Despite my cognizance that Holy Scripture should resonate with every human heart, I always am “surprised by delight” when the Holy Spirit communicates through lectio divina. Psalm 87 sings my vocation story.

His foundation is on holy mountains.
The Lord prefers the gates of Zion to all Jacob’s dwellings.
Of you are told glorious things, O city of God!

My foundations were truly on “holy mountains,” a loving Domestic Church. That is, I was the “miracle baby” of Drs. Faye and Stephen Usala. I was born three years after my mother had been told that she would be unable to conceive.

Later, two brothers and one sister joined the ranks of the Usala clan. We were nurtured as one happy family in Cleveland, Ohio; then Gaithersburg, Maryland; then Greenville, North Carolina; then Amarillo, Texas. (Dad was a Medicine Resident in Cleveland; an Endocrine Fellow in Bethesda, Maryland.; an Academic Professor in North Carolina; and then a Clinical Physician in Texas.) Despite the many moves, I was taught to prefer “the gates of Zion”—the Holy Catholic Church—wherever I landed. The Church was universally present to me.

At three months of age, although I did not know it at the time, I received my vocation as a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, when I was baptized in the Holy Catholic Church. I received the last rite of initiation—confirmation—at St. Thomas parish in Amarillo, Texas. Despite the sacramental preparations, I did not seriously open my heart to a vocation to religious life until after my mother became seriously ill when I was 12 years old. Her diagnosis and recovery were truly an act of Divine Providence and made me conscious of what glorious things the Lord does. As Religious Sisters of Mercy, our Institute is founded on Calvary, and it is thus fitting that I attribute my own experience of the Cross—my mother’s illness—as the time when I started to seriously pray about my vocation.

“Babylon and Egypt I will count among those who know me;
Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia, these will be her children.
And Zion shall be called ‘Mother’ for all shall be her children.”

Despite my awareness that I likely had a religious vocation, I chose exile when I was applying for college. I purposely chose a Babylon and Egypt—Bryn Mawr—a secular school without a strong Christian presence. I wanted to pursue an academic career like Dad, and I believed at the time that I could not be “academic” and “religious” at the same time. However, my preconceptions were incorrect. My quantum mechanics professor—a devout woman and cantor at the local Augustinian parish—taught me how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. My roommate, a fellow chemistry major, would pray Compline with me. In prayer, I realized that the Blessed Mother was claiming me as her child even when I had attempted to flee.

It is he, the Lord Most High, who gives each his place.
In this register of peoples he writes:
“These are her children,”
And while they dance they will sing:
“In You all find their home.”

In the summer after my junior year in college, I began to write my application to medical school. However, I realized that my heart was not in my application. The Lord Most High gives each his place, and it was becoming clear that my place was with a Religious Community. I asked a community of Sisters that I knew from childhood to help me find my place. They told me to look to the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan.

When I visited the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, I felt at home: in their way of life, in their prayer, in their service. Thus, I entered the Community in September 2007, a few months after my graduation from Bryn Mawr. As a novice, I received the name “Sister Grace Miriam.” My patroness is Our Lady of Sorrows, who is full of grace. It was at the foot of the Cross that I started to be cognizant of my vocation and with Our Lady’s assistance that I finally had the courage to respond to Our Lord’s call. Hence, it is fitting that my Mother is my religious patroness.

With the help of the Community, it was discerned that my love for learning was a gift. As an expression of my fourth vow of service, I was asked to complete medical school. I graduated from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 2017. I am currently a Pediatric and Internal Medicine Resident Physician at Georgetown University Hospital.

The running thread of my story is that every aspect of my personality and experience has been enriched, not stifled, by responding to our Lord’s call. Truly, my God, in You all find their home.