Posts Tagged With: Roman Catholic

Being Professional

Dear Pope Francis,

Within five months I’ll be done of my master’s degree. There is something unique about a Master of Divinity, namely that while it’s a master’s degree, it’s specifically intended to be a professional degree, rather than a primarily a research-based degree. A large component of the work I do in this program is applying the theology I’ve been learning. That might be appropriating it into my own life and spirituality, or developing programs or talks incorporating the information. Some parts have been incredibly practical, like learning some of the ethical issues of being a minister in the Roman Catholic Church, or any Church for that matter.

Often times, people turn to their faith with their questions, their joys and their fears. Turning to their faith can also mean concretely turning to the Church. They build relationships of trust with the various Church leaders, be it a priest, deacon, lay minister, chaplain, whomever. Whether we agree with it or not, leaders are put on a pedestal, held up as an example of how to live, what to think and how to practice the faith. These factors put the minister in a unique position, because they are privy to sensitive information about the people in their congregation, and how the minister responds to that information can drastically influence people’s impressions of the Church as a whole.

Ministers in the Church are not necessarily unique in this relationship of trust. Without realizing it, society often attributes greater respect to different roles and jobs than others. For instance, doctors are often more highly respected than hair stylists based solely on their career. While it is important that we question these unspoken assumptions about respect-based-on-career, people in those careers need to be aware of their position, and act accordingly. There are limits on what is acceptable behaviour for a doctor, police officer, lawyer, journalist, and a variety of others.

My assumptions about some of these professions were highlighted in December when news about a scandal at Dalhousie Dentistry School hit the media. A group of young men had been making misogynistic and utterly inappropriate comments about their female classmates in a private Facebook group. While I don’t want to downplay the important conversations about rape culture and gender inequality that are happening because of this, there is also an important conversation to be had about professional ethics.

Dentists, like other professions, are privy to some sensitive information about their patients. Having spent my fair share of time in a dentist’s chair, I know how nervous some people can be before opening their mouths and letting someone, even someone who has studied for years, poke around in there. I would be even more nervous knowing that my dentist could have been making inappropriate comments about drugging women with the gases he has easy access to.

I understand that these young men are still in school, but they are in a professional school.  When I was doing my field placement as a student, I made sure that I was professional, including how I dressed and interacted with everyone in the placement. Professionalism is not something you graduate into, you receive the diploma and then you have to start acting professional. It is something that should be practiced as a student. It is a habit and a skill to be learned, it needs to be practiced.

Does this mean professionals can’t share inside jokes with their peers? Certainly not. What it does mean is that they must be aware of what they are saying about whom, and what they are saying. Are they slandering others, either patients/clients/etc. or peers? Are they spreading gossip? Would they want the person they are talking about to hear what is being said? Depending on your answer, maybe you should rethink what you’re categorizing as ‘inside professional jokes’.


In Christ,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Settling into Ordinary

Dear Pope Francis,

The last few weeks have been very energetic, with the holidays, travelling, seeing my friends again and starting new classes. It’s now almost the middle of January. School is back in full swing, complete with reading to do, papers to write, and extra-curricular meetings and events to attend. I have swapped holiday stories with my friends, and now the opening question is ‘how are your classes?’ or ‘did you finish the reading?’Ordinary Time

While school can be stressful, and there are a lot of different tasks to get done, there is something comforting about being back in my routine. As much as the break I had during the holidays was much needed and relaxing, I began to miss the ordinary things in my regular life, like my friends, my apartment and – to some degree – the structure that school gives my week.

This time at the beginning of the semester is what I consider ‘ordinary’. It is the quiet period after the busyness of the holidays, but before the stressful times of the semester. It’s the time when I can work at my own pace, or linger in a conversation without feeling guilty. It’s also the time when I forget to pay attention because everything seems so far away. The paper isn’t due until February, and from here, that seems like an eon, so I don’t start it right away, even though I have the time now.

It’s not just school where lack of attention can be problematic. This is often the reality in my faith life.

