Sister Mary of the Holy Family, O.P.
I have always been attracted to religious life. My role model, my mother, was the most influential person in my life. It was she who nurtured my vocation by her own example and love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and her devotion to Mary especially through the Rosary. Faith sustained my mother in the many trials she endured throughout her lifetime so it was not difficult for me to follow in her footsteps.
When considering my life commitment, I considered being a Carmelite as I wanted to be “alone with the Alone.” However, while I was on Retreat at Vallombrosa in Menlo Park, I spoke to a priest of my desire to become a nurse as well as my desire to become a Carmelite. He encouraged me to become a nurse and he told me if the desire to become a Carmelite persisted, then I should pursue this call. I became a registered nurse and did some volunteer work in Mexico which gave me such a deep hunger for detachment as the wonderful Mexican people taught me how happiness can be achieved without the attachments of so many worldly things.
I worked 10 years in different hospitals to gain experience in various areas of nursing and developed my skills in medical, surgical, psychiatric and pediatric units, in emergency rooms, and on obstetrics and nursery units. I traveled and enjoyed the awe and wonder of God’s creation and I loved to hike and to go to the beach. My love for people never wavered but there was a constant thirst in my heart for desiring to give myself totally to God in a hidden life of prayer and penance. I realized that in nursing I could care for a given number of patients but through a life of prayer and penance I could care for the entire world. Remembering that eventful retreat which I made in Menlo Park at Vallombrosa retreat center, I remembered seeing a monastic looking building across the street from this retreat center so I pursued my quest for more information. A visit with the prioress led me to spend a weekend at Corpus Christi Monastery and soon after this initial visit, I spent a month aspirancy within the enclosure. My desire for the “More” which I was searching for was realized. I entered Corpus Christi Monastery in Menlo Park on the Feast of All Saints on November 1, 1973 and I was clothed in the Dominican habit on the anniversary of my First Holy Communion on May 3rd, 1974, and I made First Profession on the Feast of All Saints on November 1, 1975, and Solemn Profession on the Feast of All Saints on November 1, 1981. All these dates have been extremely symbolic to me in my desire to be poor, pure, and perfectly obedient to God’s Holy Will so that one day I will be happy with Him forever in Heaven.
The balance of community and solitude as well as knowing that St. Dominic entrusted the nuns to the fraternal concern of our Dominican Friars appealed to me. Being “on mission” with our Dominican brothers for the salvation of souls definitely attracted me to the Dominican Order. Their friendship and support have kept me focused on my eternal goal.
My skills as a nurse have been used as I served the community as Infirmarian and medical consultant over the years so our skills are never hidden but placed at the service of the common good. The sisters are always gracious teachers and I have always found it so amazing how many gifts can be unwrapped in a contemplative community. A candidate can enter the monastery without any basic skills in cooking, sewing, or whatever but with the patience and charity of our mentors, we find ourselves assuming responsibilities that we would never dream of accepting unless we were honestly striving to “do whatever He tells you.” I found myself as cook, altar bread baker, host cutter, altar bread packer, Infirmarian, supervisor of the kitchen, cook, novice mistress, vocation directress, maintenance nun of the house and garden, subprioress and prioress. If one were to ask me which of my many ministries have been personally most satisfying and growth-producing, I would immediately say that it has been in the role of prioress. I know I have grown through the challenges which called on all my personal and professional skills over and over.
My life as a cloistered contemplative Dominican nun has taught me that I cannot “speed-read” the Word of God or jump ahead of His timing. I need only “to watch and wait” in fidelity for the mystery of God’s Will to unravel. This contemplative viewing of life has been so remarkably enriching and humbling for me. Waiting for God is at the heart of prayer and is already a deep form of prayer; self-control makes that waiting possible, and grace makes it sacred.
Over the years, many blessings came disguised in the pain, struggles and hardships of the unwanted times and events in my life but with the grace of God, I was so deeply touched by the discovery of how these unwanted times and events in my life became “appointments” with God and inner growth experiences for me. Grace definitely rushed into the cracks of my human weakness and conquered the fear that could have paralyzed my heart at such times. Jesus is always in the boat of my life bringing calm and direction to the storms in my life.
I like to think of my life as a jigsaw puzzle with every piece so important for my life to come together in meaningfulness. All the joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious mysteries of my life have blended together to give shape, color, and beauty to the pieces of the puzzle of my life. God is the perfect Conductor of my life and seems to cover up my mistakes so well as He orchestrates the symphony of my life. I have always found comfort and meaning in the words of Paramahansa Yogananda who wrote: “Keep a secret chamber of silence within yourself, where you will not let moods, trials, battles, or disharmony enter…in this chamber of peace, God will visit you.”
Whatever we look at will control us. By keeping my focus on Jesus Who is the source of my life and my peace, I become absorbed in Him. When I stay focused on the present, I live in God’s presence every day and hopefully mirror this to others. It is indeed a cherished gift to be called by God and to be “set apart” by religious consecration to know, love and serve Him in this world and to look forward to His promise of eternal happiness with Him when my journey in life has been completed.