My Vocation as A School Sister of Notre Dame
by Sister Dianne Perry. SSND
used with permission
I really never thought of becoming a Sister until I was a sophomore in high school. Before that I had a Plan. I was going to go to college, become a nurse, get married and have six kids.
It never occurred to me to do anything else, so I was very surprised, shocked and befuddled even, when I started thinking about Sisterhood. At this time my sister who is two years younger, was talking about being a Sister all of the time.
There was only one other girl in my class who talked about it so between the two of them I found out many things about Sisters. Never once did I tell anyone that I was thinking about it. I listened to them and I'd always ask my sister what her day was like after she returned from visiting some convent. She just thought I was being nice.
I just didn't think I was the Sister type because I was very talkative and fun loving. I also really enjoyed the boys in school and at dances and parties and in my mind this was a sign that marriage was for me, not the convent. I decided that if I would just forget about it, it would go away. So that is what I did. But God didn't forget about me.
When I was a junior in high school two things happened that I think were significant to my eventual vocation. During Lent I decided to try to go to Mass every day. And I did.
I also had a life changing experience through our youth group at School. The Sisters, who taught us in high school, did outreach work on Saturdays. They helped some of the migrant workers in the neighborhood learn English and to have their marriages blessed in the Church. In order for the people to come many of them needed baby-sitters for their children. One of the Sisters asked if we could do this. I had time so I agreed to help.
One Saturday I drove up to a house. I went in and met the mom who knew some English (much more than I knew Spanish.) She showed me the house and introduced me to the children. I was absolutely overwhelmed that this family had no furniture in the living room. The beds upstairs were mattresses on the floor, with the blankets folded neatly at the bottom. I did not see any toys.
I was deeply moved. It was the first time in my life that I met people who did not have the things that I had. I decided then and there that I needed to do something to change this. I asked my grandma, who was getting new furniture, if I could have her old couch and chairs. She agreed and the family was happy to accept it.
Then I got my dad and brothers to haul everything over to this family. The connection between this family and mine went on for some months. When the little girl made her first communion my mom baked and decorated a rosary cake for her.
This experience helped me to realize that if I wanted to make a difference in people's lives I could. I just had an experience of doing this. I also realized that the Sisters who taught me were very generous women and did much more than simply teach me during the week. The thought of being a Sister did not really return but I think this experience was fertilizer for my senior year.
In November of senior year we had our annual retreat. On one of the afternoons, the priest talked about vocations. He said, as I remember, "If you have a vocation, it is like a fragile flower for which you are eternally responsible."
Of course, this language made me think that if I was supposed to be a Sister and did not at least look into it, I might be heading myself towards hell. (Now, I know that is not correct, but at the time, it motivated me to talk about my thoughts on the subject.)
I went home that night and told my parents I had something very urgent to tell them. They were in the kitchen drinking coffee. I blurted out, "What would you say if I told you that I was thinking of being a Sister?"
There was a long silence while my dad got more coffee and then he said, "Well, what is the next joke?" I was really shocked and rather hurt. I thought my dad who knew our Sisters very well, and was very good to them, thought I was not good enough to do this, to become a Sister. I took this as a sign from God and I decided to let it all go.
However, I could not let it go. I fought with the idea daily for months. I tried to stop praying my usual prayers. I went to Mass on Sunday and I would say the Act of Contrition after I got into bed, just in case. I was mad at God for putting something in my head that seemed to everyone else to be a bad idea.
I struggled very much until I finally decided to talk to one of my teachers. She was very good to me. I am not sure she thought I was the type to be a Sister but she helped me anyway. I had wanted to be a Missionary. But when I realized that I had to go all the way to New York to train I decided to join the sisters I knew. That way I only had to go to Mankato and I could see my family once a month for at least the first year.
Even after I had all this information I just could not decided what to do. During Lent, on a Saturday night when I was baby-sitting two very small children, for some unexplainable and mysterious reason I suddenly just decided I needed to decide. I felt a deep sense of God's presence and I wrote a letter to the School Sisters of Notre Dame. I was accepted and I got ready to enter the convent in September.
God is very funny really and very patient, He knew I would love being a sister but he waited until I was ready. I have had so many blessings with this response. I have worked in Africa for seventeen years and now I help women decided if they are to respond to God's call as Sister.
In my present work in Vocation Ministry in the Archdiocese, I remember something that I did for many years. In fourth grade my teacher talked to us about all the vocations. She told us to say three Hail Mary's every day so we would know what God wanted us to do with our lives. I thought that was a very few prayers to say to get such a good result. So everyday for years I said the three Hail Marys. Looking back on it now I know this is why I finally was able to respond to God's invitation to me. I ASKED God and God told me.
Now I tell everyone, "Ask God and God will tell you. And, it is most important to remember when you are asking, God will never ask you to do anything that will not lead to your deep happiness."
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