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My vocation story begins when I was a child of about four or five years old, growing up in Lancaster, Ohio. My Aunt Mary Ellen purchased a new reel-to-reel tape recorder and she wanted to test out the recording device. So she invited my twin sister, Joan, and I to come over a number of times and record our voices. In order to get us to start talking, she would ask us various questions: Where do you live? What is your name? What is your mother’s name? What is your daddy’s name? Then she asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Joan would always say, “I want to be a sister.” I would say, “I want to grow up and get married and have lots of children like my mother.” In my mind I knew that would be reversed, but I hesitated in saying that because I did not want to disappoint people if I did not become a sister.
When I was in second grade, I remember during my second confession the priest also asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” This time, I told the truth: “When I grow up, I want to become a sister.” The priest said, “That’s a very good thought. What you need to do is pray and ask God what He is asking of you.” I took that very seriously. When I would go to Holy Mass on Sunday with my family, our missals in the pew had a prayer for vocations. I still did not want to tell anyone what I was thinking, so after communion, when my family members were bowing their heads in prayer, I would open the missal just enough to read that prayer and then close it quickly. This happened throughout my grade school years.
Then in sixth grade, during Lent, my teacher Sister Christopher showed a film strip on the passion and death of Jesus. In one scene, Jesus was shown suffering on the cross. The narrator said, “This is what your Savior has done for you. Now what will you do for your Savior?” It pierced my heart. I felt like I was the only one in the room. That was the key moment when I knew I had a desire to give myself completely to the Lord in some way. My vocation was a response to the cross. I knew then that it probably would be religious life. I did not understand it then but that was my thought.
During high school, I began to date and I got distracted, thinking perhaps I was supposed to get married. But on a retreat during my senior year, I decided to ask God—once and for all—what He wanted me to do. I remember kneeling down in my room, looking directly at a cross on the wall across from me. I heard the Lord say, “I’m calling you to be My own.” Again, my heart was pierced, and I knew then that I had to take action.
The only contact I had with religious sisters was with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Mary of the Springs in Columbus, Ohio, who taught me throughout grade school and high school. Whenever the postulants and novices would visit my school, I was always attentive and would ask questions. So, after my retreat, I told my home room teacher, Sister Sebastian, about my decision to enter religious life. She made an appointment for me to see a sister at the motherhouse in Columbus.
No one at my school knew about my vocation—yet. My father was a HAM radio operator, and he would often speak to other radio operators around the world. But sometimes his radio would interfere with our neighbor’s radio. One day during my last semester of high school, he told someone via radio that one of his twin daughters was going to enter the convent. Well, our neighbors found out and the next day at school there was a rumor that one of the Daugherty twins was going to enter the convent. Everyone knew it was me, and not Joan! Of course, I was upset with my father for spilling the beans.
I did end up visiting the motherhouse and made a decision to enter that fall, on September 8, 1959, at the age of eighteen. I made first vows July 9, 1962 and professed final vows July 9, 1967. During my first year of teaching, 1962-1963, I taught sixth grade in Steubenville, Ohio, to which I would return more than twenty years later. One of my first students was a nephew of Hollywood star Dean Martin! I taught for a total of eighteen years at elementary and Montessori schools in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan. I also served as principal for a total of six years at three schools in Newark, Coshocton and Columbus, Ohio.
It was in Newark that I was first exposed to the charismatic renewal, when families at a local parish there began to pray for me and invited me to go to prayer meetings with them. I eventually went to a Life in the Spirit seminar and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
One summer, I attended a Bible Institute at the College of Steubenville, because I knew it was charismatic. A master’s program in theology was just beginning there at the time. I had been sensing that I was going to work with young adults, so when I heard about the master’s program, my community allowed me to attend. After my first year in Steubenville, 1985-1986, a position opened on campus for a residence director for Trinity Hall. I felt that I was supposed to stay in Steubenville, so I applied for the position and got it. I would serve as the dorm director for four and a half years.
In those years on campus, I was being renewed in my own fervor in living the consecrated life. It was a call to live my religious life in a deeper way—to embrace it in a fuller way. I also was being imbued with Franciscan spirituality, although I did not realize it at first. It was awakening parts of myself that had not been awakened before. At some point, I became aware that God was calling me out of my own community. But I did not know what the next step would be. It was a frightening time in my life, not knowing what was next down the road. But I had all the assurances from the Lord that I would know when it was time.
