My four months at a house of discernment

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FOR FOUR MONTHS during 2001 I lived at Emmaus House--a Toledo, Ohio "house of discernment" run by the Sisters of Notre Dame. I was there while student teaching third grade at Ladyfield, a nearby Catholic school. I had always wanted to teach in a Catholic school, and several of the sisters were kind enough to invite me to consider teaching in Toledo and living at Emmaus House. I greatly enjoyed the time I spent at the school, where I received quite the challenge from a highly spirited class of third-graders. I chose to live at Emmaus House in order help me discern where God was calling me in relation to religious life, and the decision to live there turned into a wonderful experience as well.

I had never lived away from home before, and I moved in not really knowing Sister Teresita, Sister Anne Mary, or Sister Joselyn at all. Terrified by all the new challenges at Ladyfield and Emmaus, I prayed each day for greater love, faith, strength, and courage, and God generously blessed me with each.

The sisters at Emmaus were simply a delight to live with, and my experiences there really helped me get a taste of what living as a Sister of Notre Dame would be all about. The sisters were very good to me and got me to talk about all the fear and confusion I was experiencing when I moved in. I liked the way that they shared about their day with me and in turn listened as I described the ups and downs of mine. They let me be who I was and talked to me even when I wasn't ready to share on the same level. I enjoyed going to Mass with them every day and praying together in the evenings. I was learning from them what it meant to live in community and what it meant to live out the Notre Dame charism (that is, their spirit and spirituality).

The sisters treated me like I was one of them from the very start, meaning they were not afraid to direct their crazy sense of humor in my direction. I loved the camaraderie that we developed in the house because I am definitely one who likes to tease and joke. I would groan loudly to irritate Sister Joselyn as we drove over the speed bumps at Gesu Parish after Mass, and the sisters would tease me for being too happy all the time and for making random noises while roaming about the house. We always had a good time with one another. On the other side of the coin, the sisters also listened to me complain after hard days at school and gave me hugs after the really discouraging days. I always knew that they really cared.

THE "EMMAUS NIGHTS" we had together with guest speakers and other young adults were absolutely fabulous. At first I found them awkward because I didn't really know anyone well and was hesitant to share. As time progressed, I gradually opened up more and more and came to look forward to these prayer experiences. We always did something different, and Monday night prayer sessions were some of the most vibrant I have ever experienced. I enjoyed cooking for these nights as well, since they often included special suppers.

Looking back on my experience, I encourage other young people who are considering living in a discernment house to try it. During my four months at Emmaus House I learned about myself and enjoyed getting to know the sisters there and the community of Notre Dame. It was a beautiful four months, and I miss it already.

Sally Willitzer is currently a novice with the Sisters of Notre Dame in Toledo, Ohio.




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