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.
College students are not only searching for jobs. Underneath all of the career recruitment and empty promises of radical individualism and liberation, there is a restlessness that resides in their hearts. Speak to many who live and work on college campuses across the country, and they will tell you that there is an uneasy anxiety amidst the student population. Students are like sheep without a shepherd, searching for true meaning and authentic relationships in their lives. These young men and women are also searching for something much greater and they do not even know it. They are in search of Christ and His Church. So how can we, as faithful Catholics, bring the love of Christ and the beauty of our faith to our peers? Here are four ways of evangelizing on college campuses: START WITH THE BEAUTIFUL Beauty is non-threatening. It breaks into our lives without our even noticing. It is captivating and awe-inspiring. Anyone can gaze upon the beauties of nature and be left speechless. Beauty has a way of transcending the human experience, moving our souls to recognize something beyond ourselves. Beauty is also able to galvanize the heart and mind in ways in which other forms of evangelization are incapable. Thankfully, Holy Mother Church provides us with some of the greatest beauties the world has ever known. It is time that we unlock the treasures of our faith ranging from art, architecture, literature, and music. Throughout the past 2,000 years Catholicism has flooded the world with beauty, and we must show others this positive impact of our faith. Above all, the greatest contribution of beauty offered by the Church is the liturgy. The Holy Mass is heaven on earth. Its beauty is indeed divine and we should not rob ourselves of dignified and beautiful worship. Unfortunately, our generation has matured in an age in which the liturgy has been abused, and many times these abuses have led to ugly liturgies. This has caused widespread disinterest in the liturgy and we must reclaim its beauty. Too often we are bombarded with things that are contrary to beauty and the Holy Mass offers us a glimpse of our true home: heaven. WITNESS THROUGH LIFE AND COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words” – so goes the famous saying attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. The words of this great medieval saint still speak to us today. The joy that is shared amongst young men and women who are living their faith in a culture that is hostile to it is perhaps one of the greatest and most powerful witnesses to the Gospel. As another famous Francis, His Holiness Pope Francis, stated, “Christians are ready to proclaim the Gospel because they can’t hide the joy that comes from knowing Christ.” This joy of our faith must radiate to all of our friendships and activities on college campuses. College is a time when friendships are built. We are all in search of friends that truly care for the good of the other. We must build a culture and community of friendship on campus that is deeply rooted in our Catholic faith. This does not mean that we become enslaved by our faith or live a form of lay-clericalism; rather, friendships rooted in Christ free us to care for one another truly and enjoy the “unseriousness” of our lives. Hilaire Belloc said it best: “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there is always laughter and good red wine.” Let us celebrate our faith and enjoy the victory of Christ on the Cross. Create events, parties, and activities around the liturgical calendar. Have celebrations on the feast of great saints, invite friends to Holy Mass, or host a barbecue. Whatever it may be, if you build up a Catholic community based on authentic friendships and joy, people will flock to it. Tap into groups such as the Knights of Columbus or Catholic Daughters of America to host events. ARTICULATE CATHOLIC TEACHING In this world of false idols and pseudo-truths, young men and women hunger for truth in their lives. Christ is the truth that will set them free. He is the One they are searching for and His truth is held by Holy Mother Church and her teachings. Let us then “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We must bring our views to the classroom, invite speakers to give lectures, and start reading groups. Build your own community of learning. Catholicism contains an intellectual history that surpasses every other entity in the history of the world. We must unlock this beautiful tradition for those who are searching for the Truth. Finally, do not hesitate to defend the Church against a group of peers or professors in the classroom. Many times people have not even heard of a true defense of the Church or the answers to the many issues that she is attacked for holding. More often than not, people will respect and even be surprised by the Church’s answers to these questions. CHARITY Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Dominic, Pope Francis…why do these holy men and women capture the hearts and attention of the world? No matter what time period or culture, people are drawn to works of charity and mercy. We must practice what we preach. Inviting friends to participate in works of mercy and charity will turn even the hardest of hearts into living flesh. Serving food to the homeless, volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, or building a place of shelter for those in need are all practical examples of Christian charity. However, we must never lose sight of those on the “existential” peripheries. Those who do not know Christ are truly the poorest among us. It is also a work of charity to bring Christ into their lives. We have a duty to help those who are confused about the Church and reject her teachings. Clarifying what the Church stands for—and why—is also an act of charity for those who are outside of her life-renewing sacraments. CONCLUSION The restlessness experienced during these college years often leads students to search for something deeper in their lives. As the great Father James V. Schall, S.J. once said, “College exists so that we are freed by knowing the relation between “Veritas” and “Logos,” between “Cosmos” and our minds, between the what is and the “I am.” Catholicism is all-encompassing. It permeates our whole life, not in a way that binds us, but in a way that frees us toward the good our community, and our friends. Let us share this great gift with those around us. Saint Thomas Aquinas, patron of students, pray for us!
