Repaying a debt: My journey to life as a Dominican sister

Sister Maximilian Marie, O.P.

Photo courtesy of Sr. Maximilian Marie, O.P.
It was the year 2000 and I was in Rome. It was the first homily I had ever heard about the nature of religious life. I was 26 – a single laywoman raised in a devout Catholic home. By this point I had been a daily communicant for six years.

The priest was an American but familiar with Rome. He was an alumnus of the Pontifical North American College, and for those 10 days the chaplain for our World Youth Day pilgrimage. He preached about things like “spousal intimacy,” “Christ the Bridegroom,” and “spiritual motherhood.”

Those words dropped like a ton of bricks on my searching soul. They resonated with what had always been tugging on my heart. I never knew this was the nature of a religious sister. It seemed to me a life that was just a pile of “no's.”

Two days later I explained to Father the details of my life's journey over a cheeseburger in an airport restaurant. I described the stirring in my heart in response to his preaching, the Lord's beckoning me that followed, and the unmistakable desire to respond by giving myself exclusively to Christ.

He lost all interest in the All-American burger and fries sitting before him. I knew it was serious. He was as surprised as me.

He put down his burger, looked me in the eye and said, “I think you might have a call to religious life.” I knew he was right, but needed to hear the words. I still credit my vocation to him. Thirteen years later, I was again in Rome, this time as a finally professed religious sister.

And not only that, but opening a mission for our community to serve as librarians at the Pontifical North American College. And the cherry on top was the very priest that inspired my vocation now resided in Rome and taught a class at the North American College.

My life, and now my religious life had come full circle. But not just a circle – it was more like cosmological expansion.

I was giving back the gift to the institution that formed the priest who was the instrument for me finding my vocation. Now, two years later, the words of St. Pope Pius X often come to mind: “every priestly vocation comes from the heart of God, but passes through the heart of a Mother.” It is altogether evident that The Pontifical North American College has rediscovered this key to priestly vocations, as have many American priests and parishes, bishops and dioceses.

How many priestly vocations have been inspired and preserved by the lives of Sisters and their prayers? Being a woman religious among our nation’s seminarians is a constant opportunity to encourage them to seek and search for Him as they journey toward ordination. Moreover, it is a Dominican Sister’s dream: our love for study compelled by zeal for souls finds a nice home in a theological library, even more so for one in a seminary.

With the charism of St. Dominic we know that running the library is an important work. But in the image our patroness Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, we know the more important 'work' we do here is the witness of spousal intimacy with Christ.

When I trace the lines of love in this story, I see a sketch of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist: the relationship between Mary and her Son; the relationship between Mary and the Eucharist; the relationship between Mary and her Priests. And here I am as a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, invited to participate profoundly in that relationship and in her Motherhood.

The seminarians, and the priests that serve them, have found a special place in our maternal hearts and prayers. I praise God that He has brought me full circle to repay Him for the gift of my vocation and so live out the heart of our identity as Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Topics: Faith , Marian devotion , Personal Growth , Reflections , Religious Vocation , Women in the Church

Sister Maximilian Marie, O.P. serves as a librarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. In 2009, she made her final vows with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

View all articles by Sister Maximilian Marie, O.P.

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