Sister of Life: ‘You Will Never Regret’ Attending a Faithful Catholic College
Sister Mariae Agnus Dei of the Sisters of Life is one of many religious sisters whose vocation was nourished by faithful Catholic education.
Founded in 1991, the Sisters of Life now have more than 100 sisters serving across the country and in Canada. The sisters take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, plus a special vow to “protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life.”
The Newman Society is grateful to Sister Mariae Agnus Dei for sharing her story and testifying to the influence of the faithful Catholic education that she received.
Newman Society: Why did you choose to attend a faithful Catholic college? What role did it play in your life and your vocation?
Sister Mariae Agnus Dei: Choosing a Catholic college was a poignant moment of grace for me. I watched older siblings go off to secular colleges and return to the home emptied of their faith, and with that, the hope and peace of a life lived with Christ. I knew I wanted something different. God did too. He placed a deep desire in my heart to find a college that not only had strong academic and athletic programs, but also a culture where I could encounter Christ and grow in my faith. He led me to the doors of The Catholic University of America [a Newman Guide-recommended institution in Washington, D.C.]. It seemed to have everything I wanted: a good nursing program, Division III athletics, and a solid commitment to integrated Catholic education and student life. I told the Lord I would go if He got me a scholarship and told Him the amount I needed. He answered promptly through an acceptance letter from the University with the offer of a scholarship that matched my prayer to the dollar. The deal was sealed, and I left the beauty of rural Maine for the urban jungle of D.C.
Looking back, I can honestly say going to Catholic University was one of the most pivotal and important decisions of my life. At Catholic University I found the Christian community, academic integrity, sacramental life and culture to irrevocably and all but entirely fall in love with God. They were beautiful years of learning and discovery — humanly, intellectually and spiritually. Whether running cross-country, engaging the deeper questions of my heart with other students at campus ministry events, attending the many cultural events at the University or in the city of D.C., diving into the well-rounded curriculum of the nursing program, or serving as a student minister, I found Christ alive and ready to be encountered in the fabric of campus life at Catholic University. Father O’Connell, the University president at the time, held a Catholic vision strong enough to create an integrated culture of faith on campus — a gift I am eternally grateful for.
Newman Society: How did you discern your vocation?
Sister Mariae Agnus Dei: My experience at Catholic University grew the generosity, trust and freedom to give God permission and surrender to His plans for my life and vocation. Who am I? What am I called to do with my love? At Catholic University I found resources to ask and answer these questions authentically and fruitfully. I discovered my life was a gift. I was good. And God had great plans for my life. A year after graduating, His call burst into my life in full color. I was working the night shift as a nurse in intensive care. As I sat down in the nurse’s station after an intense “code,” I was full of gratitude that the patient we had worked to save was now stable. The precious gift of life flooded me through and through, and I perceived a new invitation at the door of my heart. In this moment, I discovered the love of a Father — one that knew me to the depths of who I was. I held this mystery of grace in my heart and arrived home just as my roommate was waking up. She asked me how the shift went. I was surprised at my reply, “I think I have a vocation to religious life.” She paused, looked at me, and said, “Rachel, you’re tired. Go to bed.”
I did so, and yet, when I awoke, the question of vocation was burning even more deeply in my heart. Shortly thereafter, I met with the diocesan vocations director. He told me to go be quiet before the Lord, pray for the grace to know the deepest desires of my heart, and pray for the grace not to be afraid of what came in answer to that question. My whole soul was filled with a peace unlike anything I had ever tasted. I went to a nearby Church for Mass, knelt and let the Holy Spirit lead my prayer. As it came time to receive the Lord in Holy Communion, I knew He was inviting me to receive Him in a new way. The veil of my heart was drawn back, and I beheld what I knew was my deepest desire — Love Himself. An invitation resounded throughout my soul with gentleness and clarity, “Consecrated life with the Sisters of Life… will you come?” I responded with a full-hearted, joy-filled, “Yes”!
I have been a Sister of Life now for 12 years and couldn’t be happier — God’s dreams for my life and my love have far exceeded my own and continue to surprise me each day. I’m overwhelmed by the joy, gift, love and beauty of this call, this “yes” to Love. I remain eternally grateful for my years at Catholic University and the incredible ways it laid a foundation to hold God’s dreams for my life.
Newman Society: What advice would you give to students who are trying to make the decision about which college to attend?
Sister Mariae Agnus Dei: To those discerning colleges, all I can say is you will never regret choosing a place that is invested in forming, supporting and flourishing every dimension of your life — mind, body, heart and soul. You are uniquely created in the image of God and have a unique gift of love to give. Only a college committed to serving and revealing God’s full vision for the human person will ennoble the life and love your heart desires to live. The years you spend at college, the people you encounter, the culture in which you immerse yourself, will inevitably lay a foundation for the rest of your life. In choosing an authentically Catholic college, you will be on course to live the good life you desire and become who you were made to be.