by Sister Mary Michael, O.S.F., School Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Panhandle, Texas
July, 1993: I came to visit here in Panhandle with an agenda: I wanted to know what it was like to live in a convent.
"What is it like to get up at 5:00 in the morning? What do they do all day anyway? Can I keep up with the schedule and the demands of this life?" I was very curious, but I had no intention of joining this community. It was just a convenient place (30 miles from home) where I could get some answers.
I told the superior to be sure to tell the sisters not to pressure me into joining. As a 23-year-old that liked to go to Mass every day, I had been pressured enough. I just wanted to be able to stay for a few days—to watch, to learn, to experience. The Mother Superior answered wisely with the best answer she could have given:
"If you're supposed to be here, wild horses could not keep you away."
Wow. That was exactly what I needed to hear. To my great surprise, I loved it at the convent! I found myself really enjoying the sisters. I was touched by the way they loved each other. When it was time to leave, I felt like I was being ripped away from something, someplace, and some people that I wanted to be a part of. I now realize that the reason why I had such a connection in my heart with these people was because this was the exact place where God was calling me.
I went home and thought about the sisters a lot. I kept looking at my watch, thinking about how they were doing things without me. "It's 3:00—they're having coffee break without me! It's 6:00—they're praying without me! It's 6:30—they're eating without me!" I called the next day and asked for an application.
I needed a little extra push. It's not easy entering a convent—giving most everything away, moving, saying good-bye to everyone (at least temporarily), and going to a place that you hope is as wonderful as you had already experienced.
Here I am almost 16 years later. (I can't believe it's already been that long!) This truly is where God has called me. It has been a long trip but a good one. Hopefully I have responded to God's grace to make me more like Him every day. There is definitely a lot more for me to work on, but I'm glad that I am here to do it.
If you are considering religious life, in the words of Pope John Paul II, "Be not afraid!" Pray that God leads you to the wonderful place where He is calling you. Pray that others will find it, too.