How does it feel to do what the Lord wants of you, rather than following your own desires?
Our Sunday Visitor recently spoke to two religious about heeding God’s call to something greater than what they had intended for their lives.
A mother for souls
Sister Mary Ignatius Nesbit was in college and hadn’t yet declared her major when God called her to something greater.
“Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and in Eucharistic adoration just captured my heart,” she said. “That’s when I first decided to give my life to him.”
Sister Nesbit, 25, of Des Moines, Iowa, made her temporary vows four-and-a-half years ago with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Mich.
It was a faith journey that almost took her by surprise.
“I hadn’t been introduced to the idea of religious life as a child,” she told Our Sunday Visitor. “I went to college for two years and was going back and forth trying to decide between (a major in) either philosophy or elementary education. Then it was really grace that came to me.”
Her first inkling had come while attending a youth conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Then her sister, Laura, started taking her to Mass and adoration.
“That really influenced me to deepen my prayer life,” she said. “A lot of discernment took place, and there were challenging moments. There were a whole lot of graces. I had a wonderful spiritual director who helped me.”
Sister Nesbit was attracted to the Dominican community for a number of reasons, primarily their devotion to the Eucharist and to Mary.
“They also emphasized spiritual motherhood, and I was very drawn to the idea that as a consecrated woman, I could be a mother for souls,” she said. “The vocations director helped guide me through the process, and she somehow knew that this was where I belonged. I was so grateful. It was like being picked up by grace and being put where I was supposed to be.”
She also saw it as a sign that not only was this “a beautiful community,” but that other young women were there, too.
“It’s been amazing to give myself in a complete way to God,” she said. “I have never been happier. The more I give to him, the more free I am, and the more happy I am.”
Adding up the pieces
Capuchin Brother Patrick Monahan was enjoying the many material things that a contemporary young man could have when he felt called to give it all up for God.
“I was on my own, living in my own apartment, driving my car, and I had financial independence,” he said.
|Brother Patrick Monahan with members of Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps. Courtesy photo
He also had life experiences that would prepare his heart for a religious vocation.
Brother Monahan grew up in a family that attended Sunday Mass together, lived with his devoutly Irish-Catholic grandmother, was an altar server, and in high school, he was always involved in retreat ministry.
“There was no thunderbolt,” he said about being drawn to the life of a Franciscan friar. “It was a lot of small things that just added up.”
Brother Monahan, 36, struggled to let go of his independence and, at age 20, entered Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio.
His intention was to study for the priesthood for his home Diocese of Cleveland. While there, he met men in formation for the Capuchin Friars of the Province of St. Augustine in Pittsburgh.
“I noticed that they lived a very rich life in prayer, and I wanted to do mission work,” he said.
He wanted to know more about them, so he took a leave of absence from the diocese, became a lay volunteer with the Capuchin province and was sent to teach at an inner-city school in Baltimore.
“I liked living with the friars, sharing a prayer life with them and working among the poor,” he said.
Last August, Brother Monahan professed his perpetual vows with the order and is now in Washington, D.C.
He will be assigned to mission work in Papua New Guinea in May.
“The people there are so wonderful and the land is beautiful,” he said. “It’s exciting and it can be challenging.”
But one of the biggest challenges he faced, he said, was turning his life over to God’s plans for him to become part of the “mendicant lifestyle” of a Capuchin missionary.
“For a young man to give it all up for a greater good, and to be able to do it with joy, even through an element of sacrifice — that’s the hardest part,” Brother Monahan said.
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.