When I was sixteen, I did not know what I wanted to become in life, but I knew that I wanted to be happy. I was searching for something more than what magazines, the Internet, and Hollywood told me I could become. Not once, however, had the idea of becoming a religious sister entered my thoughts as a possible path to my future happiness. In fact, I did not know that God was still calling young women to enter religious life. I had seen sisters in movies, but I figured it was a vocation of the past. That is, until my high school religion teacher posed the question to me: “Have you ever thought about becoming a sister?” I was stunned by the question, yet something stirred in my heart, and I found myself answering, “Well sure, I’m open to it.” When he handed me a Veritas newsletter of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia with the encouragement to “just look it over,” this man had set me on the adventure of discovering my life’s vocation.
A year later, as a freshman at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I prayed that God would help me know if he was calling me to become a sister. At the same time, however, I met a young man, and the more time I spent with him, the more I tried to convince myself that marriage was my vocation! I decided to visit the Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse in Nashville as a way of ruling out the possibility of a religious calling.
What happened when I arrived in Nashville took me by surprise. As soon as I stepped into the Motherhouse, I was overwhelmed by a sense of homecoming. As the retreat progressed, others commented, “You look so at home here.” I could not deny the happiness that filled me each day that I spent with the sisters. Finally, I told one of the sisters my dilemma: “Before I came here, I was sure I wanted to get married, but now…!” She listened to my whole story and then gently said, “I see in you what it takes to be a good religious sister. I hear the zeal, and I see your love for Christ.” Seeing my questioning eyes, she suggested, “Why don’t you spend the next few days listening to God in prayer. He knows his plans for you, and his plans will make you happy.”
In the silence of the chapel, I knew the answer to my question. It was not so simple to carry it out, however, because I still had to explain my decision to the young man awaiting my return at school. I spent the next few weeks with a heart torn between a dating relationship and application to enter the Dominican Sisters.
“Are you called to be a sister?” The haunting question came once more when I unsuspectingly attended a weekday Mass on the feast of the Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas. In his wonderful Nigerian accent, the visiting priest addressed the young women in the congregation, “Do you feel called to be a sister? Because you ARE! Is there a Mr. Right in your life? You need to look to THE Mr. Right! Look to Jesus!” I knew I could no longer ignore my vocation. If God was calling, it was time for me to respond with a generous heart! I left the chapel with peace and a firm resolve to follow the Lord’s call.
I entered the convent the following August, and in this life have found what I was searching for throughout high school. In my search for “something more,” I found the only One who can ever fully satisfy the longing of our human hearts. Now each day is an opportunity for me to witness to the truth that God alone is the source of our happiness!
Sister Maris Stella professed her perpetual vows in July 2011.
Watch her vocation story here: