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Turning My “No” to a Grateful “Yes” 

Blog by Sr. Ellen Coates, OP

“No, no… No, no, no!” 

That was my immediate, and emphatic response to the suggestion that instead of taking a ministry opportunity in public health, my area of expertise, I should consider a position as pastoral associate in a very large parish. “No, you can’t mean me!  You don’t want me – I don’t know anything about being a pastoral minister!  I’m not trained for that!  I don’t have any experience!  How can I possibly do that?!”  It took a few minutes, but the prioress calmed me down. We talked about the position, and she invited me to take a few days to consider the option and discern–in other words spend time in prayer--trying to get past the noise in my brain so that I could listen to what God might be trying to tell me.   

Over the next several days my brain continued to scream “No!”  Yet, God seemed to be whispering a different answer to my heart.  Every time I thought of this daunting new ministry I started smiling, and I had to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit seems to speak to me through a smile that starts in my heart and wells up to my face.  So, I said yes, and I couldn’t be more grateful.   

As in most new ministries, I have met interesting people, made new friends, and learned new skills.  But, if I had said “No” to this particular ministry, I would have missed the opportunity to learn from and to get to know Sisters who have served in similar ministries and who have generously shared with me their wisdom and experience. 

I also would have missed out on the special gifts of pastoral work.  I have been humbled and inspired by homebound parishioners who are moved to tears when they receive the Eucharist.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, I’ve been able to offer comfort to those facing terrible losses.  And I definitely would never have experienced helping with RCIA, and then seeing the joy on the faces of the candidates and catechumens as they received their sacraments at the Easter vigil.  I’m still smiling, and now I know why.  And on my desk I keep a copy of Jeremiah 20:11:  " ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ "  

What new opportunity is God calling you to consider?  What new joy will be revealed to you when you say “Yes” to this new opportunity to grow?  Might God be calling you to follow in Jesus’ footsteps to offer comfort and hope to those in need as a religious sister?  We are here to walk with you in your discernment and invite you to contact us to begin this journey.

13 thoughts on “Turning My “No” to a Grateful “Yes” 

  1. What a lovely and moving description of how the Living God communicates with us. Sometimes we don’t know our deepest desires until we’re asked to move outside of our comfort zones. We don’t totally abandon our former loves; they become part of us in a new way. I’ve literally moved 23 times as an itinerant Dominican. Just residences, not that many different ministries. Always a stretch. Always a new experience of God.

  2. Ellen, I smiled the whole time I was reading your blog.
    It is amazing how in the lest expected places one finds one’s Nitch ! Parish ministry, especially the RCIA
    process, is both humbling and rewarding. Continued
    blessing in you new ministry.

  3. Ellen, thank you for sharing your unexpected joy in parish ministry, especially the RCIA process. I know you will be sharing that joy with all whom you meet.
    Peace as you continue the journey.

  4. I just knew you would love pastoral ministry, and especially the RCIA…told you so! Very nice article, Ellen!

  5. God does have ways of surprising us!
    This is a wonderful example of letting God reveal to us gifts that we did not know were there-Yet!
    Thanks, Ellen!

  6. Ellen, you have taken a great ministry step that is full of many surprises and personal growth. As a Pastoral Associate one finds oneself encountering persons from birth to death. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thank you for sharing — sounds so familiar!! I truly believe the success of a ministry in which we feel less capable is that we know that it’s truly the Spirit working through us. Congratulations!

  8. Thank you for sharing, .. sounds so familiar!! I truly believe that the success of a ministry in which we feel less capable is that then we know that it’s the Spirit working through us. Congratulations!

  9. Ellen, I always wanted to be a pastor, to pastor God’s people. It was my best opportunity to journey w/ the people at my parish and its mission in WV.
    It stretched me in wonderful & surprising ways during those 20 years. Be yourself and enjoy the opportunities.
    Another Ellen

  10. Ellen,
    I can relate in a personal experience to what you shared in this blog. “No” was my response 48 years ago to change from teaching to administration. After 3 phone calls and my “yes”, it too was the best decision I made. I look back at that time as God intervening and directing me.
    Continued blessings to you in your ministry.

  11. I’m just seeing this, Ellen. How wonderful that you loved pastoral ministry! I remember seeing a quote years ago that said, “At least once a year you should do something that you believe is impossible. How else will you know what you can do?”

  12. Ellen, you are truly an inspiration and a blessing!
    May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

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