Hello, my name is Sr. RéAnne…I am a member of the congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. I made my final vows in 1999 and am presently working in urban Aboriginal ministry in Regina, SK. I would like to share with you my personal vocation story.
I am the youngest of six children and grew up most of my life in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. When I was a young child I was close to God and saw Jesus as a friend. However, as an adolescent, I began to stray away from him, looking for acceptance and love in different ways. I was like a chameleon, changing myself to fit into every group. I went to church on Sundays but God was not first in my life. I felt divided…something was missing in my life.
In 1988 at the beginning of my first year of University I met a very holy priest who invited me to a retreat weekend. After much hesitation I finally agreed to go. It was at this retreat that I fell in love with Jesus Christ, experiencing his unconditional love. I realised that my faith needed to be the most important thing in my life. When walking into the church for the closing mass at this retreat we were welcomed with the song: “Sing Alleluia”, a song that represented for me the new life that I experienced. I felt like a precious seed had been planted in my heart. It was up to me now to nurture it.
I began sharing my faith with other young Catholics involved with a group at the University of Saskatchewan Campus called Catholic Christian Outreach. A vocation to religious life was not something I was thinking about, in fact, I had always wanted to be married with many children. However, the Lord had his hand on me. A year after my retreat experience Jesus touched me deeply at the Easter Vigil.
In the darkened church I watched as our parish priest carried up the Pascal Candle. I said a very simple prayer to the Lord as I gazed at the burning flame: “Lord, I want to be a light to all nations”. I was thinking in terms of missionary life. Then I heard something in my heart: “Ré Anne, would you be light to all nations by becoming my spouse, my bride?” How do I describe my reaction to this: Great Joy? No….it was fear! I said: “Dear God, not this, I’ll do ANYTHING for you, but do not ask me to be a nun!!”
Being a sister seemed so radical and different; as well I did not know any sisters. However despite this inner turmoil there was a deep sense of peace within me. I spoke with my parish priest and he told me not to look for any BIG signs, but to let the desire grow in my heart. He said that whatever God’s will was for me it would bring me complete joy not misery. I made a decision that night to simply remain open to the idea.
A few months later I was invited to attend a BBQ that the Sisters the Presentation were hosting for the youth. I discovered that these sisters ran a discernment house for young women who wanted to discern their vocation. What struck me the most was seeing how happy these sisters were. One of my fears I had in choosing this vocation was that my life would become boring, unfulfilling with little joy. This fear was erased that evening after witnessing their joy and zest for life. I eventually moved into the house and began a process of discernment that took practical steps in helping me discern God’s call.
During my two years there I grew in my relationship with Jesus, experienced community living with other young women who were thirsting for God like me, and was blessed by the love and support the sisters offered. This time of discernment did not come without its challenges as the desire to be married and have children remained.
One evening in turmoil, I went for a walk by the river in Saskatoon. I cried out to God to somehow let me know that I was on the right path. Suddenly I heard a song in the distance and as it grew louder I realised it was “Sing Alleluia” (my retreat song that had changed my life!). This song was being sung by a married couple who were walking in my direction. They had two small children with them and it was obvious that they were in love! They came right up to me, and seeing that I was crying they asked me if they could help. I said: “Please pray for me as I think God is using you to speak to me about something I am discerning in my life.”
They promised to pray for me and I watched them walk away hand in hand. What was God saying to me? Was he calling me to marriage? This is what I heard him say: “I want you to see the beauty in marriage but that I am calling you to a different kind of marriage. I want you to be my spouse and a mother to the world”. I now see how I am a mother in many ways…nurturing, loving, giving life to those I minister to. This experience made me value the equality and beauty of all vocations.
Eventually it became very clear that I was called to a religious vocation and this brought me such an incredible peace and joy. I felt drawn to the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. I wanted to live the charisms and vision of this community as it is part of who I am: a passionate love for Jesus Christ, evangelization, a strong sense of community, love of the poor, simplicity and joy. My vocation is one of the greatest gifts in my life, and I love it with all its joys and struggles. It has brought me such fulfillment.
My union with God rooted in prayer has truly impregnated me to give birth to love at the heart of the world. I am so grateful that God had called me to generously share this love through my ministry with Aboriginal people and prison ministry. My work in both these areas is about creating a culture that fosters healing, reconciliation and liberation; a community devoted to building relationships can help nurture inner freedom, rooted in justice and respect. My motto for life is from Micah 6:8…to love tenderly act justly and walk humbly with God.