Have you ever noticed how NFP (Natural Family Planning for the uninitiated) is marketed? It Is sold with glossy photos of couples holding hands and dancing in flower-filled meadows, their faces plastered with blissful grins. It will make you so much more intimate! It will change your life! You will never be so in love as when you chart your spouse’s cycles! So they said. Well the truth is, NFP stinks. And while hate may be too strong a word, NFP is anything but blissful. It is abstinence. In marriage! To be perfectly real and honest, NFP has not lead to blissful meadow-dancing, but rather to hurt feelings, grumpiness, pouting, and temper tantrums (do not worry, I have gone to confession.). But that said, it is probably the best thing for me, and I will tell you why. HIDDEN LOVE… I need NFP because it reveals a hidden love affair competing for the love I have for my wife. It is called self-love. Put another way, I hate NFP because there is still so much selfishness and immaturity in my heart, and marital abstinence brings it to the surface in all its ugliness. When I was first preparing for marriage, I had read countless marriage books and articles on how to be a great husband. “I’m going to be the best husband ever!” I thought smugly. “I’ve got this down.” And then I got married. In no time at all, that marriage advice that once seemed so clear and simple evaporated. I quickly realized I was nothing more than a selfish jerk; impatient, rude, demanding, and insensitive. Boy did I have to get over myself fast. The truth is, though, loving my wife has gotten easier the longer I have been married. What used to be a struggle has become natural. There are times when I really think that I am doing well and growing—and perhaps, by God’s grace, I am. But then NFP rears its ugly head and reveals just how much self-love is still lurking in the dark recess of my soul. And that selfishness has to be put to death. MARRIAGE IS A CROSS You see, society sells us a lie. It tells us that marriage is about self-fulfillment, about happily ever after, about using others to create your own happiness. It is about one and a half kids in an 8,000 square foot McMansion, with a couple of SUVs in the driveway. Oh, and the greatest good in marriage is sex; unlimited contraceptive, child-preventing sex. If your spouse is not meeting your “needs,” you are free to move on and look elsewhere for someone who does. But this could not be further from the truth. Marriage is not about you. It is about losing yourself, about putting the old man to death. It is about giving yourself away. It is about loving your wife in the same way Christ loved His bride, the Church—all the way to the cross. Have you ever noticed that every sacrament contains an image of death? We are immersed into the death of Christ in Baptism. Priests lay face down on the ground when they receive Holy Orders. The Eucharist is the passion of Christ made present. In confession we enter a box that could be considered a coffin. In every sacrament, we must die to ourselves in order to receive the grace and life we so desperately need. In case you have forgotten, marriage too is a sacrament—and a happy, fruitful, and faithful marriage will always involve death to self. There is a spiritual law that goes like this: The harder we cling to our own happiness and fulfillment, the less we find of it, but the more we die to ourselves and live for others, the more joy we find. In a very real sense, marriage is a martyrdom, a very real kind of death—but a death that gives life. SO WHAT ABOUT NFP? What is the point? NFP is hard and we are prone to hate it because we often enter marriage thinking about our rights, our needs, and our wants. In other words, we so often want to take instead of to give, because giving always hurts. The truth is, though, we desperately need NFP and the self-denial it represents. Without it, all that selfishness and immaturity and greediness would still be there, buried under layers of self-deception. It would manifest itself subtly, or not so subtly, in many other aspects of marriage, wounding the intimate bond between husband and wife. Yes, it would still be there, and it would still do harm. Marriage is a sacrament because God wants to convert our hearts. Marriage is not about two-incomes, an oversized house, and overpriced vehicles. It will not always look like the American dream, which all too often is more of a nightmare. Marriage according to God’s plan is hard and sometimes painful because marriage is meant to be a school of genuine love, and genuine love always looks like the cross. Do not get me wrong, a Catholic marriage well lived is full of joy. I mean it. Yet that abundant joy is always the byproduct and not the prime product. It flows from self-forgetful, self-emptying love, never from selfishness or self-seeking. We must surrender ourselves in order to find the happiness we seek. So do I like NFP? Nope. Sometimes I downright hate it. But maybe it can help me grow.
