Little Did I Know
As a teenager, did I think I had a religious vocation? Never.
At 16, I was co-captain of the softball team. At 17, I bowled on the same level as more seasoned women. At 18, I was offered a sponsorship for golf. And I had a job that paid well enough to save up for college.
But then, the thoughts started coming into my head that I should be a Sister. At first, I laughed in disbelief. A few months later, I worried because the thoughts wouldn’t go away, so I started praying about it. The thought soon became a background to all my activities and plans. God did not let go. I knew I had better start looking at His way.
After inquiries for guidance, God suddenly put the answer right in front of me – a member of the Congregation of the Divine Spirit talked to me. I learned then, and still witness it often, that if God asks you to do something, He will provide the means to do it. I still occasionally feel inadequate in the awesome responsibility of working for Him, but I know He’ll handle it when I can’t.
If you’re getting the thoughts, pray, talk to Him. He’ll take it from there.
– Sister Maureen Crawford, C.D.S.
What is Truth?
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. And, I suppose, everyone asks consciously or unconsciously that question in his own heart. In my salad days I thought my “truth” lie in the art and science of acting. To that purpose I went to the university and pursued my goal. But Truth had other ideas.
At church I joined a Legion of Mary group that helped the Puerto Rican immigrants keep the Faith, and I fell in love with the work. I then decided that I wanted a full time occupation known as a vocation following the Truth of the Lord. I entered the Congregation of the Divine Spirit, a new American order of Sisters, a wonderful group dedicated to the spiritual growth of the Christian family.
I gave up the stage, and the Lord gave it back to me in the form of captive audiences. For years I have taught in elementary school, and I have also worked in activities with our senior citizens at the House of Loreto, our home for seniors.
The Lord is never outdone in generosity. I married Truth and received a hundredfold. Have you ever heard Someone say, “Come, follow me?” It is the Lord. That’s the Truth.
– Sister Marianne Perrone, C.D.S.
Influences in my Life
Having been able to spend five years in a Catholic elementary school was probably the greatest influence which eventually led to my vocation as a Religious. Later, being able to belong to a Catholic Young Adult group and eventually the Legion of Mary also played an important role in my life.
My oldest brother was a great influence in my life. We lost our cradle-Catholic father when I was an infant so my brother helped to fill the gap. He was away serving in the war effort during much of my grade school years. However, he was a part of my high school years and was able to be a tremendous influence.
Probably the greatest impact on my life was belonging to the Legion of Mary and being involved in its good works. What tipped the balance for sure were the retreats I made as a young adult. It was not my idea to be a religious but God’s. Gratefully I listened. Not only did He call me, but He also directed me to this order, CDS.
I make this statement because when talking to a priest about becoming a religious, I named two orders I was interested in joining. He said, “Fine. Contact them, but make no decision until contacting this Community.” I listened!
With humble and deep gratitude I thank you God for calling me to the Religious life placing me in CDS under the guidance of Mother Patricia, our Founder, Guide, and truly our Friend.
– Sister Joanne Dalton, C.D.S.
I have been asked through the years, “Are you happy?” and I have always answered, “Yes.”
When my mother had to accept that my father had dementia she said to me, “When you’re young and take your marriage vows, you think that’s it, but at times like these you know what they really mean. Your love gets you through.”
Consecrated life is like that. I was excited about entering religious life and vowing myself to an infinite Spouse. I didn’t think too much about “Take up your cross and follow me.” As I matured, I realized that all through life (religious and all lives), one’s path leads from many Bethlehems through many Golgothas to many resurrections.
My living of my vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at times reminds me that I have taken up my cross and followed the Lord. Nevertheless, if one can see “happiness” from an other-than-worldly perspective, such as the joy that comes from serving others in and for the Lord, of having the daily opportunity to spend time in intimate prayer with Him, of living in a supportive community of like-minded Sisters and of knowing that I have a faithful and loving Spouse who is always “there” for me, how could I be anything but happy. Moreover, it is a happiness which (as any consecrated person can tell you) grows greater with each passing day and year.
– Sister Marilee Heuer, C.D.S.
“Watch your mouth . . . “
Many a parent has given this warning to unruly offspring. Who knows what trouble comes when the mouth goes ahead of the brain?
God said essentially the same thing to His family. Five times in Exodus chapters 3 and 4 Moses opened his mouth protesting God’s call. Finally, God said, “It is I who will assist you.” Watch your mouth, Moses.
