I was raised as a mainline Protestant. Always "churched" as my family moved around the country. I was active in Sunday School and youth group activities. My first experience with anything Catholic came when a Catholic high school friend and I used to "drop in" to her church after swimming in the high school pool. I felt at home there. I cut out Knights of Columbus ads in magazines and sent away for pamphlets and instructions. My Scotch Presbyterian mother was not amused as I followed her around the house, telling her how I had "found the truth." (Teenagers can be so arrogant!) My attraction to Catholicism included a feeling of being called to religious life of some kind. But I did not know how to pursue those feelings.
College days were spent at Whittier where I met and married my first husband. He was studying to become a Methodist minister. After his ordination, his first assignment was in Greenville and Taylorsville. During that time he became friends with the Catholic priest. Fr. Charlie invited both of us to his church to see how he was moving the altar out from the wall. It was during the early ’60s. As soon as I walked into the church, I felt the old attraction and feeling of home. But, as he explained, it would have been political suicide for the priest to convert the wife of the Methodist minister so I put it all on the "back burner" for another period of time.
It resurfaced in the early ’80s. This time I was free to act on it. A friend put me in touch with a campus priest who was able to deal with my questions and somewhat unorthodox slant on life. He didn’t have any structured program of preparation for conversion so I read the Dutch Catechism from cover to cover. At the moment I first received communion as a Catholic, I had a distinct sense that the world "stood still" After that I set aside regular prayer times, in the morning and evening, using the Office. During that period the old attraction to religious life resurfaced. One of the congregations Fr. Richard pointed me toward was the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. He said that they had updated themselves according to the new understandings of Vatican II. I visited several groups. Some friends said that I had almost made another master’s degree out of my visits and material I had collected. It was quite an assortment! Sr. Helen Cecilia and I corresponded. When I walked through the door of the convent in Belmont, I was at home.
I made my first vows in 1988 and renewed them for several years. I lived in the convents in Salinas, Alameda and Watsonville and made lifetime friends. I did not ask to make final vows and that is another story. Instead, I saw Association as a viable way to live out my call.
Professionally, I have been a social worker for almost fifty years. I consider my interactions with clients and their families to occupy sacred space. The Sisters of Notre Dame have helped me to define my work as ministry – work with the materially poor, those with HIV-AIDS, parents of newborns in intensive care and adults in the end stages of life. Commitment to social justice in many realms has always been a part of my life. There are many "companions on the journey" in living out that call within the ranks of Sisters and Associates. The community has given me ongoing tools in deepening my prayer life. These gifts include innovative approaches to prayer as well as an ongoing appreciation for traditional practices.
The Sisters of Notre Dame have afforded me many opportunities for personal growth. I loved the courses at the Franciscan School. The opportunity to attend the formation meeting in Nigeria left me with a sense of the larger SND world as well as ongoing relationships with two of the Sisters who still live in that country. Serving as the first Associate to be part of our California Sister-Associate team for Associates offered a number of cross province experiences as we tried to model an egalitarian relationship that was not true in all provinces at the time.
When I became a Catholic, my daughter, Susan, said, "I don’t understand how a feminist like you can join a patriarchal church like that, but I have never seen you happier." She was right then and that feeling continues. It is not a rational thing. When I made my first vows, my mother and all three of my adult children were present. Susan, James and Paul sang a special selection at the Mass. I think the Catholic Church, and, particularly, the Sisters of Notre Dame provide a framework for conscious living in many ways. We are called to be "down to earth," unpretentious, knowledgeable about problems in our world and committed to being a voice for change where needed. We are rooted within a spirituality that truly believes that "God is good" and that calls us to an ever deepening relationship with the Other in our lives.