The Lord is great and mighty is His power! When I first started to imagine that I might have a vocation to the religious life, I was in wonder. The discernment process, for me, was gentle and soul revealing. Now, celebrating the 25th anniversary of my vows, I am very grateful to God for His wisdom and providence in my vocation.
I first met the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) at a vocations “Come and See” retreat. Sisters from various religious communities shared about how they participated in community prayer, the sacraments, and self-reflection, while striving for holiness and self-giving. As I listened to the sisters describe their life in a religious community and their ministries in education, health care, and parish work, I was amazed. In all their daily activities they were able to express how God worked in their lives. It was clear that life in a religious community of sisters is Christ-centered; all is for the love of God. My eyes were opened to the possibilities, and I started to see how God had been working in my own life.
Through meeting many of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon I appreciated that each one had different skills, talents, and personality. However, coming together in prayer, they were of one voice and heart. I fell in love with the sisters’ prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours followed by Holy Mass. When I first prayed with the sisters in their beautiful chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Beaverton, I found that their voices blended as they prayed and sang together. Their differences made a beautiful collage of prayer to God. I remember thinking, “I want to pray with these women all the days of my life.”
Through the eight-year process of discernment with the SSMO religious community, I found my place in ministry, community life, and outreach. The community provided classes for those discerning, which helped me understand and immerse myself in the sisters’ vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I studied and prayed with the community constitutions and statutes, and I embraced their charism. Other classes helped fill the gaps in my study of the Church and theology. At each stage, I progressed in realizing how much more there was to learn and experience.
The stages of initial formation gives a woman the freedom and time with the Lord to delve into her heart. Discernment is a process of prayer, spiritual direction, ministerial works, and interactions with those who live the life of prayer and service. Any women wanting to explore her vocational call to religious life needs to visit and pray with the communities that the Lord leads her to. It is like visiting a college campus. Not all communities are the same, but one will be the right fit.
If you think you are called to be in a religious community – try it out! With prayer and spiritual direction, the Holy Spirit will guide you to your heart’s desire and that is where God wants you to be.
Sr. Michael Francine Duncan, S.S.M.O., Superior General of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon