Why Sister? Why?

by Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

“You know, writing this blog for all of you, has become a great grace for me…”

Sister Marie Andre

Sister Marie Andre

Such a puzzled look I see on people’s faces sometimes. They just don’t get it. I do understand that the vocation of being a Catholic consecrated religious woman with vows is “out-of-the-box” for many people. They have some recollection of The Sound of Music or some other film which offers them Hollywood’s “take” on nuns in general. Also, in today’s culture, there are many consecrated religious who have chosen not to wear the traditional religious habit that we Carmelite Sisters wear. All of this brings about as Yul Brenner in The King and I stated so eloquently, “’Tis a puzzlement!”

People tell me, “Well if you are a teacher, you can still teach and do a great job of it and influence countless children without being a Catholic Sister. You can teach in a Catholic School as a lay teacher and do just as well.” Or, “Nursing is nursing. When I am sick, I want a good nurse, someone who knows what they are doing and are skilled at it. I have many superiorly-rated nurses tend to my family and me. They don’t need to be a nun to do that – to make a difference.”

It’s true, you know. The skill set of a lay teacher and a sister may be the same. Let’s go one further. It may even happen that the lay person has a superior set of skills, and is a more effective teacher or nurse.

So? Why do you go through a postulancy and a novitiate and six years of temporary vows and all the training and formation which these stages of formation entail? Why?

I suppose if you would ask this question of each one of my sisters, they would all come up with their own personal answer. Here’s mine. Being a Carmelite Sister is who I AM. Being a teacher is what I DO. When I DO what I DO as a Carmelite Sister, wearing a full habit and all of that, people think about God. One way or another. I am a reminder to them of both the here and the hereafter. Looked at another way, because my vows are pronounced in public and witnessed by a priest or bishop, and accepted IN THE NAME OF THE CHURCH, that means that wherever I AM SENT, wherever I am MISSIONED to work, I go in the name of God and the authority of His Church. What a blessed vocation I have.

So, when I teach or nurse, I am a delegate, an ambassador, an extension of the Church and ultimately of Christ.

You know, writing this blog for all of you, has become a great grace for me – a time of re-visiting my vocation, my vow day, my mission. Yes, today I’m going to pray about this and get down on my knees, yet again, and thank God for the tremendous privilege of receiving and answering His call. I am at peace. I am happy. I feel very unworthy, but at the same time God’s call to me was a strong one. It still is. Forever and ever. Amen.

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To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography in the left-hand sidebar and visit their website (link provided at the bottom of the bio).

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Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Grace Helena, OCD, Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801

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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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