God called Jeremiah to prophesy (see Jeremiah chapter 1). Jeremiah replied, “I am too young.” God answered, “I am with you to deliver you.” Watch your mouth, Jeremiah.
Job protested God’s treatment loud and long. Finally, in chapter 38 of the Book of Job, God had enough and said, “Who is this that obscures divine plans with words of ignorance?” Watch your mouth, Job.
Peter tried to convince Jesus that the way of the Cross was not to be the Messiah’s way (see Mark 8). Jesus told Peter, “Get out of my sight, you Satan!” Watch your mouth, Peter.
A wise person said that we have 2 ears and 1 mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Is God calling? Do not be afraid. Listen!
And watch your mouth.
– Sister Janet Harold, C.D.S.
Community – Commitment – Compassion
As a teenager and young woman I was privileged to work with three religious communities of consecrated women. All were women of deep spiritual prayer and compassion.
A weekend retreat enabled me to glean from one of the Sisters the inspiration to open my mind to His call for me. I wanted to spend my life growing in His graces through committed vows as a Religious. Through prayer and adoration, I was open to His call.
Fifty-four years as a Sister of the Divine Spirit has fulfilled this desire to serve others with compassionate care and education of children while growing more deeply spiritually.
The bond of community living has again witnessed to me what I continue to yearn for.
-Sister Edith Lange, C.D.S.
“If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans.”
From very young, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse, marry and raise twelve children. I even had them named! As a high school freshman, I became a Loreto Teen, a candy striper at the House of Loreto, a home for senior citizens staffed by the Sisters of the Divine Spirit. I soon came to love and respect the Sisters for the way they lived their Community motto, “Always and Everywhere Charity.” Their service to the elderly and their ministry to the family through teaching inspired me. As a high school senior, God gave me an interest in religious life, and I answered His call.
God is never outdone in generosity. As a Sister of the Divine Spirit, I have experienced great joy, peace and fulfillment. God’s call comes in varied ways. My advice to anyone considering a religious vocation is to “Come and See.”
– Sister Mary Babik, C.D.S.
FAMILY: Nurturing Family – Big Family
Since second grade I wanted to be a Sister. I grew up in a nurturing family and we’d play priest and Sister at home. As I grew older, however, a big family of my own seemed very inviting. In high school, my brother and I began to frequent the Abbey of the Benedictine priests who served our parish. We got to know the priests and Brothers. These dedicated and prayerful men served the Lord with joy and zeal. I could do that! I read about different communities. I felt an American foundation would be best for me. I wrote to C.D.S., but was still “on the fence.” Christmastime (my senior year) one of the Brothers sent me a card and enclosed a card he had received from a new Sister of the Divine Spirit. In it she conveyed the joy and zeal she was experiencing in her C.D.S. Community. “God, is this your message to me?” I pursued it and when I entered in August of 1960, I still had that card and tracked down that Sister. Now, years later, I know the joy and zeal as well. And as for the “big family,” I’ve found it not only in our C.D.S. Family, but in my classroom: I’ve had many, many children!
– Sister Rita Ouska, C.D.S.
In His Will Is Our Peace
I had very religious and devout parents and family. Prayers, family rosary every night, and services in the evening when held were a must. The love of the Church came above anything else. But, I was restless.
I talked to my brother, a priest, who said that religious life might be my answer. I wasn’t satisfied with the life I was living; something was missing. Then I took a trip to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and asked the Blessed Mother to help me. This was 1955, and soon after that I got my answer. In February, 1956, I entered our newly-formed Community.
Immediately I was sent to Gannon College to work, everything from switchboard to secretary. Later, I taught in school for 2 years and for many years taught CCD in Warren and Emporium, Pennsylvania. Then I went to Canton, Ohio, and worked in the kitchen there cooking for the Aged, and back to Erie cooking for our Sisters in the Motherhouse.
I had found the peace I was looking for.
The life of working and time for prayer life has been very rewarding when doing God’s Will, whatever it may be. It gives you an inner peace that can’t be found anywhere else.
Now that I’m in my late 80’s and can’t walk, the prayer time is wonderful, and I am looking forward to the reward.
– Sister Mary Minsterman, C.D.S.
Power of Grace
God began calling me to the consecrated life when I was teaching a third grade class in Lanai City in the Hawaiian Islands. While writing my life history one afternoon, the thought struck me that awards, scholarship and such did not bring true happiness. Why waste your life striving for such?
I had been attending daily Mass. After this experience I would walk to the little wooden church each day after school and spend much time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I prayed the rosary, read pamphlets and begged the Lord to guide me.
