Here is the story of how God, in His great mercy and patience, has led me to the CFR sisters.
I was born in Brooklyn, NY, the third of six siblings. (I have a twin sister, Theresa, who was born one minute ahead of me.) We were raised in an Irish Catholic household, going to Sunday Mass and reciting the rosary as a family every night. My mother would read us the lives of the saints; I remember particularly loving the stories of the martyrs and missionaries. We moved to Queens, where I went to Catholic grade school. From an early age we were involved in volunteer service projects and pro-life work.
I wanted a relationship with God, but my understanding of Him was based on following rules and trying to do good things to earn His approval. At this time, I was not attracted to religious life at all— I wanted to be a movie star or an Olympic athlete. I wanted to be independent, self-sufficient, and tough, so I gradually and purposely shut down my heart and emotions, thinking of these as messy and unimportant.
However, I still desired a relationship with Jesus — I knew He died for me, so I wanted to give my life in service to Him. Towards the end of high school, I decided I wanted to study nursing, with the idea of becoming a medical missionary. Thanks to my parents, I firmly believed the truth was in the Catholic Church, but I still had a lot of questions. When I saw an ad for Franciscan University of Steubenville, I knew I wanted to go there. I especially wanted a good foundation in medical ethics.
It was at Franciscan University that I first really encountered other people my own age who were excited about being Catholic. Through the many opportunities for prayer, daily Mass, household life, and retreats, God gradually started breaking down the walls I had built around my heart. After graduation in 2010, I returned to New York City and began working as a nurse, with the goal of gaining some experience before beginning to travel and do mission work. I started volunteering at St. Anthony’s free medical clinic, run by the CFR friars, and also volunteering with the Sisters of Life. This was the first time I encountered religious up-close; I was immediately attracted to their genuine joy and the way they seemed more fully alive than anyone else I had ever met.
I first met the CFR sisters in 2014 through volunteering with my sister Theresa at Fr. Solanus Soup Kitchen in Harlem. We were both struck by how loving the sisters were to their guests and also how loved we felt among them. We kept coming back to volunteer at the soup kitchen, and then at Harlem Summer Life and Upper Room Youth Group. I started to question if maybe I could be happy as a sister, but it was quite a foreign and scary concept for me at the time. Still, I felt restless and desired to know what God wanted of me, so I asked the friars at the clinic to help me find a spiritual director. Through my spiritual director I experienced a lot of healing and a new and growing realization of God as my loving Father.
Over the next few years I continued working in the ER in the Bronx and went on medical mission trips to Haiti and Honduras. I felt increasingly drawn to spend time with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration. The question of a religious vocation was still on my mind, but I was waiting for God to ask in an audible voice. Since I didn’t hear anything, I thought it wasn’t what He wanted for me. By 2018, I became burnt-out at my ER job and decided to try mission nursing full-time, as missions were the times I really loved being a nurse. I traveled to South Sudan with Catholic Medical Mission Board and worked for one year at a small rural hospital, hoping to finally find my place in the world. It was both a beautiful and a difficult experience; I learned in a much deeper way my own littleness and to trust in our loving and good Father in the midst of suffering and death. However, I still had not found my home. After the year-long commitment, I returned to the US and started a new ER job just as Covid-19 hit New York City. I can see God’s providence in preparing my heart for this time of crisis through the difficulties in South Sudan. Needless to say, I was quite busy at work, but with so many things shut down, I could no longer volunteer and “do all the things” that had filled my life before. I increasingly felt the Lord calling me to rely on Him alone. Doing all the work was not enough; I needed to give Him my heart.
In the fall of 2020, I signed up for NY Samuel Group (a young adult formation program run by Mother Clare), which helped me become more consistent in prayer. I learned to see how the Lord has been guiding me and is continuing to guide me— how to finally “listen” to Him move in my heart. Through Samuel Group, I also started going to the Avow Discernment Group with the CFR sisters. I went on two come-and-see visits with the CFRs that spring and also visited the Missionaries of Charity. Another visit to the CFRs in the fall confirmed for me that Jesus has been leading me here. I asked for an application, and He continued to open doors for me every step of the way. I was received as a postulant on September 12, 2022, and hope to continue to give my heart to Him with joy every day.