This vocation story doesn’t have any astounding “Paul-falling-off-his-horse” moments. But when I look back on how the events of my life led me to where I am today, I do have “fall-back-two-or-three-steps-in-awe” moments. The Lord is present in our lives in so many ways and we have to learn how to be attentive to Him. Sometimes we don’t realize how close He’s been until we reflect on the events of our lives.

Growing up in suburban Long Island, our family life was centered in our faith. My dad would leave the house early in the morning to attend daily Mass before work in Manhattan. Mom never did learn to drive, but she would send her children off to daily Mass in the summer school holidays on our bicycles and eventually when all the kids were old enough, she set off walking herself. Of course, there was the family evening rosary as well. Our parish school was well-staffed by Sisters and it was early on that it wasn’t unusual to speak about wanting to be a Sister like them. They were kind and when we were allowed into the entryway of the convent for some errand, it was with whispered wonderment that we waited for the Sister to appear.

As parish school gave way to high school and, while I attended the parish youth group with enthusiasm, “being a Sister” also faded into the back of my mind. I’d say I was a pretty typical high school student with classes, clubs. In addition, out of the blue I landed an after-school job working in a dental office as an assistant.

Twelfth grade brought the inevitable, “What will you do after high school?” question. With my parents’ encouragement, I had majored in business subjects in high school and being the competitive type, did very well! While some students tried out for team sports, I was polishing high speed typing and short-hand writing skills (yes, this was the era before computers) which led to a Wall Street job offer. At the same time, I took the state college scholarship exam—just because my college-bound friends were doing it. To my astonishment, I won a scholarship! At the same time, the question arose in my heart once again about becoming a Sister. What was a girl to do?

I realized I had to speak with someone and after building up courage, I spoke with one of the parish priests. He was responsible for the youth group and had been solicitous in visiting my mother who had been seriously ill the year before. After hearing me out about the job, the scholarship and my desire to be a Sister (I knew I just wanted to BE for the Lord), he told me something I didn’t expect: I certainly should accept the scholarship and “we’d work on the vocation.” I trusted him, decided on dental hygiene since I had the dental office experience and I wasn’t inspired to anything else. He soon told me about the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma whom he had met not long before and gave me the contact information. Their apostolates included education and health care.

I began a correspondence with the Sisters; they were a new Institute and did not have any convent but their house in Michigan. Soon, it was time to talk to my parents. I first told my mother, then my dad. Both of them were quite encouraging in their responses. I had opportunities to meet the Sisters in person when they came East for various reasons. Then, I took two weeks during a semester break to visit them in Michigan—in the height of winter. It began in a nerve-wracking way: somehow the travel agency which booked my plane ticket, booked it for a similarly-named airport in Georgia. I didn’t know this until I was actually on the plane and heading south instead of west. (It’s too long a hilarious story to recount here, though at the time I was mortified).

In Alma I was introduced to the Sisters’ prayer life, their apostolate and so many things! By the time I left, I had asked to enter following graduation from college the upcoming June. This I did and began postulancy. I worked as a dental hygienist off and on for the following ten years depending on what stage of formation I was in. There was also the opportunity to learn some carpentry since one of the Community’s friends was a carpenter and offered to teach me as he did renovations on the century-old house which is still our Motherhouse Convent.

Since entering in 1976, I have lived in a number of our convents in the US. In 1998, I received a pontifical doctoral degree in sacramental theology in Rome and came back to the US to teach in a seminary. After a few more years in the US, I was missioned to begin our first foundation in Sydney Australia with two other Sisters. This foundation is approaching its tenth anniversary and I have been gifted to see new life blossoming here in various ways.

The “fall-back-two-or-three-steps-in-awe” moments with which I began this story are those moments in the intervening years where I clearly saw the hand of God connecting the dots: from the unexpected dental office position, to the scholarship, to a health care Community not even located in New York, … even to the phone call from the Mother General sending me to Sydney. The Lord of surprises, as Pope Francis has said, just wants us to take one small step in good faith; God then does the rest.