There is no big feast or liturgical season coming right away; we’re in ordinary time. I attend the regular liturgies, I pray in the evening like I usually do, and, as terrible as it sounds, I can forget to look for God in my life. As a professor once reminded me, this ordinary time, both in the liturgical sense and in day to day life, is time that is meant for God, just as much as any liturgical season, feast day, or exam period. God will come and be with me just as much in this time of low-stress school work and socializing, as He is when I am on edge with deadlines.

Finding Him now is no different than finding him in those big moments; I need to be quiet and attuned to the Spirit, perhaps even quieter and more attuned, because God will speak, I need to be paying attention.

Enjoying the ordinary,


Seek Kingdom

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Synod on the Family: Inviting the Bruised Church In

Dear Pope Francis,

I’ll be honest, I feel like I might be the only person in the world who didn’t follow the Synod on Marriage and the Family with a magnifying glass. My inundated Facebook feed ensured I had the highlights while it was going on, but a nasty head cold, three papers and a new job ate up any extra time to get a more thorough understanding. Even now that it’s over, I haven’t had much time to follow up with what was actually included in the document that came out of the synod.

Although reading for school has been dominating my reading list, I was able to glean some information and insights from the highlights I saw online.

While there seems to be some very interesting developments in how we talk about marriage and types of relationships, what struck me from the synod was actually a reminder: that we are a universal Church. So often, I get caught up in the reality of the Catholic Church in North America/the developed world/the city that I forget that how I experience ‘Church’ and the challenges I see facing the Church are not the same as people who come from other places in the world/the developing world/rural areas. So where issues of divorce, remarriage and receiving the Sacraments, and questions about homosexuality are dominant in my social context, the African bishops raising concerns about polygamy serve as a clear reminder, that I am part of one holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic Church, not the one, holy, catholic (North American) and apostolic Church. We can’t truly be a universal Church unless we address the variety of realities that are faced by the faithful in different contexts.

This reminded me of one of a passage in Evangelii Gaudium:

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. (EV 49)

The universal Church exists everywhere in the world, and it is easy for individual members, congregations and even dioceses to be in the streets. However, as we move up the Church it becomes more difficult; the whole Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops would struggle to be serving in all the areas that are represented on the conference because the challenges and struggles of these areas are incredibly diverse, and require unique solutions designed for the specific locations.

But the upper tiers of the Church can embrace the messy local realities by learning about the realities, talking to people who live it every day. That is what was happening at the synod. Bishops from all over the world were sharing the reality they and their people face, be it polygamy, cohabitation, homosexual marriage or concerns about divorce and remarriage.  You even went one step farther and invited all the members of the Church to make their voices heard through surveys filled out before the synod.

This probably isn’t exactly what you had in mind when you wrote about your desire for a Church that was broken, bruised and hurting. By inviting everyone to share, you invited the pain and hurt into the centre of the Church – for better or for worse you gave it a voice, and invited all Catholics to share in the reality of our brothers and sisters around the world. Without a doubt, you have opened some intense conversations about how the Church will carry on her mission in the future, but it is not a one dimensional conversation. By inviting us all in to the centre of the Church, you have given us a chance to expand our horizons as we stand in solidarity and prayer with and for Catholics around the world.


In Christ,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Controlling and coping

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s been a busy week. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a lot of hours at work. Over all, it’s still just part time but the individual shifts are long and leave me pretty wiped out the next day. I’ve had a few interviews for other jobs and volunteer positions, but until I have something solid to report I’m keeping quiet on the details. As always, prayers are great!

I haven’t been writing recently, not because my life has been super busy or because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I’ve been worrying about how pretty much the only things I post on Facebook these days are links to mine and Lauren’s posts on LTP, and a lot of what I’ve been thinking about feels very private.