Also during that time, the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R. was founded. One of the original members of the community was another dorm director with whom I worked, one was a resident assistant and others were students I knew. I was very close to their founding. I watched the community grow and attract young women. I was the only woman religious on campus at the time, so whenever a young woman discerning religious life would go to the T.O.R. friars, they would send them to me. Often, they expressed a desire to join the new community. I remember thinking, “Gosh, it’s so easy for them.” My attraction to the community grew gradually.
The primary attraction was a call to a deeper contemplative prayer life. I knew that even before I felt called to join the new community, I also was drawn to their strong fraternal life, their focus on simplicity and poverty and the wearing of the habit.
I remained close to the community after it was founded—on August 15, 1988—attending Lord’s Day and dinner with them every Saturday and participating in a share group with the former dorm director, now the Reverend Mother. She and the other sisters invited me to join the community if I felt called. It had not dawned on me that it was possible for a Dominican to become a Franciscan. I spoke to my spiritual director, one of the T.O.R. friars, to help me discern what God was calling me to next. At first, he thought I was being renewed in my Dominican religious life, although I knew that was not the whole truth. There came a point when he invited me to go on a retreat he was directing for the candidates of the new community. On the retreat he asked me, “What do you think God is calling you to as the next step?” I said, “I think it’s to join the T.O.R. sisters,” and he said, “Go for it!” He helped me to take the necessary steps to request entrance into the new community. I moved in with the sisters in January 1991, entering into a time of discernment until I received the habit in July. I made final vows on March 18, 1995.
I am deeply grateful for how the Lord has worked in my life in all of its stages. He has led me down paths I never believed I would travel. My life as a Franciscan sister has been very blessed and fulfilling in so many ways. The following scripture passage is truly a reality in my life: “I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk; I will counsel you, keeping my eye on you.” (Psalm 32:8)
Sister Jean Daugherty, T.O.R.
© Reprinted with permission from www.FranciscanSistersTOR.org.
It seems like a pretty insensitive question. The disciples come across a person who had been blind from birth and ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus, of course, sets them straight. This guy is not blind because he sinned. He is blind so that the work of God might be made manifest in him. And then—BOOM—Jesus heals him. Blindness, disease, misfortune—when we encounter these things it is not God sending down his wrath because we have been bad. God does not work that way. Jesus comes to bring life, to breathe healing. In this fallen and imperfect world, God allows us to experience trials and misfortune so that His work might be made manifest in us. But what about when Jesus does not heal? Redemptive suffering, you say. It is the correct answer, but it is not an easy one. The whole point of this Christianity thing is that the path to heaven is the cross. We will all come to Calvary. We will all suffer. Yet, because of the Cross—because of Jesus— our suffering can have meaning. Our suffering is a part of our sanctification. It is meant to be offered up to Jesus in order to “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). Knowledge of this fact may not make the chemo easier or the grief hurt less, but at least, because of Jesus, we can do something with our suffering. We can give our hurt to Jesus. Not to make it hurt less, but to allow it to be used for good. Still, it is a bit difficult grappling with the fact that the same Jesus who healed the blind man sometimes allows us to continue in our blindness, our sickness or our pain without manifesting His power through a miraculous healing. Yet I also know that Jesus does not owe me anything. I know that on this side of heaven there will always be suffering. I really do not presume God to grant me miracles to reward my good behavior, and I know my struggles are not Jesus punishing me for bad behavior. Sometimes bad things just happen. But if I am being totally honest, sometimes my “God doesn’t owe me anything” attitude has less to do with faith than it does with just not trusting God all that much. I spout off fancy, two-dollar phrases like, “Redemptive Suffering,” while on the inside, I am asking with the disciples, “Jesus, who sinned? Why did this have to happen?” After all, God causes it to rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike? What, then, is even the point in praying? Is it all just essentially “points” and chugging along so that you can end up in the right place when you die? When my knee-jerk reaction to suffering or trials is, “Well, God doesn’t owe me anything,” I think there is something sort of “off” in my relationship with God. The statement itself is true. God does not owe me anything. He has already given me everything and then some. Yet, God loves me with the love of the Father. When I am crushed in spirit, His response is never simply, “Well, remember, I don’t owe you anything, Mary.” It might not be in His perfect will to take my suffering away in the way that I am praying for, but it is not out of contempt or forgetfulness on God’s part that miracles appear to not come. It is out of love. God understands my pain. He wants me to draw near to Him in times of trial, not as some kind of test of my love for Him, but because He has a plan and purpose for every moment of my life. God causes all things to work together for my good—my ultimate good, yes, but the seldom spoken truth is that my ultimate good and my immediate good are actually not in opposition to one another. I once heard a priest (I think it was Father John Riccardo) say that the only thing that is going to happen at the end of our lives/at the end of time is that the veil separating us from seeing things as they truly are will be pulled away. It will not be that we suddenly will not remember the events in our lives that caused us great pain, we will just finally see them in their fullness. We will see where God was and what He was doing in our lives’ greatest trials. We will see that God never abandoned us, not even in our weakest moments, He was drawing us closer to Himself. We will finally see all the ways in which God has made His work manifest in us, even in those times in which it seemed He left us in our blindness. We should never tire of praying for miracles; we can be assured that God is always, always at work within us.
