'WE ARE RUNNING TOWARDS THE SOURCE OF ALL OUR HOPE.'
an interview with
Sr Mary Catherine OP
What were your misconceptions about Religious Life before discerning it?
When first pondering a religious vocation, I had always thought someone needed to be a Saint already, an "expert Christian," and not only that, but perhaps even characteristically pious, like you were born with a halo and just *knew* how to be "holy". I never saw myself in that light (usually the opposite!), so I often found it rather discouraging in thinking that God could possibly be calling me to such a life as I understood it initially. Plus, I had never really known or seen religious sisters or nuns in real life, so my misconceptions were quite often based on the various lives of the Saints that I had read.
Who inspired you on your journey?
While at a national conference for Catholic university students, I had encountered a Daughter of St Paul named Sr. Michelle - she was the first religious sister I had ever met and spoken with. That rather short conversation took place at their book stall and was about "The Lord of the Rings" (as many of the books on display were about this favourite topic of mine)! Though I wasn't even thinking about a religious vocation at the time, I was truly taken by how *normal* this sister was, as well as how she just came across as someone who not only loved Jesus, but radiated that love in such a joyful and peaceful way. That really struck me and I knew I wanted a part of that, though at the time I couldn't identify it was a religious vocation I felt attracted to. Seeds were planted that day.
What was your greatest worry when discerning your vocation?
That, ultimately, I wouldn't be happy and that I was making the wrong decision in "giving up" or "wasting" what I perceived God's gifts for me were - particularly the gift of music as an orchestral musician.
'In pursuing your vocation you quickly find that it's actually God who is pursuing you, pursing your heart, pursuing you as you really are and not the person you like to think you are.'
How is the lived reality of your vocation different to how you had perceived it?
Before actually entering religious life I had attended several "Come & Sees" and "live-in" experiences. Those experiences helped chip away at the many misconceptions I had previously, but nothing really compares to the lived experience of day-to-day life in the convent. That day-to-day lived reality of my vocation is different from how I had previously perceived it by the tangible reality of God's grace at work in my life. In pursuing your vocation you quickly find that it's actually God who is pursuing you, pursing your heart, pursuing you as you really are and not the person you like to think you are. It can be a rather shocking, discouraging or even frightening experience, but in the end, it's an adventure in encountering God's unconditional and unceasing love for you through your sisters in Christ -- who are just as human as you are, but also pursued unrelentingly by God.
How has living your vocation brought you joy?
It has brought be increasingly closer to the one my heart loves, the one who has captivated my heart and mind: Jesus Christ. It has also brought me great joy in being an instrument of His love for others, whether in community life or apostolate/ministry.
'Discernment doesn't end with entrance into religious life but carries on throughout formation ... all is gift for it calls us closer to Him.'
What have been the highlights of living out your vocation?
As Dominicans, we are called to "contemplate and share the fruits of contemplation" - in practical terms, this takes the form of contemplative prayer and study which bears fruit in our preaching/teaching mission. I often find myself feeling somewhat unworthy and inadequate for such a mission, but God's grace has never ceased to amaze me in how He brings my Dominican vocation to fruition. The highlights that I've found in this vocation tend to be those little moments where our daily praying and singing of the Divine Office or our study of philosophy and theology has somehow seeped into my thoughts throughout the day, or through various conversations with people. I guess I'm just easily surprised that I'm capable of responding to God's grace and the reality that through His grace, He abides in me and works within and through me to touch the lives of others. I'm always dumbfounded when that happens... I need more trust!
What would you say to someone else considering Religious Life?
In following Jesus, we are not running away from life nor giving up our hopes and dreams; instead, we are running towards the source of all our hope and the fulfilment of all our dreams. We may not realise it at first, but when Love calls, it is always personal, always authentic, and always an adventure. No time is wasted, no grace held back. Discernment doesn't end with entrance into religious life but carries on throughout formation; and discernment hasn't failed when one may discern the religious life isn't for them - all is gift for it calls us closer to Him. God doesn't waste our time; He makes it something beautiful, for in time we are capable of change and growth, we discern, we are formed, we come to be like Him - and that is our eternal calling to beatitude.