I was blessed to grow up in a practicing Catholic family. We also lived very close to my maternal grandparents, who were examples of faith and daily prayer. Looking back, I think that my earliest ideas of religious life came from reading about the saints; from watching movies such as the Sound of Music; and from hearing stories about the sisters who been the grade-school teachers of my grandfather and mother.

Already by the time I was finishing high school, the first thoughts that perhaps I should think about whether my own vocation was to be a sister had come into my mind. The idea was especially present in the hours of Eucharistic adoration to which I sometimes went with my mom early on First Friday mornings. My senior year, I decided to go to Franciscan University of Steubenville. I wanted a college where the practice of the Catholic faith would be important, and where I would have a community of Catholic friends. Interestingly enough, I also remember thinking once, “Plus, I’ll see sisters there, and if that is my vocation, it is important that I know more about them.” At the same time, the possibility of having a religious vocation seemed something that belonged to a distant future. At that point, I was focused on choosing a major and getting a college education.

During my first years at Franciscan University, I began going to Mass daily and frequenting the Sacrament of Penance often. I found good Catholic fellowship and I learned more about the faith as I studied theology. I also had a good friend who encouraged me to make time every day to pray. In the spring of my sophomore year, I spent a semester abroad at our campus in Austria. There was daily Eucharistic Adoration there as well. I signed up for an hour a day, four days a week. This time of prayer was a key to my discernment.

As the weeks passed, I came to know Jesus more closely in the Blessed Sacrament, and I really missed being with Him in those daily Holy Hours on the weekends that we were travelling. The idea of a religious vocation kept coming back to me, more and more strongly. I began to feel that if I were to get married, I would be divided. How would I be able to both take care of my husband and family, and still devote the time and attention to prayer to which I felt God was calling me? I began to realize that not everyone around me experienced this same conflict within themselves. It was a sign that maybe God was inviting me in a special way to a kind of life focused on Him. By the time that semester ended, I was pretty sure that my vocation was to religious life.

Even though, at that point, I was feeling a strong call to religious life, I was also frightened by what that could mean. The examples of some of the sisters I met at the university helped to dispel my trepidation. They seemed joyful and peaceful. Finally, as I continued to pray, I was able to say, “God, you made me. You know me. You know what will be good for my life. If this is my vocation, I trust you that it is the vocation that will make me the happiest.”

When I graduated from Steubenville, I was still not quite ready to take the step of entering a religious community. I was accepted into a Master’s Degree in theology program just starting at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida. My two years there gave me additional formation in the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church, including an introduction to the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. By the end of that time, I was also more certain that my vocation was to religious life. As I began to hear of peers from college getting engaged and married, I wanted to follow the invitation of my own spouse, Jesus. I promised myself that I would look seriously into religious communities. Two priests independently suggested that I should look at the Religious Sisters of Mercy in Alma, Michigan. Finally, I contacted their vocation director and made an appointment to visit after graduation.

When I arrived in Alma, there were many signs that this was the community for me, including the way I felt at home among the sisters, the sense that I had a connection to Mother Catherine McAuley, and the fact that Saint Thomas Aquinas is the Heavenly Patron of our community. The Holy Spirit also moved me interiorly to know that my response to these signs would have an impact on the rest of my life. I was being given a moment of grace, and I could choose to say yes, or I could hesitate and risk letting that special invitation from God slip away. I had such a sense of certainty that this was place where I was supposed to be that I soon wrote a letter asking to enter the community. Over the next months, the timing of my entrance and a number of practical matters were worked out, and I entered postulancy on September 8, 2006. The years since then have been filled with many blessings (including professing final vows in 2014) and confirmations of God’s providence continuing to guide my life.