Christi began to seriously consider God’s call for her life in high school. After encountering the Dominican Sisters that Dan works with at Lansing Catholic High School on a couple of occasions, Christi became focused on investigating religious life. She would spend hours in the evenings touring the websites of religious orders across the country. During these virtual tours, she was always excited and happy. Her face would light up whenever her family and friends would ask her how her search was going. She began to spend more and more time praying the Liturgy of the Hours and going to daily Mass. After attending her first discernment retreat with the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, she seemed to know that this was the place God was calling her to.
As Christi’s senior year was coming to an end it was often difficult figuring out how to best help her down a path few young women take.
It was an adventure even figuring out where you can buy “nun shoes”! Even though we had always encouraged her to seek out God’s will for her life, and to follow it wherever it may lead, we didn’t realize how challenging that path might be. Our time being able to see Christi every day, and speaking with her whenever we wanted to, was coming to an end. In the community she is joining, there are four times we can visit her during the year(the first is in October), and she will be able to return home for five days in the Spring. Other than those times, we can only communicate by writing back and forth every two weeks. After 18 years of her living in our home, that is a painful adjustment to say the least.
When the day finally arrived, we brought Christi to the convent and we were greeted by a whole troop of smiling, laughing Sisters - a stark contrast to the bittersweet emotions we were feeling. It gave us great peace to know that while we were saying goodbye to our daughter, they were saying hello to their new sister - Christi was certainly going to a new family filled with love. She was quickly whisked away to change into her new postulant’s uniform and prepare for the entrance ceremony(a postulant is the name of a sister in her first year in the community). We were given a tour of the amazing chapel, buildings, and grounds - Christi will be surrounded by beauty in her new home! We were even shown where her seat will be in the chapel - as the youngest member of the community she has the spot that was the very front, center seat in the whole chapel.
After the tour we were led back to sit in the chapel. As the ceremony began the room was filled with soaring, angelic voices (Sisters can really sing!). Christi processed in with her fellow postulants. As the ceremony progressed, she was called forward and given the Dominican Cross to wear around her neck - and was called “Sr. Christi” for the first time. After the ceremony a short reception was held across the hall. Our next three oldest children were with us and the Sisters enjoyed filling them with too many cookies.
It was a strange feeling to watch the clock in those moments, knowing that the time was so definitively ticking down on this stage when Christi was a part of our everyday family life. For her part, Sr. Christi was overflowing with happiness and the peace of knowing she was precisely where God wanted her to be. After many pictures and congratulations, a small bell rang. The voices dropped and the hall went silent. Sr. Christi joined the other Sisters in filing into their chapel to begin her new life. The families who remained simply walked quietly to our vehicles and went home.
The weeks that have followed have been challenging, but filled with grace. We have received our first letter from Sr. Christi and she is thriving. She loves the formation she is receiving and has apparently been dominating in the community basketball games! Even though our lives seem quite separate, it has helped to attend Mass often and to pray the Liturgy of the Hours - knowing that Christi is doing those same things each day in her new life.
At times it can become easy to drift as a disciple - to go through the motions and give too much of our time to things that do not matter. In truth, having gone through this process makes drifting as a disciple harder to do now. Because Christi believed that Jesus is Lord and worthy of entrusting her life to Him, she is now beginning a new life apart from our family. Going forward, our family's closest connection to her will be through Jesus. To live life as if He is not the most important thing now seems like it would diminish the choice Sr. Christi has made and our connection to her. In a sense, her courage to make this decision has challenged our whole family. On a human level, the sacrifice is difficult and painful. We do miss our daughter! But it is precisely in those sacrifices that are offered in obedience to His plans that we most closely share in our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross and eventually, in His Resurrection!
Dan and Melissa