Better Late than Never: An Interview with a “Late Vocation” Franciscan Sister

Toss out the images you have of Catholic sisters. Especially if they were formed by cartoonish images or cheesy wall calendars full of black and white photos with speech bubbles inserted. You’ve got to meet Sister Anne Marie. She’ll be making her final profession of religious life on August 9th and has walked a unique road to get to this point.

She is in her 60s and has been in formation for seven years.

She told me she is surprised and delighted by the wide range of people who want to be there on August 9th. These include her former boss in Washington, DC, a retired military officer. She says she is humbled by the number of people who “want to see that happen”. Her mother is 99 and lives nearby. Hopefully, she’ll be having a good day and will be there to see it. I have a feeling she will. Guests will enjoy a reception afterwards, which may feature “Friar Cookies” an innovation whose popularity has helped the food pantry at Syracuse’s Assumption parish stabilize financially

She knew when she made her temporary vows for the first time, seven years ago, that she would be making final profession one day. When I asked her how people can know their gifts, she told me people should think about the times/ways they feel satisfaction in what they are doing and whether they feel a sense of appreciation from others—or not. It’s how one feels inside that really matters.

A highlight of the liturgy will be a dance given by a Hawaiian sister who is 82 years old. It will be given to the sound of John Michael Talbot’s “Prayer of St. Teresa”. The Litany of the Saints will be sung to the same tune as “When the Saints go Marching In”.

Sister Anne Marie, like me, is a proponent of second career religious vocations or ‘late vocations”.  In the 1950s and 1960s, a typical age for people to enter religious life (or marry for that matter) was right after high school. Of course, it is up to God’s timing to call whomever he wants, whenever he wants from wherever he wants. She knows her life experience helps her be a better listener as she talks to people from all walks of life. Her earlier jobs included serving as a graphic designer in the Pentagon. She designed the original logo for the DoD department called “Force Health, Protection and Readiness”. More recently, she designed the logo for the newly formed Conventual Franciscan province “Our Lady of the Angels”.

Catholic Sisters played a huge part in building the infrastructure of the United States. Hospitals and schools served immigrants and pioneers early on. It seems that for many religious communities, the time has come to pass responsibility for these great institutions on to others’ care. In many cases, this transfer yields a fund by which other ministries helping the poor are supported.

When I asked Sister Anne Marie what she might say to those who may be wondering what this is all about, who may have no context for what we are even talking about, she said,“You have to search inside yourself. You can’t fool yourself and you can’t run away from God”.

You have to search inside yourself. You can’t fool yourself and you can’t run away from God.

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