Sister Maura of the Holy Spirit
Canadian by birth, I was the eldest of three children. I had an active childhood enjoying my studies at good Catholic schools. Every summer I enjoyed myself with my friends at our cottage on the lake with no responsibilities – just summer sports, reading, nature and the social life of vacationing teenagers. The other months of the year found me working long and hard at my studies. At twelve I had decided I wanted to be a doctor so at age nineteen, I was in the first year Meds at the University of Toronto. I did not proceed far down this path of science because the study of the arts, philosophy and finally theology lured me into more satisfying fields.
At the challenge of my spiritual director I initiated on campus a ‘cell’ of YCS (Young Christian Students), a then-secret organization of the apostolate. It flourished and these exciting relationships provided opportunities for maturing in a network of Christian friendships. Private prayer was always a significant element and soon Mass was on my daily schedule.
Religious life did seem attractive but as a beautiful way of life for someone else, the pious type. I had the normal dreams and ideals of love, the perfect man, marriage and a good-sized family. Since God had so far blessed me with all the good things of life I more or less took it for granted that with the same liberality He would provide me with the perfect match – but He didn’t! I was sharing much of my student life studying and socializing among the cream of the crop but somehow my ideal never crossed my path.
By winter of my senior year, I was feeling absolutely desperate. Here I was, twenty-one and not yet engaged! Never had I suffered such a radical frustration. There was nothing I could do but pray to the very Lord of love who understood the beauty of my ideal and surely had implanted the same dream in one manly heart. I could not understand His delay – all my friends were getting engaged or married. In my visits to the Blessed Sacrament each night in the lovely college chapel, I begged and begged but I noticed my earnest pleadings being transformed into “Not my will but Thine be done” and once I had surrendered, I found the Love of my life right before me – in the tabernacle.
After graduate school, I taught philosophy for two years. I knew from experience now that I could never have the mental freedom for contemplative prayer in an academic life of teaching so I went monastery-shopping. To me, it was obvious that it would be Dominican as St. Thomas Aquinas, the highlight of my studies, was Dominican, and the motto of the order is TRUTH. I thought that truth was the fundamental answer to all the needs of my world of 1948.
I must admit that “leaving all” proved to be quite a wrench but it was on a cloud of joy that I floated through the large enclosure door knowing that the life I was leaving was wonderful and filled with love, yet blindly and glowingly convinced that my real life was ahead. I have been delighted ever since.
I welcomed the changes in monastic structures brought about by Vatican II which enabled the nuns to get to know each other on a more personal basis, to share insights and responsibility in the government of the community. Together we walk the path of faith as we journey ever closer to God.
Among my favorite aspects of our life are the liturgy of Mass and Office of the Hours, communal gatherings with the diversity of personalities and different approaches to situations, but then I love hermit days too, and lots of time alone. Life is never dull in a monastery. The opportunities for personal and spiritual growth are endless. In addition, every three years we change our work as obedience calls forth talents we never dreamed we had. I have been artist, seamstress, laundress, infirmarian, cook, novice directress, chantress, sacristan and librarian. Life within the “vast expanse of the cloister” is an exciting challenge, a life rich in God’s blessings and joy.