Facebook-Privacy-GuidePart of it is a result of a conscious decision I made to not post so much of my life on Facebook a couple years ago. Sometimes (like once in a blue moon, and none in recent history) I get messages from creepy people, and generally when it happens I get super paranoid about my privacy for a while. I’ll purge my friends list of everyone who isn’t family, who I don’t know in person, haven’t spoken to in the last six months or who I wouldn’t be genuinely interested to catch up with if we ran into each other on the bus. I untag myself in most photos and go through all the pages I’ve liked and the groups I’ve joined and remove myself from everything. I generally try to avoid posting ubiquitous status updates and am often accused of being the slowest person ever in regards to putting up pictures if I’m the photographer at an event with friends.

Most of the time, I ignore the internal contradiction of being both intensely private about my own life and a reporter.

Yesterday, a reporter friend from school posted on her blog about how private her own journey back to Christ felt. She wrote about being nervous of what her Facebook friends would think if she posted the link to her blog, and about how the long-term consequences of being silent about faith aren’t worth it.

Something I really admire about Tara is how upfront she is about being Christian. She posts about things she’s grateful for, bible study, and the ways her car tests her faith. Her online presence is generally really positive, even when she’s having a hard day and I always get the sense that her relationship with Christ is something which really permeates every area of her life.

I’m not trying to compare myself to her or put myself down for being less active on social media than she is. I’m sharing the link to her blog because I’ve been struggling with a similar question lately. Tara wondered what her Facebook friends would think about her posting about her faith. I wonder what people will think if I share the big life stuff which has challenged and informed and deepened mine.

Something I struggle with in these letters is finding the line between being honest about what I’m struggling with in my spiritual life and my experience of being a young Catholic woman in a largely secular culture; and maintaining my privacy. I don’t want my posts on this blog to be like journal entries. The closer something is to my heart the harder it is for me to put it up here.

But at the same time, a lot of what I have to say about my relationship with Christ and why it runs so deep doesn’t translate well to writing without also writing about the big life stuff that’s happened. Even the broadest strokes – two years of crisis after crisis on all fronts leading to a major depressive episode followed by a nervous breakdown, an identity crisis, and a year of going through the motions outside while paralyzed inside by my own anxieties. It’s not like you can just bust it out and say “and that’s why me and Jesus are tight.”

My 17-year-old sister was really upset with me during the drive back to Ontario because I hadn’t told her much of anything about my life in New Brunswick over the last few years and I wasn’t just spilling everything. What she knew was the stuff I shared with my parents, and she was hurt that I didn’t seem to care enough or trust her enough to tell her anything myself.

If you weren’t in the JDH cafeteria during the winter of 2013 when I ran out of money on my meal card and then cried because Jeremy, the Tim Horton’s guy paid the $1.72 for my medium earl grey tea and I couldn’t comprehend why someone was being nice to me; you probably would have thought I had my shit together based on what I put online. I live-tweeted the students’ union meetings and posted status updates about whatever assignments I was working on and the things I cooked when I was procrastinating on those assignments.

Controlling what I put on social media started as a coping strategy when everything was outside my control before I moved away. Over the years control over my information expanded from the Internet to include more and more of the details of my life until it included everything and nothing.

I know being so intensely private offline is affecting relationships. Something’s gotta give, and I suspect it might have to be some of my privacy.

Trying to open up,



Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t flirt to convert

Dear Pope Francis,

I was once part of a serious conversation about interfaith dating. From the perspective of the people I was talking with, any relationship with a non-Catholic is interfaith. Over the course of the evening, conversation progressed from what constitutes an interfaith relationship to whether or not the Catholic party should be actively engaged in converting the non-Catholic, or if Catholics should simply not date outside the Church. In today’s letter I want to look at the notion of ‘flirt to convert.’

My parents renewing their vows for their 25th wedding anniversary.

My parents renewing their vows for their 25th wedding anniversary.

My mother was raised Baptist and didn’t convert until several years after I was born, so I have a definite bias for being open to dating outside the Catholic Church. Given my desire for Christian Unity, it should be understood I also have a bias towards being a Christian as opposed to dividing ourselves by sect.