Occasionally the thought would flash across my mind to enter the religious life. And my response was to plead and bargain with God to ask me anything but that. I asked God if I could volunteer to go to Alaska, teach and be a missionary. Another time I asked the Lord if He would want me to go to Ceylon and teach. But God was patient.
Years later I look back at that year in Hawaii and see how powerful was God’s grace, how He touched me there. God had led me to the islands as a first step on the journey to the Congregation of the Divine Spirit.
– Sister Clara Baudison, C.D.S.
With God, There Are No Accidents
While I was discerning a Religious Vocation, my mother was my closest confidant. There were so many Communities. Mom and I would visit the ones that were in driving distance; nothing seemed right.
Finally, my mother suggested I talk to Sister Ann Jeanne, administrator of the House of Loreto where my grandmother was a resident. After that interview, I was absolutely sure God wanted me to become a Sister. But where?
One March day I had an interview with the Sisters who ran an orphanage. It started to snow while I was driving, and the roads began to get slippery. The car ahead of me suddenly stopped, and I went into the median in the road. All was well until I got hit from the back. No harm was done, but I did not go to the appointment.
On my way home I was thinking: I didn’t want to teach school, and I didn’t really want to be around old people, but God must have had other plans. By the time I got home, I knew I was to enter the Congregation of the Divine Spirit – Sister Ann Jeanne’s community.
For years I have taught school and worked with old people. The lesson: let God be God in your life. He can transform you in the blink of an eye or a hit from the rear.
– Sister Jeanne Poulton, C.D.S.
Rough Ways Made Smooth
My elementary, high school, and college education comprised the rough path that my life first took. I attended only public schools in acquiring my education, so my knowledge of God was very limited. After graduation from college, I moved to another city and worked for a corporation.
Although I had received a good education and was now working, I felt a void in my life. My prayer life up to this time had not been very strong, but I felt a strong desire to know more about God. Because I had not attended Catholic Schools, a priest gave me instructions about the Catholic faith. Learning about God and His love for me gave me a desire to attend daily Mass, to receive Holy Communion, and for frequent Confession. To get to Mass required walking a mile to Church, but nothing would stop me from showing God I wanted to love Him.
Father asked if I had ever thought about entering religious life. My answer was no, but his question started me thinking. The void in my life was not filled by acquiring a good education or working but only when I chose to follow God and said yes to Him.
Entering religious life to give back to God my life has made the rough path smooth, where I have been able to give all back to God and to know the joy and happiness that comes from serving Him.
– Sister Jean Bowman, C.D.S.
For the Love of . . . Ice Cream?
The thought of a Religious vocation began a long time ago in the grade school which I was attending. However, it was not a positive thought, but one which was negative.
Sister assigned a paragraph entitled “Why I would like to be a Sister – or why not?” I chose the “why not?”. I wrote that my liking ice cream would be too much to give up if I entered the Convent.
That immature thought eventually left, and I grew to love the Church during my high school years. However, the profession of Med Tech drew my interest. I finished my college preparation and internship and worked until I slowly relented to answering the call from the Holy Spirit to become a Sister of the Congregation of the Divine Spirit.
They have been very happy years (and I am still eating ice cream!).
– Sister Lorraine Champagne, C.D.S.
A Very Rewarding Life
As with any decision we have to make in life, the choice of religious life can have a series of hills and valleys. For me this journey started after high school graduation when I realized that God was calling me to serve Him as a Sister. It was at a weekend retreat that I was introduced to a new community in the church – the Congregation of the Divine Spirit.
After visiting the sisters and seeing them in action, my decision was made, and within a short time I entered the Community. In the ensuing years I taught in our community schools and eventually earned my LPN license. With a nursing license I could help at our home for the elderly and also care for our infirm Sisters.
Living Community life brings with it many blessings and joys as we share with each other in prayer, recreation and work and are always there to be a moral support to one another in times of need. A lifetime spent in the service of God by serving others is a very rewarding life, for each day is filled with much happiness knowing that God’s will has been fulfilled.
– Sister Ann Collins, C.D.S.
My call to religious life came late, ten years after graduation from college.
I was asked to take a course to learn to teach CCD classes. The course was given by Sisters: my first real contact with Sisters. I enjoyed teaching my first class of third and fourth graders. And after two courses with the Sisters I wondered about a vocation. After talking to the Sister and the Assistant Pastor, I came to the conclusion it wasn’t for me.
