Harvard 2010 orator discusses her Dominican vocation

A recent Harvard orator who intends to become a Dominican sister says that the Catholic Church has promoted the well-being of women throughout its existence. Discussing how she discerned her vocation, she reports that the elite campus has a “very active” Catholic presence.

A native of Queens, New York, Mary Anne Marks is an alumna of Manhattan’s Dominican Academy. Graduating from Harvard University in 2010 with an undergraduate degree in classics and English, she delivered an oration to her graduating class in Latin.

Speaking in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online (NRO), Marks discussed her intention to join the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

She told Lopez that she felt privileged to be a visible representative of the Catholic Church because it is “an organization of sinners and sinners-turned-saints, emphatically alive, expanding, and responsive to the needs of the time.” The Church, she said, has been “enormously effective in promoting the spiritual and material well-being of women and men throughout the 2,000 years of its existence.”

Marks credited the Church’s teachings about human equality and Catholic reverence for Mary as the Mother of God for elevating the status of women. The Church’s “unequivocal opposition” to abortion and contraception make the Church “a lone voice above the chaos, promoting women’s dignity and happiness,” she told NRO.

Noting the need for women religious to witness to “supernatural realities” through their lives, she told how she committed herself entirely to her vocation during a trip to Lourdes before eighth grade.

“I had lived a double life, drawn on the one hand to immerse myself in the beauty of my faith, on the other to imitate the less than edifying dress, speech, and behavior of my classmates,” she commented.

At Lourdes Marks was filled with a yearning to love God “at all times in everything I did.”

“Freed from the need to conform to others’ standards and willing to make Love the ruling principle of my life, I could speak unashamedly and sincerely of my desire to become a sister.”

She said she was discerning with the Ann Arbor Dominicans because they are “on fire to spread the witness of faithful religious life.”

“They combine love for the monastic traditions of the Dominican order passed down since the thirteenth century with a zeal for Pope John Paul II’s new evangelization and for the challenges of today,” Marks commented. “Their particular devotion to Mary and to Christ’s Eucharistic presence is evident in the community’s name.”

Asked how she pursued a spiritual life at Harvard, Marks replied: “Only the grace of a religious vocation gave me the insight and willpower to carve out a part of each day for prayer.”

She reported that Harvard’s strong Knights of Columbus group, its “very active” Catholic Student Association, and men’s and women’s nearby Opus Dei houses are complements to the two parish churches within walking distance of the campus.

Harvard faculty expressed “many positive responses” to her plans. Some had siblings in the religious life, while one suggested that academics could appreciate a life of contemplation. Classmates were generally happy to learn of her plans and some also began deeply personal discussions with her about unbelief and Catholic sexual ethics.

Marks is not the only recent Harvard graduate to pursue a religious vocation in the Church. She told NRO’s Lopez that a young man who finished Harvard in three years entered the seminary several years ago, while before him a woman joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. One of Marks’ friends who pursued a degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government joined the Religious Sisters of Mercy, while on July 25 two Harvard men joined the Eastern Province of the Dominicans.

Marks wants to become a teacher because she has always been “exhilarated” by the prospect of giving to children “the solid grounding in their faith that I never received in school.”

She advised young women considering a vocation to spend time each day in conversation with Jesus, especially before the Blessed Sacrament.

“You can’t know what He desires for you if the two of you aren’t good friends. Ask Him and His mother for guidance.”

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“When Love asks you to be His spouse, you don’t quibble about the when and where … anything worthwhile in life requires an ongoing, freely willed surrender of one’s freedom,” she told NRO’s Lopez.

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