The last photo of Sister Cecilia Maria, the Argentinian Carmelite sister who recently died of cancer at age forty-three, has drawn the attention and affections of the Catholic world. Accounts tell us that Sister often played the violin for her fellow Carmelites as a sweet gift of music, but it was in her final moment that Sister Cecilia Maria provided her smile as one last antiphon of sweetness to the world. And it is worth pondering her smile, and her life, because she had some very important lessons to teach the world. First, she reminds us what beauty really is. For a society that is so focused on beauty, very little attention is spent on defining beauty. What is beauty, and what relation does it have to love? What relation do love and beauty have to happiness? These questions are not original to this author; indeed, these are the primal questions of the great literature, the great thoughts, and the great philosophy. But we have stopped asking them, not because we have answered them properly, but because we stopped caring about the questions. Yet, regardless of philosophy, society nevertheless proffers its explanation of beauty. Sadly, these explanations are often tepid, if not altogether stupid. Case in point. The covers of Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazines serve as a microcosm of a generation that has lost it; indeed, who is lost. The cover girls are gaunt, distant, and unhappy looking—all by editorial design. Their God-given inner beauty has been robbed; they often embody a plasticity of soullessness, and that denial of soul is a bigger lie than any airbrush could ever accomplish. These ubiquitous covers offer our wives and daughters a poorly-scripted fictional world that is governed by mannequins. Then, in a stroke of spiritual serendipity, we see the picture of Sister Cecilia Maria; in a striking and immediate contrast to the faux world of models, we see the type of beauty that is borne of love and happiness. Among the vast array of cover girls who look dour in life, here is a woman who looks majestically happy in death. Truly, hers is the countenance of Christianity. Christianity may not be in vogue, yet if one seeks the issue of happiness and fulfillment, the love of God is where to look. Whereas our society is like a man who holds the key to happiness in his hand, yet insistently looks for it elsewhere, the smile of Sister Cecilia illustrates that she looked for happiness in all the right places. And found it. She showed the world the inescapable connection between love and beauty. Second, Sister’s life and death also showed us the importance of truth, and its connection with beauty. The worst lie ever told was that we can be happy apart from God. The original sin was the product of the original lie—a perfect untruth told by a master rhetorician. And one of those lies is that a life dedicated to God is an exercise in futility. Ironically but predictably, much the world looks at Sister Cecilia Maria and thinks that she missed out. She missed out on almost all the things that are supposed to make women happy today. She missed out on the material of modernity. She missed out on the high-priced wardrobe, the high heels, and the high-power career, the travel, the treats, and the trinkets, the bling, the boyfriends, and the breakups. This discalced sister, spiritually tethered by her vows, whose wardrobe essentially consisted of one dress and zero shoes, missed out on everything. Everything except happiness. Everything except God. In truth—because of truth—she missed out on nothing. In truth, it is those who are insistent on sin who are missing out. As a wise priest once put it, “Sin is boring; virtue is exciting.” The biography of sin has a million chapters, but all of them are the same boring story. Each with a storyline of sadness. Twenty-three hundred years ago, Aristotle posited that the key to happiness is simple—aggravatingly simple. Aristotle wrote that “happiness is an activity of soul in accordance with perfect virtue.” The ensuing twenty-three centuries have witnessed a world that has strenuously objected to that basic truth observed by the philosopher. But Sister Cecilia Maria knew this central truth, and her life and death were in accordance with virtue. One of the most exciting things about the smile of Sister Cecilia Maria is that she seemed to glimpse into a future that can be ours. For some people, that kind of thought might be intimidating. After all, the thinking might be that while Sister Cecilia Maria is exactly the kind of person who goes to Heaven, I am not. But if that is your thinking, look a little closer at her smile. Hers is a smile of assurance and trust. It is a smile that acknowledges a merciful and loving Creator. Whether you have lived a life like Sister Cecilia or a life like Saint Dismas, whether you have loved God since your infancy or began loving Him in your final moments, the same merciful and loving Creator awaits you. There is a saying that Dismas “stole Heaven” in his last moments. But this is untrue. Heaven is ours—ours to gain or ours to lose. The deed to Heaven was signed in blood by Our Savior’s deed on the Cross. Heaven is not stolen; you cannot steal that which God has purchased for you. It is not Heaven, but hell that is stolen. The beautiful truth is that God made you to be happy with Him. Sister Cecilia Maria recognized this. In her final note, she wrote, “I was thinking about how I would like my funeral to be. First, some intense prayer, and then a great celebration for everyone. Don’t forget to pray, but don’t forget to celebrate either!” Sister Cecilia Maria’s death, her life, and her smile were a testimony to happiness. Our Lord assured us that the world would know we are Christians by our love. What Sister reminded us is that part of that love is a smile.
My poor little girl was totally miserable the other day. “My day was horrible!” she said, as she loaded her backpack into the car after a rough day in the first grade. I googled images of children from Haiti to show her how lucky is she is. After all “horrible day” is a relative phrase . . . . . . Her horrible day consisted of “first world problems” in a clean, safe school, and while I did not want to diminish those problems, I thought it might help give her perspective if I showed her kids who had had a really horrible day . . . but all I could find in google images for “Children from Haiti” were kids with big, big smiles. Of course those images confirmed what I had preached countless times but had momentarily forgotten (and I often forget this for myself): real happiness (let us call it “joy”), is 90 percent attitude and 10 percent circumstance. The poorest places on earth lack material goods but are rich in gratitude for everything. They are rich with the knowledge of just how much they need God and need one another for everything. They are rich in something Jesus called, “poverty of spirit.” The real first world poverty is forgetting all that. The real first world problem is ingratitude. That is why children from underdeveloped nations tend to smile more than children of privilege. You cannot always control your circumstances, but you can control, moment by moment, how you respond and on what you choose to focus your attention. You are busy. Your life is harried. I know. So is mine. We cannot always control that. Or maybe you are having a horrible day. You are facing hard times. You got a bad medical report. You are struggling in your marriage. Your boss is a pain. We cannot always control that either. Without diminishing the reality of the splinters sinking into your shoulder as you carry the cross, I want to challenge you to stop for a moment and take inventory of all you have to be grateful for, and say THANK YOU as often as possible to God and to other people. All circumstances aside, you will be happier at the end of the day if you do. “I have told you these things so my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” – Jesus
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