Guest Columnists

For Years, I Wondered About My Vocation

by Sister Marie Mackey, C.S.J.

ALL STATES OF life well-lived are a source of joy for the individual and for the community at large. Whether the vocation is to marriage, single life, the priesthood or consecrated life, we all can identify when someone is truly happy and is a “good fit” in his or her ministry.

By our baptism, each and every one of us is called to holiness. The way we live out our vocation is different, and each vocational lifestyle has its own challenges and joys. What is important is that you find the vocation that gives meaning to your life, enables you to live fully and freely the Gospel of Jesus, and enables you to witness to the profound love of God and neighbor without distinction.

Whenever I am able to actually stop and count my blessings, one of the first on my list is always to have been blessed with a family that was very involved in our parish community.

While growing up in Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Ozone Park, it was commonplace to share our Sunday family dinners, summertime barbecues and holiday gatherings with the priests and sisters of the parish. These men and women, who had dedicated their lives as a witness to the mission of Jesus, were very much a part of our family, and their presence made our lives that much richer.

Despite my frequent exposure to clergy and religious, I had never thought much about religious life until I was invited by two different sisters from two different communities of women religious to seriously consider the possibility for myself. At the time, I was a senior in high school, and I already had my life planned out for the next 20 years. Entering the convent wasn’t part of my dream for the future.

As I moved through the remaining months of high school and four years of college, I began to look at the lives of the religious women I knew: the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood.

What I saw were women who were intelligent, gifted, compassionate, faith-filled, prayerful, creative, hard working, and joyful. Their lives were truly a gift to me and to the many they served.

For the next 19 years, I vacillated about religious life while teaching religion in several Catholic high schools in the Brooklyn Diocese and working with teens and young adults on the Girls’ Christian Awakening Program. I went on pilgrimages, earned a master’s in theology from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception and became a lay associate in a religious community. All the while, I wondered to which lifestyle I was called: Single? Married? Religious?

Finally, in 1998, at age 36, I felt confident in giving God my “Yes,” and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood.

Why did I say yes? As much as I felt fulfilled as a single woman, I believed I was being called to something more, and that included community life. I felt a strong attraction to a more expansive love and to being part of something bigger than myself.

Consecrated life has been a great joy for me, especially in community life and ministry. Walking this journey with other women who have given as many as 80 years of their lives serving God and God’s people is both humbling and energizing.

Looking back on the original founding of my community in France in 1650 and its subsequent founding in America in 1836, the Sisters of St. Joseph have always been about serving the dear neighbor and striving to imitate the self-emptying love of Jesus.

Discerning a vocation requires deep prayer and reflection, and the listening heart of a good spiritual director. Some things to consider if you are discerning a vocation to consecrated life include your ability to live a communal life and a life of service through ministry. A generous spirit, sense of humor and compassion for the poor and marginalized are essential. A willingness to not only engage in communal and personal prayer, but also to allow it to transform your heart is also important.

What greater joy is there than to serve God’s people and to do it with others who are committed to the Gospel?

Sister Marie is the director of young adult ministry and vocational discernment for the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood.

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