As Catholics we are all called to be ambassadors of Christ and evangelists to the world, and I think this ministry should be present in all our relationships whether they are with Catholics or non-Catholics. A dating relationship is a time for getting to know someone in an emotionally, spiritually and intellectually intimate way and discern whether marriage to each other is in the cards. Discussions about faith and honest, appropriate responses to questions a partner has about it should absolutely be happening, and as believers we should absolutely want the conversion of an unbelieving partner.

What we should not want is a superficial conversion for the sake of the relationship. If an unbelieving partner is going to become Christian, it needs to be because they believe Jesus is the risen son of God and want to grow and share in that relationship. We should want to share that journey with them, encourage them and support them as they come to know Christ.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)

If we are serious about both the relationship and our desire for their conversion, neither can be a prerequisite for the other. We either love our partner as they are or we don’t love them.

God bless,


Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The opposite of charity

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s hot and humid outside even though it’s rained a bit the last few nights. The renovations at my parents’ house are finally done. All the furniture that had to be moved up and downstairs and out to the garage and back again is in its proper place and I have a mess of small bruises and a very sore knee to show for it.

This morning was the first in two weeks that I was able to sit and read my newspaper and drink my tea when I got up. It’s also Canada Day.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a seventeen year old sister. Since I moved back to Ontario a month ago I’ve been living with her and another sister at my parents’ house. I’ve really been trying to see her in a better light than I’m generally inclined to and up until this weekend I was mostly succeeding. Yesterday was a failure which ended with me crying in my room for an  hour and then staying holed up there with a book all evening except to come down to dinner; during which I flipped her the bird before excusing myself and returning to my room.

I’m not going to bother with a list of all the things she did to vex me yesterday, because they’re not important.  What’s important here is what it means to be charitable.

charityCharity is not just an umbrella term for organizations which work to help marginalized people without cost to them. It’s not just the act of giving money or time to the church or these organizations, although the act is certainly an expression of it which I’ve become very familiar with as my family prepares to move.

As Catholics, we have a unique understanding of virtues and gifts. Faith, hope, and charity are the three theological virtues which form the foundation for moral virtues and spiritual gifts. As a virtue, charity means to “love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”

I didn’t cry in my room for an hour yesterday because I was hurt by Kathleen’s angry words. They were the trigger, but what I was really upset about was how instead of letting what she said go, instead of being patient and waiting for her to be able to help me, and instead of curbing my tongue when snarky comments came to mind; I got mad at her. I yelled and swore and said all the things I thought and let all the frustrations of the last few weeks churn.

Then instead of apologizing and letting it be done, I stayed in my room reading and being upset with myself for not being able to find it in me to love her even a little bit right then.

I wasn’t being charitable. I need to work on that.

Heading out for a Canada Day BBQ,


Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful I’m able

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s not often people take the time to appreciate their ability to do manual labour, but that’s what I’m doing right now as I sit at my computer, typing and sipping ice water.

I spent most of today outside doing yard work with my mother – trimming back the branches of neighbouring trees resting on the garage roof, and then clearing out the leaves and gunk in the eaves trough. Pulling weeds and sweeping the drive and walk; picking up all the yard waste and bagging it. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but very hot when we were outside.

When we came in, we went through the bookshelves in the basement deciding what to keep and what to put out at the yard sale this weekend. There were old clothes to be sorted through and bagged to donate, and photos to take of things which might sell better online.

When the washing machine is free in ten minutes, I’ll be lugging laundry downstairs to wash and then back upstairs to fold and put away when it’s clean and dry.

Living in a house instead of the apartments I’ve been used to for the last few years is a lot more work. There’s more floors to sweep and surfaces to dust, and infinitely more dishes and things to tidy, but that’s more from living with more people than anything else.

When I was a teenager, I used to gripe about being asked to help with chores around the house. I loathed moving furniture, and wasn’t big on sorting through all the bits and bobs our family collects. It wasn’t work I liked doing.

Today, I’m appreciating that I’m young and strong and capable of doing all the things Mum and I did. I’m glad I can spend the day working outside and inside without being too horribly sore at the end of it. I’m glad I’m limber enough to be climbing up and down off the roof.

