Friday, August 29, 2008

Teen Called "To Grow in Holiness"

Here, from The Catholic Globe out of Sioux City, IA, is an article in its entirety:

By KARA KOCZUR, Globe staff reporter (Email Kara

At 19 years of age, to the world, Emily Morse has her whole life ahead of her. She has time to travel, time to date and time to just “do whatever.” But, that’s not what she wants.

She wants to be a nun.

Not only does she want to be a nun, but she believes God is calling her to be one. Yet, this lively and energetic girl has encountered skeptics.

“A lot of times I’ll get, ‘Wow, you’re just finishing your freshman year of college. Don’t you want to see a little more of the world? Aren’t you afraid of giving up marriage?’” Morse said.

Her answer is simply “no.”

“If God is calling me to do something then I want to do that one thing,” said Morse, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist in Bancroft. “To grow in holiness, that’s what I want to do. So, why put that off by trying to entertain myself with a life God didn’t call me to? He called me first to be a sister.”

Morse will be entering the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr of St. George on Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of Mary. She will be entering at their motherhouse in Alton, Ill. Throughout the United States, 122 sisters belong to the community, whose two main charisms are nursing and teaching, both which Morse said she loves.

“I was drawn to the order by their life of prayer and service, their very good balance between the both of them, and just their joyous spirituality there,” she said.

Morse, who would have been going into her sophomore year at Iowa State, will only be allowed to bring with her necessities for life, such as a coat and hat, and a few meaningful religious items.
Her first year of life at the convent will be her postulancy, where she will be mainly working with the community at a daycare, hospital or at the convent. During this time, Morse will wear a jumper instead of a habit and veil.

“It’s a year of discernment and immersing yourself in the life of these specific sisters of that Franciscan lifestyle,” she said.

At the end of her postulancy, Morse will receive the habit, white veil and religious name. The next two years will be her novitiate, after which she will make first vows and enter her juniorate, which lasts another four to six years. At this point Morse will be sent to school for either teaching or nursing, though she hopes nursing. From the time she enters, it will take about eight years before she is a fully professed sister.

The call

The religious life has always been very attractive to her, Morse said, but it was in high school that she began to take that attraction more seriously. She began to visit different communities, like the Missionaries of Charity, to get a feel for religious life. Morse said that was when she began to think she could live that life, and that God wanted her to live it.

“It was through prayer that I discovered that call initially, but through visiting the sisters and seeing how joyous they were and finding I could be myself there, . . .that was the moment that I knew this is it,” she said.

As a religious sister, Morse is giving herself to Christ as his bride, as a sign of the full communion she’ll have with him in heaven, she said.

“It’s saying, ‘God, I’m willing to give that sacrifice of a human marriage to you, in gratitude for the union that we will have in heaven, to draw the eyes of my friends and people that I meet throughout the world to that greater union that will be in heaven,’” Morse added.

This summer, Morse was a Totus Tuus teacher in the diocese. She said her experience in the program helped solidify her call to religious life by giving her a taste of community life, as well as having a structured prayer life that included the Liturgy of the Hours.

“It helped me have more confidence that I could live in a community,” she said, “and it helped me to be brutally honest with my brothers and sisters, which were my teammates throughout the summer.”

This isn’t the first time a Totus Tuus teacher from the diocese has gone on to pursue religious life. A teacher from 2007, Sarah Stodden, now Sister Mariela, also entered the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr of St. George.

Morse’s family has been a source of encouragement in her discernment of God’s call. The third oldest of five girls, she said having sisters who share her beliefs and who challenge her to do what’s right has been helpful. Morse’s oldest sister is also a religious sister, and having her as an example of what it means to be the bride of Christ has made religious life more tangible to her, she said.

Her mom has also been a great example of what it means to be Catholic, not just on Sunday, but every day of the week, Morse said, and has sacrificed a lot so that Morse and her sisters could grow in their faith.

“She has laid her life down so that we can be Catholic,” Morse said about her mother. “She has always taken us to daily Mass, since before I can remember. She encouraged us to go to confession regularly, as well as praying the family rosary. That has been a big thing in my life.”
Morse said it’s going to be hard for her family when she leaves, but that it will be hard for her as well. Once she enters on Sept. 8, she’ll only be able to see her family for a few days twice a year, including a home visit once a year, write letters once a week and call them a few times a year.

“It’s hard for them to give me up,” Morse said. “But, they also realize what the most important thing is. It helps me that they realize this too, is God’s will, and that’s when we’re going to attain the happiness that we’re seeking.”

Morse said one the things she’s most grateful for is the honor and privilege that God has called her to this vocation. She must depend on him for everything, she said, and in taking it day by day, she is able to do the Lord’s will. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to contemplate what she’s about to do.

“Sometimes I’ll be thinking and I’ll be like, ‘What?! God is really calling me to be his bride? Are you serious Emily?’” she said. “It kind of blows me away sometimes, but it’s just [through] his mercy and his love that he allows us to have such a union with him even here on earth.”

As I told the article's author, Kara Koczur, I found this piece to be valuable on multiple levels - for people discerning a religious vocation, for families needing to develop an acceptance of such a vocation and, possibly most importantly, to encourage parents to create an authentic Catholic culture within their families so that children have an atmosphere conducive to recognizing such a calling. Plus, romantic that I am, I found it to be heartwarming.

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