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Preparing for perpetual vows: Sister Janice Smith finds wholeness

This article is reprinted from fall 2007 issue of HOPE.

A six-figure salary, a fulfilling job, good friends, a serious relationship, a condo in California and a great extended family — Sister Janice Smith thought she had it all.

Motivated to succeed, Sister Janice soon scratched off several accomplishments from her check list after graduating from her Baltimore high school in 1969. Those items included a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a teaching job. Then in the mid-1980s, she moved to California and landed a lucrative job with Hewlett-Packard.

Yes, on the surface, she appeared to have everything. Her spiritual life, however, was almost nonexistent.

Due to the strong Catholic tradition in her family, Sister Janice eventually found her way to a parish in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., where Sister Barbara Reder served as pastoral associate. Slowly but surely, Sister Barbara encouraged Sister Janice to get more involved in the parish. This involvement included teaching, pastoral care and serving as a sponsor for a person in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

“That was a real awakening because the way Sister Barbara presented that program was an adult look at your faith expression,” said Sister Janice, who was quickly learning that the faith of her childhood was no longer nurturing to her.

That awakening gained even further rooting through a spiritual director and a year-long study of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. While she couldn’t verbalize it at the time, Sister Janice was beginning to see a call to be in right relationship with others and with God’s creation.

“I’m talking about how we relate to each other and how we are connected to each other in all of our joy, sorrow, hurt, pain and brokenness. That call demands a level of intimacy, not only in a one-on-one relationship, but in a communal way,” said Sister Janice. “It wasn’t just about me, and it wasn’t just about my family and me, or it wasn’t just about my friends and me, but it was about how I related to the world around me at a larger level. That was the call.”

After taking a leave of absence from her job and selling her condo, Sister Janice entered the Congregation in the fall of 2000. It wasn’t an easy transition. Over the years, she was challenged spiritually, emotionally and theologically. But today, as she prepares for her perpetual vows in 2008, she can now confidently say she has found wholeness in her life. Wholeness, to Sister Janice, is allowing one’s baptismal call — vowed, single or committed relationship — to flourish. That flourishing includes being in right relationship with others and all of God’s creation.

“For me, the fullness of my life is best expressed in this lifestyle as a vowed religious. Religious life let’s me be me,” said Sister Janice.

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Connie McCammon

Connie McCammon worked in the communications office for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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