Sister Mary Francis of the Holy Cross
Faith and family characterize my childhood in San Jose, CA. I loved going to church and always ran to hug the parish priests when I saw them. As a little girl, I even wanted to be a priest, but whenever anyone suggested becoming a sister, I replied decidedly “No!” Consecrated life was outside my experience.
Years later – after university, a year abroad in Toulouse, France and working professionally first as a cartographer and later as a preschool teacher – I attended a priestly ordination for the first time. As the six men prostrated themselves there before the altar, I realized that I wanted to give myself to the Lord as completely as they, but in the way that was meant for me, as a religious sister.
I entered a Dominican congregation of teaching sisters in 2010 and was blessed to make my first vows in 2012. The years of my formation were mostly ones of joy and peace and I am filled with gratitude as I recall the abundant graces received during my time in this community. At the conclusion of temporary vows, however, the superiors helped me discern that I was not called to the teaching apostolate. Consequently, I returned to California, trusting that the Lord would continue to lead me moment by moment.
One day while attending mass at a Carmelite Monastery, the idea came into my head I should be a nun. It was quickly brushed aside, but returned again and again, each time with a bit more happiness. Could I really be so fortunate as to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life! I discreetly looked into the local Carmelite nuns, but it was quite a while before I dared to speak the idea aloud. When I finally shared my thoughts with my mom, she ran out of the room in a flurry of excitement summoning me to check out a post on Facebook. It was an advertisement for a discernment day with Dominican nuns. “Mom, I said Carmelite! How could the Dominicans accept me when I have just left a Dominican community?” I hesitated, but in the end, I determined to go, just “to see.”
Once there, I learned it was not unusual to hear the call to contemplative life after having lived as an active religious. What’s more, I felt so at home among these daughters of Saint Dominic, despite the monastery being so little like the motherhouse where I first came to know and love the Order of Preachers. Most importantly, though, Jesus was present and inviting me on adventure with Him. He was present also with the Carmelites; the choice was mine.
I believe Saint Francis of Assisi, my patron saint, first led me to his Dominican children —for he is father to Dominicans, just as Saint Dominic is to Franciscans—but this time it was my own Dominican heart that assured me that this is the place where I will be happiest living close to Jesus.