By Sister Susan Rose Francois, CSJP
It’s almost become a cliché to talk about one’s vocation as coming via a “call from God,” as if there is a giant switchboard or cell phone tower in heaven that God uses to guide us to the lives we’re meant to live. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe, and know from personal experience, that God does have exciting, if sometimes unexpected, dreams for us. And I know that God uses many ways to awaken those dreams within, from prayer experiences to service opportunities, from challenging life moments to meaningful conversations with friends.
In my case, it took all of the above to awaken even the first inkling in my own heart of becoming a Catholic Sister. But in my late 20s, I was far too busy to really pay attention. And really, who was I to think that God wanted me to become a Sister anyway?
What was I so busy doing that I couldn’t answer a call from God? Well, my government job had turned into the career I’d always thought I wanted, with promotions and high profile assignments. I had a wonderful group of friends, although more and more of them seemed to be finding their own way to their life vocations of marriage and parenthood. And finally, I had become part of a vibrant Catholic parish, St. Philip Neri in Portland, Oregon, where I spent most of my weekends and many of my evenings. I taught 4- and 5-year-old Sunday school classes. I was on the pastoral council. As part of our peace & justice commission, I was able to help people who were poor and vulnerable in our community and to empower others in the parish to do the same. My life was busy and fulfilling. This was enough, I remember thinking. God can’t really expect me to become a Sister too.
In the end—although really it was the beginning—it wasn’t a call but an e-mail that helped break through all the busyness of my life. My pastor, Paulist Father Steve Bossi, had noticed how much life, energy and happiness I found in my parish volunteer work. He noted that this meant something and asked if I’d be willing to have a conversation about what that might be. The rest, as they say, is history.
Father Steve helped me find a spiritual director so I could sort through all the noise and listen more deeply to God’s call. He lent me a copy of the Vision Vocation magazine. I started researching different communities and stumbled across the website for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Soon I was attending a vocation retreat at their motherhouse on the shores of Lake Washington near Seattle. I felt peace and joy from the very beginning! Here was a group of women with the same spirit and desire to seek God’s gift of peace through justice that I had in my own heart. I began to see how I might be able to live a more integrated life, where my work was prayer, my prayer was the center of my life, and that life was lived in community. I professed perpetual vows in November 2011. However God managed to finally break through all the noise and busyness of my life, I am very grateful!
Sister Susan Rose Francois, CSJP is a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace. She is currently studying Theology and Ethics at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.