So many people have aches and pains from injury and age, or are born with physical disabilities and aren’t able to do these sweaty jobs. I’m lucky I can.

Having a Pollyanna day,


Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Friends don’t leave friends to pray alone

Dear Pope Francis,

There’s been a lot of firsts for Lauren and mine’s friendship the last few weeks. First time we’ve lived in the same province and time zone. First time we’ve seen each other more than once in a two week period. First time we’ve had an in-person meeting for LTP. And, first time we’ve prayed together.

When I think about how long Lauren and I have been friends now, it blows my mind that Sunday was the first time she and I ever prayed together. We talk about God and Jesus and church news (and boys and family and life plans and job prospects) all the time, and we’ve both prayed for situations in each other’s lives on our own time. But Sunday evening was the first time Lauren and I ever sat and prayed together outside of mass.

Prayer is intimate in a way that regular conversations aren’t. When you sit and pray with another person, you’re saying aloud the things that are really weighing on your heart and the things you’re especially grateful for. It’s an opportunity to include that person in your relationship with God and to understand theirs in a different way.

Praying with another person can also make you feel very vulnerable. You’re opening yourself up to God, but you’re aware of the presence of that other person.

In the youth group I was part of in my early teens, we prayed for the intentions people brought forward, and this practice was repeated in my three years of French class with Miss Henry in high school. In both places, it was always understood that what people asked was done with the expectation people wouldn’t gossip about it. To my knowledge, no one did.

Where I felt especially honoured were the occasions when a classmate I rarely spoke with asked if there was any news about my Dad’s job application when he was trying to make the jump from limos to buses. This same person asked how my younger sister was doing in the weeks after she got hit by a car while riding her bike to school.

We weren’t really friends and didn’t have anything in common except a few classes. I’d have to dig out my old yearbooks to even tell you her name. But it felt good to have her follow up on the situations I had been praying about, and I was always left with the vague impression that she was praying about them on her own time too.

Even though the disciples fell asleep while Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, they went with him. Friends don’t leave friends to pray alone when they’re invited to join.

Perhaps a good mark of friendship among Christians is whether or not you feel you can ask that person to pray with you about something.

In prayer,


Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hearing God whisper in the silence

Dear Pope Francis,

I’ve had the song “You are mine” by David Haas stuck in my head all weekend. It wasn’t sung at mass and I haven’t sung it or listened to it until tonight when I went looking for it on YouTube so I could link it today.

Lauren and Chantal enjoying hot beverages on a patio after mass.

Lauren and Chantal enjoying hot beverages on a patio after mass.

I’ve especially been ruminating on the first line. “I will come to you in the silence.” There was very little time for silence this weekend. Lauren came to visit and I had a great time introducing her to another friend of mine, going to mass at my home parish with them both, and eating dinner with a priest I altar served for growing up and another priest my Dad is friends with.

It was good to visit and spend time with everyone, and I was very glad my friend invited Lauren and I to join her for the church service at the non-denominational Christian church she goes to most Sunday evenings. I was happy to see the place where she’s been fed for the last year and to have the opportunity to talk about the experience there. I can see a desire to spread the gospel and I’m glad they’re trying to create a space which makes God accessible for young adults.

But there were no times of silence.

There was ample time for people to socialize and greet each other, and a praise and worship band who performed some beautiful music as part of the service. But the space inside the church, the place I would normally expect to be a sanctuary and respite from the noise and the busyness outside, the space I would go to if I craved an opportunity to meditate; this space was just as loud and busy as everywhere else before and after the service.

The same was true at my home parish this weekend. It was First Communion Sunday for one of the parish schools, so we had a lot of guests at mass. The church echoed with the dull roar of a few hundred people all talking quietly to one another until mass started.

Interior of the Meditation Room at the UN

Interior of the Meditation Room at the UN.

It made me wonder how we can find the balance between being welcoming and using the spaces we have as much as possible and protecting areas of the church as sacred spaces of serene, sometimes sleepy silence.

