COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Catholic Sisters today look very different from women who became sisters 40 years ago. And it has nothing to do with whether or not they wear a habit.
As we celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, the Dominican Sisters of Peace are a good example of what is different about sisters today.
Before becoming a Dominican, Sister Ana Gonzalez, 36, spent 10 years as a public relations representative for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in El Paso, Texas, the world’s largest multicultural border community. She came to the US from Mexico City when she was ten years old.
Sister Margaret Uche, 51, grew up in a Catholic family in Nigeria and attended a convent school there for a short time. She came to the United States 34 years ago to go to college in Minnesota and transferred to California State University-Dominguez Hills, where she received a degree in biology.
Both women represent a new cultural diversity in religious life.
Sister Ana and Sister Margaret both said their decision to enter the congregation came after a long period of self-examination. Both left busy secular careers because they felt something missing in their lives, which they believe they have found in the Dominican way of life.
“I had my master’s degree, was turning 30 and had been working for 10 years and was a workaholic, but felt empty inside,” Sister Ana said. “I felt defined by what I was doing, not who I was. I began questioning my spirituality. As I searched, the question of entering the religious life began to surface. I hadn’t considered it before, but recalled my interaction with talented, educated, dynamic Dominican Sisters of Peace. I could feel something in me being stirred that was blossoming and life-giving.”
Ana said one of the biggest difficulties she had to overcome in connection with her lifestyle change was the opposition of her father. “My mother always wanted me to get an education first and become a professional, but my father felt a woman’s role should be that of a wife and mother,” she said. “He has come to respect my choice, though he may not understand it. He says he just wants me to be happy. My mother was concerned at first that I would be lonely, but now that she has seen how I interact with the other sisters, she knows that won’t be a problem. I found a lot of joy and laughter with the sisters,” Sister Ana said. “They encouraged me to grow.”
Sr. Margaret is a native of Nigeria who studied nursing at the University of Houston. “Nigerian culture believes a woman should not live alone at home, but I didn’t think marriage was the right thing for me,” Sister Margaret said. “My relatives in Nigeria were very concerned, and one of them told me she said she spoke to a wise man who said I should consider praying about my vocation. I followed that advice, and my mind and heart began to open. As I met the Dominican Sisters of Peace, I became touched by their love and compassion and felt, ‘This is it.”
“Both my parents are deceased, but I think they would be very happy and supportive of my decision if they were alive today. I have a brother in Texas and one in Nigeria, plus four sisters in Nigeria, and they’re also pleased about it.
Women entering religious life today reflect a more complex story and a growing cultural diversity among US Catholics, Sr. Ana and Sr. Margaret and good examples of the trend.
National Vocations Awareness Week, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question: “To what vocation in life is God calling me?