The office where I worked closed and I moved across the state to another job which was just a tax shelter. I wanted to work to help people, so I quit to go back to school to get a teaching certificate. I got a job as a dorm director at the college. The dorm director from the next dorm became a good friend and one day showed me an entry in a directory of women religious and asked, “Do you think they wear pajamas?”
I read the description of the Community to answer her question, and I immediately knew that was the answer to my prayer as to what I should do.
And over 50 years later, I thank God for being a Sister of the Congregation of the Divine Spirit.
– Sister Margaret McCarville, C.D.S.
A True Sign
Trying to find what my vocation in life would be, I prayed a novena of 30 days to the Blessed Mother. Although I was not particularly drawn to the idea of becoming a religious, I talked to one of our parish priests. Father gave me a book showing several different congregations. After reading it, the Congregation of the Divine Spirit interested me. It was an American Foundation and wore a habit which seemed to me to be of our culture. I made an appointment to visit our convent.
What an experience that turned out to be! My sister, a friend, and myself started our drive to Erie, Pennsylvania, our first Motherhouse. On our way we stopped at a rest area where I lost my purse with all my money and personal items. This was not discovered until later when we had a car problem which turned out to be that my sister’s car was not worthy fixing. This is when I discovered I had lost my wallet.
A kind truck driver who was there drove us back to the rest area to try to find my wallet. He then drove all of us to the train station, thinking we would just return to my home town in Connecticut. We decided to continue to Erie. The Superior was kind enough to let us all stay at the convent overnight.
In thinking back after I entered, it surprised me that I did not think that this was a sign that my vocation was not to be.
– Sister Ann Daley, C.D.S.
Not Just a Miscellaneous Expense
Who would imagine that washing dishes for 50 cents an hour at a home for senior citizens would lead to a Religious Vocation?
That was my first job. I wasn’t permitted to have a raise because my father wanted to claim me on his tax returns, and so the Sisters at the House of Loreto obligingly put me down as a “Miscellaneous Expense”. At the time I was a junior in high school, and after a few weeks of washing dishes, I knew that I didn’t want to do that forever. My dream was to be a registered nurse. Three of my father’s sisters were nurses, my mother had gone to nursing school, and my older sister, Kathy, was currently there. RN after my name sounded pretty good, and I was determined to get there. Sr, Fabian, head of the nursing school, practically had me enrolled by the time I was a senior. However, my mother had suggested that I go to Walsh College, get a degree, then go back to my home parish, St. John the Baptist, and teach my younger brothers and sisters.
I was the 2nd oldest of 13.
But Sr. Ann Jeanne, Administrator of the House of Loreto, had other ideas. She wanted high school girls to come after school and earn some “pin money”. Did I ever need money! My parents were good to their children, and we had all the food, clothing and necessities we needed, but the extras would have to wait.
So I took the job washing dishes, helping with food preparations, and serving in the dining room. Over time I was able to see in the Sisters who staffed the home a caring attitude and a spirit of prayer and dedication in their work. I was included in Mass, rosaries said for the dying, celebrations and even volleyball on the east lawn.
Sr. Ann Jeanne refereed the games, and she saw to it that the best team won, or maybe the one that needed a little boost that day!
The Sisters invited me to their Motherhouse in Erie, PA for a visit and I was able to see more of the Community ministries. I graduated from high school in May and on August 15th I was in the convent.
Most of my time in ministry has been in elementary education. My response— Thank you, God, for loving me! I never got an RN after my name. It is my privilege to write, C.D.S.
– Sister Martha Cadden C.D.S.
The Holy Spirit’s Work
My vocation is truly the work of the Holy Spirit. From a very early age, I was attracted to prayer daily, went to weekly Mass, sometimes daily when possible, said the Rosary, received the sacraments often, enjoyed family togetherness in everything.
My vocation became very serious to me in my second year of high school. From then on I consciously encouraged myself to guard and nourish it. In the meantime I wrote to various communities without success.
One Sunday my mother discovered an ad in the Des Moines Register concerning the Sisters of the Divine Spirit. That’s it! I wrote and here I am!
Sounds easy, but it was very difficult, though I continued normally through school, helping my family and being with my friends.
I received a reply from the community and immediately began to make preparations as I was to arrive in Erie, PA around August 15th. That was a long way from Iowa farm country. My mother told me later that when I was on my way I never looked back.
My story is a very long one, but I will be eternally grateful to all the persons whom God sent along the way, especially my family and our own Mother Patricia. The Holy Spirit uses instrument for His purposes and He did so through my young life.
– Sr. Ann McGovern, C.D.S.