When I went to New York for an anti-poverty conference with the UN two years ago, I found myself begging the pastor at a church in Times Square to show me someplace where I could have just five minutes of quiet with God. It was my fifth day in New York City and I was physically, spiritually and emotionally drained from the pace of the city that never sleeps.

The pastor obliged, and was kind enough to sit and pray with me in the kitchen above their sanctuary, but she seemed confused as to why I would be so desperate for quiet to be with God.

We live in a culture where silence is seen as unnatural. We think it is awkward to be with another human and not speaking, not filling the space with music or television. We call these silences awkward, even though there is nothing awkward about them until someone remarks on the silence and makes those who enjoy it feel guilty for wanting it to last.

Noticing this pattern of craving silence in my life got me thinking about when I can count on finding it, and what makes a spoken prayer that breaks the silence different from a spoken prayer said in communion with the rest of the congregation

I think the key difference is the opportunity for God to respond. When we are busy filling the silence with words and songs, there’s less chance of us being able to hear God’s whisper of response.


The Brooklin Bridge and Manhattan, as seen from a park I went walking in with my Aunt and Uncle the evening I saw them.

When we break the silence with a spoken prayer, as soon as we finish saying our piece, the silence returns. If we are meditating on intentions for friends and family and a verse from scripture comes to mind, we are in a space where we can open the Bible and read the passage without disturbing the quiet.

We understand the Bible as the living word of God, and I think it’s easier for those words to touch our minds, our lips, and our hearts when our ears are not being assaulted with the cacophony of urban life.

For those who like me, crave quiet to be with God I recommend attending adoration and becoming accustomed to either staying up very late or rising very early.

Appreciating the silence,


Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do you wanna be a sister?

Dear Pope Francis,

Earlier this week, I came across a link to the video “Do you wanna be a sister?” on twitter. It’s a cute parody of the “Do you wanna build a snowman?” song from Frozen, which as we’ve already established is currently one of my favourite movies and may even surpass Monsters Inc. in my regard for it.

Watching the video of Sr. Marianette trying to reach out to the young woman thinking about religious life reminded me of my own experience discerning with the Daughters of Saint Paul. I remember how totally freaked out my friends and family were by the news that I was planning to go to a weekend discernment retreat with them in Alexandria, Virginia over the American Thanksgiving weekend in 2012.

Meredith-DCAfter I got back, Jan (one of my journalism professors), really pushed me to write about the weekend with the sisters but I never did. Not because I was on board with Sr. Margaret Michael’s prescient suggestion I take a step back from writing all the time and focus on taking care of myself, but because I honestly just didn’t know where to begin.

When you’re discerning anything, religious life, marriage, a big move or a career change, it’s not something done quickly or in a vacuum from the rest of your life. You don’t get to the discernment weekend, the end of relationship conversation, loading the truck or quitting the job without spending a lot of time thinking about it and questioning the sanity of your thought process. Maybe it’s a recurring thought over weeks or months, or maybe it’s something you stay up all night trying to figure out.

When I was growing up, my Dad liked to tease me about how as his eldest child I had to be a nun to a) make sure he got into heaven and b) make up for the fact that he discerned out of entering seminary for the priesthood shortly before or after meeting my mother. It’s been a while since he bemoaned how he could have been a priest, so I’m a little fuzzy on the timeline of his journey. I can remember being really stubborn that I wasn’t going to be a nun from the first time he suggested it, and whether by rote or obstinacy, joining a religious order was just not on my radar until after I finished SERVE in the spring of 2011.

A big part of my experience volunteering that summer was living in community with the seven other young adults in the program. After it ended I had a really hard time transitioning into life with my family for the rest of the summer. Even though I felt like I had a hard time fitting in when I was doing it, I really missed my four brothers and three sisters and the routine of morning and afternoon prayer before our meals.

About a month into school my third year I sat with Fr. John Jennings in the chapel and cried all over him about how I was starting to think I was called to be a nun and how I had no idea what to do or how to tell if it was the real deal or not. To his credit, Fr. John told me I didn’t have to figure it out right away and shared his own discernment in the seminary and the experience of just taking it a year, a month, a week, or a day at a time. He also suggested I start researching some of the religious orders to better inform myself of different charisms and missions. (By extension this lead to a very well stocked shelf of pamphlets on religious life while I worked in the campus ministry office.)

