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Sister Mae isot your adverage Millennial PDF Print E-mail
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Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 17:16


    Many people view millennials as self-absorbed individuals who are addicted to technology.
    Genna Quentin defies that image.
    The 26-year-old Port High graduate is now Sister Mae Thérèse of the Mother of God, a member of the Community of Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, a New York-based order of the Catholic Church.
    She took her first vows on Sept. 9, and spends her days in prayer and service.
    Unlike many of her contemporaries, Sister Mae said, she has a vocation, not a career.
    “A career is a job. A vocation is your calling, a calling from God,” she said. “My deepest desire is just to do God’s will. It’s a great gift in religious life, to do God’s will. He knows what’s best for me.
    “The vocation is beautiful,” she added. “I think it’s a mystery to a lot of people. People may not realize so many men and women are entering religious life.”
    The Community of Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal is a relatively new order, having started in 1988. It has six convents — three in New York, one in New Jersey, one in Ireland and one in England — and about 35 sisters.
    “We pray a lot but we also have an active ministry,” Sister Mae said.
    Her days are long — she rises about 5:15 a.m. to prepare for first prayers at 6 a.m., and spends the day working, studying and praying until lights out at 10:30 p.m.
    There are three parts to her life as a sister, she explained — prayer, fraternal life, or living as a sister, and evangelizing and service to the poor and homeless.
    She’s happy, Sister Mae said, adding some people find it difficult to understand how she can be living a life of obedience, poverty and chastity.
    “I questioned that too,” she said. “But I trusted Him along the way and found how He does bring a deeper joy than I ever imagined.”  
    Sister Mae’s journey began after she graduated from Port Washington High School in 2009 and entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She didn’t have a career plan in mind, she said.
    “I called myself multi-interested instead of undecided,” she said. “I had a lot of options there.”
    But, she said, college was a difficult transition for her.
    “I think it was letting go of a lot of things, leaving my family and friends and all the activities I was involved in during high school,” she said, adding that in the midst of 40,000-plus students and faculty members in Wisconsin’s second largest city,  “I felt alone.”
    She found peace, she said, in attending Mass at St. Paul’s Church on the campus. Slowly she became more and more involved in the church. Then, she attended her first Eucharistic adoration.
    “I experienced Jesus’ love for me in a deep and personal way,” she said. “Until then, I had learned about Him, but there it was like I really met Him.”
    After that, she said, she felt the need to keep returning to church, eventually going there every day for prayer and Mass.
    “I felt a real thirst,” Sister Mae said.
    She began meeting with a priest to ask questions about faith and vocations and heard others speak about their vocations.
    At that point, she said, she was facing a lot of life questions — what would she major in, what career did she want to pursue?
    “A young woman told me, ‘God has a plan for your life,’” Sister Mae said. “I started to believe it.”
    And as she learned more about her Catholic faith, she said, she “stopped asking myself what I wanted to do. The focus shifted. I started asking, ‘What does God want me to do?’
    “I wanted to help people, to serve in some way, but I was losing my desire to do that in social work. I was having a greater desire to share Jesus. I saw him as the ultimate source of our healing.”
    Still, she said, she wasn’t sure about her future.
    “I still wanted to get married and have a family. I love children,” she said.
    Eventually, she added, “I started to see the beauty of the vocation, not just the sacrifice.”    
    After earning her degree in social welfare, she stayed in Madison, still unsure about her future. Then, she and a friend drove to Chicago to pick up two nuns who were en route to a wedding in Madison.
    Sister Mae said she found inspiration in the conversation, so much that she decided to visit their order, the Community of Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, in New York.
    “I went and felt clarity,” she said.
    It wasn’t easy to tell her family she wanted to join the convent, Sister Mae said, but they’ve been supportive.
    “It’s been their own journey as well,” she said. “God blesses them through my vocation.”
    Sister Mae entered the Convent of San Domiano in the Bronx in the fall of 2013 as a candidate for the sisterhood, and learned about the life of a nun. After six months, she became a postulant, praying more and delving into the vocation further.
   Typically, a postulant becomes a novitiate after six months, but Sister Mae said she asked for and received more time.
   “I just didn’t feel ready,” she said. “That was a real blessing and a real gift. I felt a desire to go forward.”
   Novitiates spend two years of intentional discernment to determine if the sisterhood is for them. They don’t work as much, but instead pray and focus on their relationship with God.
    As a novitiate, they also receive their names. Mae stands for Mary, while Thérèse is for Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who is also known as The Little Flower.
    Sister Mae said the saint was on a novena card her grandmother gave her when she was in eighth grade, adding she later read “Story of a Soul,” a biography of Saint Thérèse. She was “struck by the beauty of her vocation and her relationship with God and her love for Jesus and what it meant to be his spouse. It deepened my faith,” Sister Mae said.
    “She teaches that we don’t have to do great things to become a saint. She wrote about love, doing everything with a love for God.”
    After two years, novitiates take their first vows. Sister Mae’s family traveled to New York for the ceremony.
    The vows are considered temporary, and nuns make them annually for four to six years.
    “It’s still a time of discernment,” Sister Mae said.
    After that, the sisters make their final vows and receive a simple gold wedding band, which they wear on their right hand, symbolizing the fact it’s “not an earthly marriage but a heavenly marriage,” she said.
    As a nun, Sister Mae wears a simple habit — a tunic in the shape of a cross, a large rosary to signify devotion to Mary, and a black veil to symbolize the fact she no longer lives for herself but “finds life in Jesus.”
    Around her waist, she wears a cincture, a rope belt in which three knots are tied, symbolizing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
    “Wearing the habit, people know what you’re trying to live,” Sister Mae said. “It’s amazing the encounters you have. People come up to you and share their hearts.”
    People often do a double take when they see her and her fellow nuns in their habits, she said.
    “You see a lot of surprised looks, people just smiling at you,” she said.
    Sister Mae was recently in Port Washington to visit her family, and stopped at St. John XXIII School to visit with the students. A graduate of the school, she said it was heartening to share her vocation with the youngsters.
    “They were very attentive, and they asked a lot of questions — Do you pay taxes? How much do you pray? Do you wear the habit all the time?” she said. “I told them how grateful I was for my Catholic education and how He led me through my life.”
    Now, Sister Mae is back to New York. She’s been assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent in the Bronx, where she will continue her journey.

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