THE DOMINICAN Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist – the name itself is a prayer. When I first met the community in 2000, it was only three years old and already growing rapidly. The Sisters’ full-length white habits and generous smiles bespoke their total self-gift and corresponding joy. In these religious sisters, I recognized the fulfillment of an unexpressed longing of my heart. Though life would bear me far from this moment, I never forgot.
The community is founded on two pillars – eucharistic and Marian devotion – that also anchored my childhood. I grew up attending daily Mass and reciting the Rosary each evening. Our pastor, Msgr. Joseph Funaro – grateful for a miraculous healing granted him at Lourdes – began every Mass with a hearty rendition of “Hail, Holy Queen” and ended with “Immaculate Mary.” He relished his priesthood and lived it with fidelity. When he instituted eucharistic adoration on Thursdays, a cherished custom began: After my parents had left for their weekly date, I would walk across Queens Boulevard to our parish and sink to my knees in my usual spot.
In high school, some of my closest friends knew that I was considering religious life, but it remained more or less a secret, especially as the appealing call of an academic career began to edge out God’s whispered invitation.
Acceptance to Harvard University solidified my conviction that academia was not only my plan but also God’s. I sailed along blissfully for three years, stimulated both personally and intellectually by wonderful friendships and challenging classes. But as applications for graduate school loomed, the old question returned: What did God want for my life? The desire for intimate union with Him resurfaced, as did the memory of the white habits and radiant smiles, first witnessed a decade before.
One Friday afternoon of junior year in college, I stepped into the chapel of my little Catholic residence and right into eucharistic adoration. Surprised, I slipped into a pew near the door just as the priest raised the Host in Benediction. I felt Christ asking if I would be His spouse, and I responded with an exuberant “Yes.”
The next year-and-a-half was grace-filled. I made the Total Consecration to Mary, according to the program of St. Louis Marie de Montfort. Perpetual eucharistic adoration began at a nearby church, and I spent an hour each week with Christ. In the stillness of the massive stone church, the only illumination the candles on the high altar, Our Eucharistic Lord spoke to my heart.
Reading the life of St. Dominic, I fell in love with this zealous priest and affectionate spiritual father who spent his days preaching and nights in prayer. I fell in love, too, with the mission entrusted to him: founding an order of itinerant preachers, whose teaching flows from and culminates in study and contemplation of the Truth.
Senior year concluded with my delivering the annual Latin oration at commencement. The attendant publicity entailed several interviews that invariably included the question, “What are you doing next year?” I enjoyed responding with the whopping, “Entering a convent.”
After graduation, at home in New York for the summer, I approached Msgr. Funaro one day after Mass for his blessing. I found him sitting in the sacristy and knelt to ask his prayers. “You have them,” he said. “Every day, I sit here and look at the statue of the Blessed Virgin and entrust to her all my intentions. Including your vocation.”
My vocation has brought me immeasurable joy, and the academic life I expected to leave behind is now deepened, as my Spouse trains my sights on the inexhaustible mystery of His Being. Belonging entirely to Him through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, I am able to bring to my Sisters and students alike the One who gazes upon us each morning during our hour of eucharistic adoration.
Less than two weeks after making my vows, monsignor passed away. I trust that he sees from heaven the grateful heart that animates this white habit and smiling face.
Sister Maria Veritas is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She grew up in Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish, Forest Hills.