People are often intrigued when I tell them that I'm doing a year of service; they ask about the organization, the work I do, and my service site. These are easy questions to answer. I tell them that I'm serving with Franciscan Mission Service in Brookland, that I work in our office as the development associate, and that I have the opportunity to paint watercolor with the women at Calvary Women's Services every Wednesday afternoon. Simple questions, simple answers. But then sometimes they ask me how I ended up here, and I get to decide if we're going to have a couple more minutes of chit chat, or a ten minute discussion on the deeper matters of faith, life and trust. Typically I go with the latter, because you never know where those conversations are going to go.
Writing this is the result of once such conversation. I'm in DC doing a year of service because my post-collegiate plans didn't work out the way I had expected. That's a pretty normal story. What's a little less normal is that my post-collegiate plans involved entering a convent and becoming a religious sister, or as most people call them, a nun. People's reactions to this statement vary widely, but are overwhelmingly, if surprisingly, positive and inquisitive. What would make a 22-year old want to leave behind her family, the great state of Texas, internet access, and the chance to get married and have children for a life of poverty, chastity and obedience? The short answer is that when God called, gently, softly, I couldn't help but answer. I spent most of college praying about this choice, applied to join during my senior year, graduated, and then was asked by the sisters to wait and keep praying. I've since realized that this decision on their part was wise, prudent, and the most loving thing they could have done for me, but at that point, I just knew that I was walking out of a convent and away from the only life that I wanted with no plans and no job. Within a month and a half, I was on a plane to DC, to a city I had never been to to live and work with people I had never met. God always has a funny way of moving us to where we need to be.
So now I live and work with some of the most compassionate and generous people I have ever met, reside in a city that I had always dreamed of visiting, and have the opportunity to volunteer at wonderful places like Calvary. At Calvary, I facilitate a watercolor class for some of the women, but, to be totally honest and cliché, they definitely teach me a lot more than I teach them. I come in wanting to teach one lesson, and we end up doing something totally different, but far better than what I had planned. I am constantly baffled by the originality and variety that comes out of our classes, but that's just who these ladies are; they are so unique, creative, kind, resilient, thoughtful, and encouraging. They've definitely taught me a few things about painting, but much more about friendship and determination. Many of them have seen and been through it all, but they take that as a reason to be generous and not demanding, kind and not spiteful, encouraging and not derogatory. They are a great blessing in my life and it is a privilege to just be with them every week.
Being with the women at Calvary is just one of the many fruits of my time here in DC, and these together only continue to make it more apparent to me that although I don't really know what I'm doing or where God will take me next, I am exactly where I am supposed to be for the present, and that's enough for me. To God be the glory, and please pray for me.
If you want to know more about young women entering religious life, check out http://cmswr.org/.