Do you know what really bugs me about Advent? Or rather, the way people approach advent? Everyone skips to the end. We are happy about the fact that Jesus was born but even then we are honoring His birth mostly in terms of how His life ended. It makes sense that we do. Freeing us from sin is the reason He came to earth in the first place, so it is understandable to want to skip to the part where He fulfills this purpose. We have all of lent for that. What is there to take out of advent? Something that really hit me recently is that Christ’s first miracle was becoming a baby. His First Sacrifice He performed a lot of miracles, but the first was to become a child. He gave many sacrifices, but the first thing He sacrificed was self-sufficiency. When I was a little kid, my two goals in life were to be an adult and to be perfect. Easy, right? I went out of my way to show my teachers and my parents that I was more than capable of taking care of everything myself. My proudest moment in kindergarten was being left in charge of a classroom of my peers at five years old. I had decided that grownups were self-sufficient, as they should be, and as such, if I wanted to be mature, I could never ask for help. From anyone. Ever. Something I was missing was that there was a lot more to Jesus’s life prior to public ministry and death. Just like what many do with advent, I glanced over the beginning and wanted only the end. Heaven was the goal, but I forgot that the journey still happens on earth. Jumping to the End I wanted to be like the saints who so often seem strong and tough, ready to die a martyr for God. I wanted to make the biggest sacrifices and fight the roughest battles. Though I had good intentions, this quickly turned into an intense fear of needing people. I told myself that things like friendship and love were luxuries, so I hardly needed them; I could accomplish more and be stronger with independence. Slowly but surely, I began pushing things down, believing this was a necessary sacrifice to make in order to be who God wanted me to be. But I could not sustain it. Eventually, this strategy of mine began to crumble as the secrets and unexpressed emotions piled up and up until they burst. When they finally did, I found myself on my knees, sobbing to God, begging Him to help me. I needed my Father. Since that prayer, God has been slowly teaching me that it is okay to be vulnerable sometimes and it is okay to need help. Even so, I still fall into the old trap. I look at the cross and I want so badly to emulate Him right now that I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. Four years after that desperate prayer, I found myself on my knees again, this time filled with anxiety and crying to God that I cannot do it—I cannot be holy, I cannot be like Him. In my mind, I replay all the times I failed. All the times I had been selfish. All the times I had snapped at my friends. All the times I had sinned. I wanted to spread joy, but sometimes I needed help with my own problems. I wanted to be kind, but I still snapped at people. One day I could not imagine putting anything before heaven and the next I spent hours preoccupied with temptations. One day I thought I would never waver and the next it took an hour to convince myself to pray. I believed that God had a plan for me, but the plan was too unattainable; I was never going to get it right. Inevitably, I would let Him down. Awaiting Baby Jesus Then I thought of Baby Jesus—long before His miracle working, long before His preaching, long before His passion, He chose what His first act would be and He chose to become a child, a child that would need to slowly grow up, nurtured by the love of His family. Christ did not jump straight to the Passion, so why do I? I might not be holy enough to die for Him but, fortunately, He gave me a much more attainable first step. I remember to go back to the beginning and always start with the first step. Who I am can be pretty messy and, yes, vulnerable, but that is who God made me to be. If vulnerable is where Jesus started, then it is a pretty great starting place for me.