Somewhere along the line I filled out one of those “send me more information about vocations” cards from a poster outside the chapel, and received a really thoughtful response from a vocations director in Toronto who included some information about the Daughters of St. Paul and suggested I might like to start there given my journalism major. I wish I could find the note so I could quote it here and say which vocations director it was because the priest who sent it was super sweet, but it’s in a box somewhere and I’m not digging into anymore of those today.

When I read the information about the Daughters of St. Paul, I got really excited because I felt like if I was being called to be a sister, this was definitely the order for me. The euphoria then changed to terror, because “Oh God, what if I’m being called to be a sister?!”

DSCN1094During the summer of 2012 I struck up an e-mail conversation with Sr. Marie Paul from their Toronto house. We e-mailed a little bit and talked on the phone a few times which was really helpful because she didn’t go nuts pushing me to come to the discernment weekend right away. The invitation was extended, but she made it really clear the decision was mine and that there would be other weekends in the future if I didn’t want to go to one that fall. She met me where I was and let me come to her which took a lot of the pressure I was putting on myself regarding discernment off. I ended up going to the discernment weekend in Virginia because I had something going on at school the weekend of the Toronto one. I forget what.

When I told my parents over Canadian Thanksgiving that I was planning to go to discernment weekend the next month, they were a little freaked out. Dad got really concerned with making sure I knew he really was just teasing me about being a nun for the last 23 years, he didn’t really expect me to be one and I didn’t have to join a religious order to make him happy. It was like the prospect of me actually becoming a sister made it very not funny all of a sudden.

(Point of clarity, a nun is a sister in a cloistered religious order whereas a sister is a woman who has taken the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in a religious order. In popular culture we tend to use the words interchangeably as meaning any woman who wears a religious habit or belongs to an order of women religious.)

So I went to visit the Daughters of St. Paul in Alexandria, Virginia.

My room mate got up at the crack of dawn to drive me across the border to the bus station in Houlton, Maine and I took a bus from there to Portland. I stayed in a hotel painting my toes and watching a Breaking Amish marathon on TLC until I fell asleep at 8 or 9 and then left for the airport early the next morning. I flew to Washington, DC and Sr. Margaret Michael met me there when my plane landed around lunchtime. We drove to the house where I dropped off my things and then much unencumbered I took the subway back into DC to do some sightseeing for a few hours before the retreat started.

I really enjoyed the retreat. It was good to have time with the sisters and the other young women and I enjoyed learning more about their ministry. I really liked praying the news with the sisters, because it gave me a new way of approaching my consumption of newspapers, radio and television. I also really enjoyed just hanging out with everyone in the evening and laughing.

The day we spent in silence was hard, but moreso because I was feeling guilty for struggling to stay awake than any dislike of quietude. Becoming aware of just how tired I was at that point was a valuable takeaway for me, as was the recognition that I probably wasn’t being called to be a sister, just called to have a deeper relationship with Christ.

Discerning with the Daughters of St. Paul was a really good experience for me because while it was stressful and scary year getting there, I have a deeper confidence that I’m going to get married and be a mother and a foster mother one day. Another thing I started to learn while I was there was how a traditional newsroom of breaking stories and deadlines and always needing to be plugged in isn’t something good for me, no matter how good I might be at it.

Finally, I just want to say to any of the people reading this that I think it’s important to be open to the possibility of religious life as a vocation. While you’re discerning if it’s going to be a thing or not, I think it’s also important to be aware of the things going on in your life that might be scaring you towards the church that way. Family drama, difficulties with friends, a rough breakup. It’s good to seek comfort in God, but not so much to make radical life decisions trying to escape the realities of your life. Trust God to get you where you need to be. Maybe he facepalms a little bit if you’re being really thick, but he’ll work around it.

Love always,


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