The Thread That Runs So True
“My life is but a waving between my Lord and me,
I cannot choose the colors He worketh steadily…”
1st Thread: My education in a Catholic grade school was a good solid catholic foundation of life taught by the sisters of St. Joseph. I always hoped to have a sister each new school year, but I couldn’t be one because they were so holy. Also, because I didn’t want the Holy Spirit to be “the Forgotten God” for me (as we learned) I put His initials on all my papers from then on, a prayer, and He led me to the Congregation of the Divine Spirit, leading me without me knowing it.
2nd Thread: I saw His Hand placing me in situations: Our neighbor’s daughters suggested their high school to attend, where I experience several retreats. My homeroom sister helped me locate the right Community (arranging for me to stay with her sister living near the House of Loreto where their mother was a resident when I traveled two hours by bus to get there) All these situation were deliberately chosen by the Master Planner, always pursuing my soul. He can be trusted never to give up on yours, either. God love you!
-Sister Diane Miklosko, CDS
She Teaches Well Who Lives Well …
This touches upon the question of our influence on others, what people see in us and feel from us, when the stage is formally set, and when informally it isn’t
set. Teaching isn’t just saying something. It isn’t just the words we speak in the classroom or the pulpit, or on occasions when we are just laying down the law.
Teaching isn’t anything we can turn off and on any given hour. It is what we do, what we think, what we condone, what we condemn. It is both the subtle and obvious things that make up what we are. Sometimes we speak as if just setting an example is sufficient, but it isn’t so much something we set as it is everything we are. When the stage is set for school the teacher teaches a subject but more important she teaches what she is herself. A school that would limit its ambition to mere scholastic success would betray its mission and would cease to be truly Catholic. The students are crying out – show me encouragement, show me forgiveness, show me appreciation, show me understanding, show me fairness, listen to me, I need to see those things in you wise teacher. Where are the young going if they go where we’re going, if they do what we’re doing, if they think what we’re thinking? We in CDS are all teachers because we are all an example no matter what we do or don’t do. Whether we are honest or dishonest, concerned or indifferent, fair or unfair, obedient or disobedient, cheerful or dreary, burdensome or helpful, we are teaching. There is no way for anyone to separate herself into segments, to say at this hour I will teach this, in another hour I will teach something else. Each CDS member, too, is crying out to each other, teach me, show me obedience, show me care and concern, show me honesty and on and on. A CDS member performing any task with joy, even if they seem insignificant, is teaching. The world will not be changed by merely scholarly teachers, but by individuals, each of us, who realizes our awesome responsibility. She teaches well that lives well.
Sister Colette Hilow, C.D.S.
Called By Name
In the Old Testament, Abraham was called by name to take a long journey. The Lord said to Abraham, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your Father’s house, to a land I will show you.” Abraham’s call seems so clear to us but it involved much sacrifice on his part. There were no trucks to haul his animals; no trains, planes or cars to take his family. There were no Wendy’s or McDonalds, or fast food restaurants along the way. Abraham obeyed and lived day by day trusting in the goodness of God. Like Abraham, my call took me to what seemed a far away land from a farm in northeast Iowa to the Congregation of the Divine Spirit in Erie, PA. I didn’t even know Erie existed but God did. Before I was formed in my mother’s womb He knew me; before I was born He had called me. I never once doubted God’s plan for me even though my family and friends wondered why I had to go 900 miles to become a Sister. Scripture says, “He who leaves father, mother brother and sister for my sake receives a hundred fold in return.” My hundred fold has been a thousandfold. In my teaching experience, my vocation has allowed me to be a doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer, and friend for hundreds of God’s children. One day we had a short faculty meeting before school. Standing outside the office with his nose pressed against the window was Timothy waiting to carry my bag. When I left the office I said, “Oh, Timothy, I didn’t expect you to wait this long.” With a smile on his chubby little face he said, “Sister, for you I’d wait forever.” The joys of my religious life have been many. I may have left father and mother but I was blessed with a wonderful Mother as leader guide and friend, Mother. My Community has been my support system: sharing in my joys and sorrows, so patiently listening to all of my farm stories that if you were given a few acres of land, you could start a farming career. In this advanced age of technology, much has changed; however, some things remain unchanged. Before we were born, God knew us. God has a plan for us and he has called us by name. We have been called to HOLINESS. Like Abraham and Jeremiah, stay open to God, and remember, for us, GOD WILL WAIT FOREVER.
Sister Mary Ellen Martin, C.D.S.