In our society, where individualism and our own happiness have been regarded as utmost priority, there is great emphasis placed on what makes us momentarily feel good. We are quick to avoid the situations that disturb our inner peace, upset our schedule and call us out of our comfort zone. Even in our relationships we grumble, resist and distance ourselves from those whom are most difficult to deal. I pause here for an honest confession … Lately, I have chosen the path of feeling annoyed and complaining. Faced with a seemingly unchanging resistance from others to my own desire to be joyful, I decided it best to create some distance, a mini retreat of sorts. I recognized that I needed a break in order to get a bit of perspective. In taking this opportunity to go out into the wilderness to spend some alone time in prayer and to reflect on what is being asked of me, I now have a better understanding of what Christ desires. First, I realize I cannot remain on permanent retreat from all that I feel attempts to steal my joy. Obvious exemptions would be situations that are physically or mentally abusive. Yet, what I am talking about are difficult people or particularly trying situations that continually test my patience and call for regular forgiveness. Case in point: The “one way or no way” attitude: The phone rings and I notice the caller id. As the conversation ensues I am struck by the familiarity of the questions and topics of discussion. Can we ever go deeper? No, not if it remains a one-sided barrage of questions where there is only one answer desired. No, not if there is not active listening, appreciation of the other person and a desire to have true dialogue. So, I listen and leave the discussion wondering why I spent my time this way. The “blinking red light”: Here is the person that is constantly in hot water. If the issue does not involve him/her directly he/she feels it necessary to stir the waters that potentially create a tempest situation. Oh, did you have plans today? Well, this is far more important and if you were not concerned before you should be by now. So, I listen, offer advice, help where I can and spend the day praying that he/she finds peace. At times, I have selfishly asked God, “Why have you placed these rocks in my path, why am I being asked to deal with stubbornness and anxiety?” His answer, “Elizabeth, because you have yet to learn the incredible lessons of love and forgiveness that I have been so desperately seeking to instill in you! Do you honestly think that you are without fault, malleable, secure in my loving plan and accepting of all that I am calling you to be?” “No, Father, I have much to learn. Yet, I am desperately trying to understand. Isn’t that good?” “Yes, but you cannot get comfortable with where you are, because I am asking so much more of you. Each of My children has a purpose and a journey. Sometimes this journey leads others to learn from you and other times their purpose is to challenge you to grow.” I have choices in how I encounter others. If my life is not rooted in love, patience and forgiveness, how are others to truly know Christ through me? Moreover, our lives are meant to be proof of God’s deep call to a new life, faith that though times get difficult there is hope that our loving Father is working all for good. This in-breaking of the kingdom of God is not merely an inner journey or a futuristic promise of heaven, it begins with me today.
Recently, my five year old announced that he wanted a different haircut. The minimalist, efficient buzz-cut given to him by his mother was no longer sufficient. He instead wanted a longer, more shapely cut so he could wear his hair like mine. Around the same time, my four year old announced he was hopeful that he could grow a beard like me soon. While poorly attempting to conceal my laughter, I assured him it was unlikely for a four year old to grow a beard, but left him with the hope that someday he might be capable of growing one. A Father’s Attraction As a father, I am always astonished at how much power I wield over the lives of my young boys. It is not so much a power of command or control as it is a power of attraction. Frankly, it never occurred to me that my haircut or facial hair was desirable for a little boy, or that either of them was paying attention to my grooming habits. Yet, they want to be like me. I am the pattern they follow, the model they imitate. They watch with careful observation everything I say and do; what I wear, how I treat others, where I spend my time, how I pray and how I treat my wife. It is no use telling them to be kind and compassionate if I am cruel or insensitive. It is no use telling them to share and be generous if I am selfish and greedy. It is no use telling them to love and serve God if I barely pay attention to Him myself. What I do, they will do, no matter what I teach them or what they hear from others. The Best Catechesis When we think of catechesis, we often think of catechism classes or parish programs. While these have their place and value, children learn far more by watching and listening to the ordinary choices and patterns of life than they do by formal training. Our habits and behaviors as parents comprise a catechesis all their own and everything we say or do is shaping, to a large degree, who our children become. If we say our faith is important and yet we skip Mass for a football game it sends important signals to our children about what is really important in life. If we tell our children they should be pure and chaste and then we spend our free time watching entertainment filled with sexual immorality, it catechizes our children on what is morally acceptable. If we teach them we should love others, but we are much more interested in our phone or the show on TV than in them, they will learn from this. As fathers, we must assess our priorities. How do spend our time, our money and our energy. In what do we invest? What do we say yes and no to in our personal lives? With every choice we make, we are catechizing our children about what is important. We can say all the right things and teach them the catechism, the commandments and the precepts of the church, but it will not matter if we do not live these truths ourselves. Live them we must. The greatest legacy a father can leave his children is a life well lived. Live Well Fathers, our example is a catechesis that will last a lifetime, for good or ill. Realize that your children love you. They look up to you. They want, in a very real way, to be you. You are their model. You are their guide. You are their chief educator. What will you do with this great power?
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