I was raised in a Catholic family and grew up in the country in central Illinois. I had a good childhood with my older brother and younger sister. We enjoyed the nearby support of extended family, and I grew up swimming, playing volleyball, softball, piano and clarinet. My family went to Sunday Mass, prayed before meals and before bed, and sometimes had our own family nights, when we would do an activity and learn about God. We had Bibles and daily devotional books and listened to Christian music. I also went on mission trips and to conferences, through the Christian church nearby. I was blessed to have faithful people around me, though at the time my heart was not deeply close to God.
At a young age I focused on being liked and trying to be perfect. I had a very sensitive heart. Little by little, I became more “of the world,” and in high school I started to open myself up to environments that led me further away from God, good friends, and my family. After graduating, I began college at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. There I grew in many ways, but I also felt the weight of living somewhat of a double life. Although I had a relationship with God and was going to church, I still was at times trying to live according to the ways of the world.
My sophomore year, I began to go to a Christian Bible study where I encountered people who loved Jesus authentically. Drawn to their witness, I started going weekly, eventually becoming a leader. One semester I participated in a “busy student retreat”. I met for four days with a spiritual guide and was expected to pray for 30 minutes a day. I was not in the practice of having daily quality time with the Lord. My guide was a religious sister and, while I wasn’t particularly drawn to her way of life, as I met with her the thought pierced me – “What if I’m called to be a sister?” At the time this was not something I desired at all. I had had minimal exposure to religious life, and from what I knew, this was not what I wanted for my life. I wrestled with this thought periodically, yet it became evident that God kept was placing this on my heart. I kept dating but also started to expose myself to religious life. I finished college, having studied psychology, theology, and communication studies. After a gap year, in the fall of 2017 I pursued my Master of Social Work degree at the University of Iowa. When I moved for school, I also made the commitment to pray every day. The Lord slowly began to mold me more deeply, as the potter molds the clay, revealing His love, expanding my heart, and ridding me of many attachments. A semester later, I was convicted that continuing my relationship with my boyfriend was not God’s will, and we broke up after nearly three years of dating. It was very difficult, yet as I grew in relationship with the Lord, there was a deep sense that I was called to “more.”
Months later, in the spring of 2018, I unexpectedly saw the CFR sisters at an event, where I listened to a talk given by Mother Clare. We received a free copy of her book Discerning Religious Life, which became an incredible guide along my journey. To my surprise, my heart was captivated by the sisters’ beauty and humanity. I was still afraid, but my heart started to soften that day. In early 2019, I spent time with the sisters at a FOCUS conference. Through attending Mass together, talking and laughing with the sisters, noticing their joy and purity, and encountering them throughout those four days, I was filled with great awe, joy, and desire.
I graduated that spring and began working at a Christian residential counseling program for women, as a goals coach and program coordinator. It was by His grace that I found this; it was a perfect fit. During the next two years I began to learn to truly love the women we served, rather than simply providing a service as a social worker. Over this time I visited several religious communities, yet my heart was always strongly drawn back to the CFRs. The Lord made it clearer to me that He was inviting me to be totally His, affirming this through encountering Him in the Scriptures, particularly through the various accounts of the woman who anointed Jesus. I, too, felt this call, to anoint Him with my life. By the kindness of God, belonging to Jesus alone became my desire. In early 2021, I asked to apply, and during the application process the sisters encouraged me to take another year for formation, offering their missionary program in New Jersey. What a tremendous gift this was! This past year I served there as a missionary, where I experienced the fullness of community life. I received so much grace and love during the missionary year – it was the perfect next step for me.
Upon the end of the missionary program, I did not know what was coming next. But the Lord was orchestrating every detail. Through the grace of another beautiful Come & See visit, I felt deep peace, joy, and the sense of being at home. On that visit, I joyfully asked to reapply to our community. The Lord kept opening the next door, and by His strength I kept walking, even through the door of Blessed Solanus Casey Convent, where I entered on September 12th! What an adventure it continues to be.