This weekend we will celebrate the wonderful feast of Pentecost, recalling the coming of the Holy Spirit among us. Remembering God’s gift of the Holy Spirit within and among us is a source of renewal and hope in these uncertain times of 2021. Recently, I found a prayer that Sr. Joan Chittister wrote about Pentecost. I love what she said about the Holy Spirit in her prayer, that it “embodies the life force of the universe, the power of God, the animating energy present in all things, and captured by none.” My imagination was captured by the phrase, “The Holy Spirit is the animating energy present in all things and captured by none.” The phrase started me thinking about moments I became aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life in a particular situation or event.
I remember one such encounter that happened during the time that I was discerning religious life. I had been seriously discerning with the congregation’s vocation minister for several years. But, even though things began to fall into place that would enable me to apply to the community, I started to rethink my decision. Finally, I decided to end the discernment for religious life to look at another option I was exploring. Before I officially called the vocation director to end the process with her, I was invited to a religious conference where different communities of Sisters had invited lay women to join them for a weekend of prayer and talks on various topics—including a panel talking about vocations. I made sure that I did not register for the vocation talk.
As you may have guessed, that was not the end of the story from God’s point of view. During the first day of the conference, I began feeling that I should attend—for one last time—the vocation talk. I spent the lunch hour that day asking God if I should go to the talk or not. I could not decide. Finally, I said to God, if the door to the workshop was open, I would go in, but if it was closed, I would go to the workshop I signed up to attend. When I approached the hallway where workshops were being held, I could see that all the other doors were open, but the room door for the vocation talk was closed. I thought, ok, problem solved! But just as I was passing the closed door, someone opened the door, smiled, and invited me in.
As I sat and listened to the Sisters on the panel, all from various communities, my mental self-talk began to list several reasons why religious life was a ridiculous idea for me. By the end of the presentation, I was sure I was not being called to religious life. After the presentations, they asked if anyone had any questions. A woman stood up and briefly shared her story and ended by saying that she was taking her first vows the following week. This was a “Holy Spirit” moment for me because what she shared about herself were the exact same things—listed in the exact order—as my mental “elimination list” to God about religious life. I was amazed. Here was someone whose life circumstances were like mine, and she was accepted to make first vows. I literally felt that the Spirit was saying to me, “OK, now what other excuses do you have?” That was quite a moment! This took place in July 2002 and I entered the congregation as a Candidate in August 2005. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit was operative within me and within Sr. Jackie Laster, RSM, the woman who shared her testimony that day.
All of us have had experiences of what I like to call “Holy Spirit” moments. Those times we become suddenly aware of the presence of the Spirit in our experience or within ourselves. Furthermore, as the congregation’s Coordinator of Formation, I have heard many stories about “Holy Spirit” moments from our women in formation. As we approach Pentecost Sunday this weekend, I invite you to recall a few “Holy Spirit” moments from your own life. How have you encountered the Holy Spirit lately?
If you feel the Spirit has been inviting you to consider becoming a Sister, give us a call.