Daughters of St. Paul, Sr. Emily Beata, FSP
“Our heart, our soul is too big to be happy with things which end. Only God can make us happy—only serving God, loving God alone, sacrificing ourselves for Him. Then one is always happy. Let us unite ourselves intimately to God and we will be happy any place, with anyone, in any work” (Ven. Mother Thecla Merlo, Co-Foundress of the Daughters of St. Paul).
Each of us has a longing in our heart that only God can fill. Our vocation is the way that God wants to fill our hearts. It is the way that God invites us to pursue only Him and His love, and it is the way that we will most effectively witness to that love. As a newly professed Sister with the Daughters of St. Paul, I am beginning a new phase of my vocation. But a beautiful journey of discernment and formation has led up to this moment.
My vocation was born in my family. I am the oldest of twelve children, and I grew up in a small town in western New York. My parents often presented religious life to me and my brothers and sisters as an option to consider when we were thinking about what to be when we grew up. Because of this, religious life became a very normal thing to think about doing.
There were no Sisters in my parish, so I learned about religious life mainly through reading the lives of the saints. I was attracted to religious life because something inside me wanted to give God everything. But at the same time, I wanted to live my own life. I planned on getting through high school, going to college, and starting a life before thinking about religious life.
When I was in eighth grade, I went to a youth rally. A Daughter of St. Paul was the MC for the weekend. She gave a vocation talk and offered to send each of us a vocational magazine. I took her up on the offer, and when the magazine arrived, I did glance through it … before putting it on the shelf behind Pride and Prejudice.
About a year later, I attended a vocation retreat held by my youth group. The retreat was held in memory of a young woman from the youth group who had always wanted to be a Sister but who had recently died in a car accident. At the end of the retreat, we were encouraged to write a note to a priest, brother, or sister, thanking them for their vocation and witness.
I didn’t know who to write to. Then for some reason I remembered the Sister I had met at the youth rally. I didn’t remember her name or her community, but I wrote the note and when I got home I dug out the magazine. I mailed the letter … and she wrote back! We exchanged Christmas and Easter cards that year, and then she invited me to Boston for a summer program.
The St. Paul Summer Program held by the Daughters of St. Paul is a week-long program for high school women interested in religious life. That week, we lived with the Sisters, prayed with them, ate with them, worked with them, and had classes and recreation with them. I felt very much at home that week, like I really belonged.
What I remember most is the joy of the Sisters. I remember sitting in chapel and watching them pray. I could see on their faces that they were talking with the Person they loved most in the whole world—and this Person loved them profoundly. At a deep, unspoken level, I wanted that. During the daily Hour of Adoration, I began to discover the relationship that God wanted to have with me.
As time went on, I continued visiting the Daughters, and I continued deepening my relationship with Jesus. I began going to Mass more often, praying with Scripture, and going to Eucharistic Adoration. In the context of that deepening relationship, I began to feel even more strongly the call to give everything to God.
I also continued learning about the Daughters’ mission of spreading the Gospel using the media. What touched me about this mission was the aspect of communicating to each and every person the personal love of God for them. This, I felt, could be done through a book, through a radio program, through the Internet, through Facebook … as well as through my very life and everyday interactions with others.
But how could I know that this was really where God wanted me? I wanted a sign! On one of my visits to the Daughters, I was praying with the Gospel story of Jesus walking on the water. When Peter asks, “Lord, is it you?” Jesus doesn’t say, “Yes, Peter, it is I, everything is okay.” He simply says, “Come.” I realized that Jesus was inviting me, like Peter, to get out of the boat and trust Him. He wasn’t calling me to be completely sure of everything; He was calling me to come.
Shortly after that experience, I applied to enter the Daughters. I was accepted to the candidacy program, went to college for two years, and was planning on going for a third year. But when I was spending a month with the Daughters that summer, I attended the first profession of one of our Sisters. Witnessing her total gift of self renewed in me the desire to give all of myself to God. I felt God calling me not to wait. So I asked to enter the postulancy, the first stage of formation to become a Sister. (Our community does not have the requirement of college before entrance; if we don’t have a college degree upon entering, we complete our studies after profession.)
I entered the postulancy in 2007 and moved to the novitiate, the second stage of formation, in 2010. I made my first profession of vows on January 28, 2012. Religious profession is a huge gift, and is meant to make my life a gift for others. This is my prayer as I continue on the daily adventure of following “only Jesus” (cf. Mk 9:8).