mentally was not done. My life had been completely dominated by running and academics. Interestingly, shortly before my foot broke I had begun to spend some time at the Catholic Newman center on campus. I took my injury as an opportunity to go on a retreat all my friends from Newman told me to go on.

This retreat changed my life. I realized that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus! And I was supposed to follow him as a religious sister. From my depressed, injured state, I realized Jesus wanted ME, not my achievements. These epiphanies happened within one hour during the retreat. Totally overwhelming.

I went back home and slowly over time these epiphanies began to become a little more real. I began to actively discern religious life. I only discerned with Franciscan communities because I didn’t feel called anywhere else. St. Francis pretty much captured my desire to address serious societal issues and reoriented me to see that the problem wasn’t necessarily with structures and systems, but within myself. Eventually I visited the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, where I was drawn to the life of poverty, prayer, and service. I felt very at home after my visits, and entered in August 2010. On September 21, 2013 I professed First Vows. **Temporary vows is a 3-5 year period in preparation for Final Vows. To learn more about the stages of formation, please click here.