Sister Hannah experiences “the grace of the vows”
“The grace of the vows” is a saying I have heard, and is what one sister reminded me of the day I professed the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. At the time I was not aware of the grace of the vows, but I knew of the grace in the journey.
Almost seven years ago I met my first Sister of Providence and began to fall in love with the sisters and the way they choose life. Four years of initial discernment, which included a summer of volunteering at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice and Providence Health Care, and three years of formal formation within the community proceeded my first profession of vows. What an affirming, challenging, and grace-filled journey it has been!
Before I entered community, I had a limited understanding of the vows, but I resonated with the little I knew. I saw the vow of poverty as a way to live out my desire to live simply. The vow of obedience connected with a new realization that independence was becoming a false virtue in my life. And the early call I felt to give all I am in service with others seemed to fit with the vow of chastity. I saw religious life as a way for me to honor who I was and to become who God calls me to be.
Once I entered the Sisters of Providence I began to watch how the sisters lived the vows. I read about the vows, listened to sisters as they shared about their own “living into the vows”, and had discussion groups on what the vows can mean for us, the Church, the world, and the whole cosmos today. As my understanding of the vows deepened, I was drawn by the challenge to live intentionally and in alignment with the life and teaching of Jesus.
On July 1, as I stood in front of my sisters, associates, family, and friends, my heart raced with excitement and perhaps a little stage fright. I had long anticipated the opportunity to profess publicly what I had already been trying to live. When I spoke the words of profession, I spoke from the depths of who I am. I joyfully proclaimed my intentions to unite myself even closer, through the vows, to the God I seek, within the community that I love and who calls me to be my best self.
Now the journey continues. I have returned to my life-giving ministry and local community and am “living into the vows,” one day at a time, with the support of my sisters. And “the grace of the vows?”… It is the grace God offers as I make the effort to integrate my life with the vows. It’s real, I’ve experienced it, and I rely on it.