Sometimes people pose the question: Why did you become a nun? Why did you enter the convent?
This prompts me to return to that moment years ago when I first thought about becoming a sister. I was in college and I had all the high ideals and lofty hopes typical of a young college student. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to change the world, I wanted to live a meaningful life. The notion of a religious vocation came into my life in this liminal space that was charged with high-minded dreams.
When the notion of vocation first struck me, it came loud and clear, fast and furious. I was gobsmacked. Who? Me? God? Calling? It took time to sort out the meaning of this experience. I explored, visited, prayed, and discerned. Yet I still remember the afternoon in my college dorm when I first intuited a call to religious life. For some it is a gentle tug, for others a deep longing, for others an undeniable certainty.
People also ask: Why do you stay? Why are you still here after all these years?
This is harder to answer. I could return to that first moment, that first sense of call. My life, with all its highs and lows, its consolations and desolations, has been a 'living out' of that first sense of call. Some say that when I come to religious life, the first decades make me who I am. There are the years of formation in which I deepen my sense of call, learn about religious life, about prayer, community, and mission. And then after the decade of initial formation, I begin living religious life. It becomes natural. My personal identity and my community identity become integrated. I am a Sister. I am a Sister of St. Joseph. After decades of religious life, you can take the sister out of the community, but you can't take the community out of the sister. So I stay because this is who I am, who I have become.
Am I happy? Yes. Do I struggle? Yes. Is it all worth it? Yes, and Yes, and Yes.