Carmelites recall path that began in Twin Cities

| Susan Klemond | November 8, 2017 | 0 Comments
Carmelites

Sister Elizabeth Therese of the Most Blessed Sacrament, left, and Sister Catherine Marie of the Trinity spoke at a Come and See retreat for women discerning religious life at St. Peter in North St. Paul Nov. 3-5. Both are former Twin Cities residents. Courtesy St. Peter Church

Two Carmelite sisters who discerned their vocations in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis returned to the Twin Cities to share their stories and encourage young women discerning religious life.

The sisters, members of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles who are involved in apostolic work on opposite coasts, co-led a Come and See retreat at St. Peter in North St. Paul Nov. 3-5. Sister Elizabeth Therese of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the community’s vocation directress, came from the Alhambra, California, motherhouse, and Sister Catherine Marie of the Trinity joined her from Miami, where she teaches high school math. Both former Twin Cities residents, they first met in the community, which they entered almost five years apart.

Ahead of the retreat, they spoke about discovering and pursuing their vocation, desiring marriage before responding to God’s call, and leaving Minnesota for their new home in California.

Growing up in Rochester, New York, Sister Elizabeth Therese wanted to be a religious sister like her sister, Nancy Shively, now a Poor Clare sister in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, but she didn’t think much more about it until she was in her early 30s.

Her desire to work and live in Minnesota brought her to the Twin Cities in 1990. She became active at St. Lawrence Church and Newman Center in Minneapolis and Inver Grove Heights-based St. Paul’s Outreach, where her personal relationship with Christ developed through the Catholic campus ministry.

“It’s not until you have a personal relationship with the Lord, whether you’re called to religious life or marriage, that you’re going to be able to know what your vocation is,” Sister Elizabeth Therese said.

Before becoming a religious sister, she was engaged, but the prospect of marriage didn’t bring peace. She started thinking again about religious life while she was also exploring Carmelite spirituality through a third-order Carmelite group.

In her two years of discernment, Sister Elizabeth Therese visited several orders before trying the Alhambra Carmelite community in 1997. She said she benefited from monthly discernment dinners in St. Paul offered by the Sisters of Mercy, adoration, and her network of friends and fellow parishioners at St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony. She entered the Carmelite community in 1998.

Like Sister Elizabeth Therese, Sister Catherine Marie thought she’d get married, having grown up in a close Catholic family in Bloomington. Her home parish was Nativity of Mary, and one of her brothers is an archdiocesan priest, Father James Adams, associate pastor of Immaculate Conception in Marysburg and Church of the Nativity in Cleveland. As she completed degrees at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, she felt the Lord calling her through the Eucharist and adoration.

After considering a religious vocation for 10 years, Sister Catherine Marie seriously pursued it for six months. During her discernment, she taught math and theology at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul and other schools. Sister Catherine Marie visited many orders and felt drawn to the Alhambra community, but it seemed too far away. When she finally visited, she said, “It was as if Jesus was saying to me, ‘Welcome home, I have been waiting for you.’ Inside my heart I felt myself responding, ‘Finally, I am home.’”

Something about Carmelite spirituality resonated with Sister Catherine Marie, and although she hadn’t formally studied it, she hungered for more. She entered the community in 2002.

At first, both women’s families found it difficult to accept them being so far away in California, the sisters said. Leaving Minnesota and their friends in the archdiocese was also difficult for the sisters. Their faith, however, has helped to bridge the distance.

“As we grow in relationship with [the] Lord and our religious vocation, we see that the bonds are so much deeper than a [regular] phone call, [and] how the Holy Spirit brings our friends and families to mind,” Sister Elizabeth Therese said.

Distance wasn’t the only challenge. Educational debt prevented Sister Catherine Marie from entering the community until she met Laboure Society founder, Cy Laurent. The Eagan-based organization helps men and women raise money to pay off education debt so that they can enter priesthood or consecrated life. The organization has helped more than 240 aspirants since 2003.

Sister Elizabeth Therese advises young people to be open if they sense God calling them.

“If you’re feeling called to religious life, say ‘yes’ and really commit yourself to exploring … God’s will,” she said. “You won’t regret it, but you could regret later on — wondering if.”

Sister Catherine Marie suggested women take time daily to listen to the Lord, especially before the Blessed Sacrament, and if they hear him calling, “Do not be afraid to say, ‘yes’ to Christ,” she said. “He takes nothing away and gives you everything your heart could desire.”

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Category: Vocations