Sister Rebecca Keller
Get to know Sister BeckyCurrent ministry … Volunteer Services Coordinator for the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.
My close friend says … “I think too much.”
Favorite recreation: walking in nature, being with family and friends, hanging out with my cat, quiet time/solitude and reading
Favorite drink: hot tea
Favorite author: Joan Chittister, OSB, speaks to my heart
Favorite saint: my mother
Favorite childhood activity: anything with my family
Favorite flower: wildflowers
Favorite scripture passage: “Be still and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10
If I weren’t an SP, I’d be … a farmer
Someday I’d like to … go on a hiking vacation.
Contact Sister Becky at: email@example.com
Rebecca “Becky” Keller was in her mid-20s. She had graduated from Purdue University and was teaching elementary school. Yet an idea remained with her that she couldn’t shake.
She knew little about religious sisters, but she just couldn’t escape the idea that she was supposed to be one.
The idea had been with her as long as she could remember, since her days growing up on a farm in northern Indiana.
“I remember me on a tractor out on a whole big field, and there I would really feel God,” she recalls of her early years growing up the oldest of eight children.
Yearning for God
Her whole life she’d felt a great yearning, a passion to come to a deeper understanding of who God was, and it just kept propelling her toward the idea of being a sister.
“I could not put that desire within my heart to rest. And I did kind of run from it — I think in part because I had a pre-Vatican II understanding of religious life — but I just couldn’t put it to rest. And finally I decided that I really had to try or else I would never be at peace with myself,” she recalls.
So she began to look into religious congregations. She took a teaching job at a Catholic school so she could get to know and observe the sisters there. The school just happened to be staffed by Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.
“You know, I really didn’t even consider them at first because … I don’t know why I didn’t, but I didn’t. And I was looking everywhere else. I’m one of those persons who when I make a decision I have to really check out every option in the world,” Sister Becky said.
But after she informed the principal of her school that she was planning to “join the convent” (You see, I didn’t even know the language!” she said) the very next day the sister invited her to come and visit Saint Mary-of-the-Woods that weekend.
“And that was kind of the beginning. I think in hindsight the main reason I ended up coming to the Sisters of Providence was because the sisters I taught with at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Lafayette were just so accepting and so loving and I felt like they lived simply. They really seemed to have the same values that I have. And then, I remember coming to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Because I’m a farmer I like space and I love land, and so I thought that all this ground, and some of it was farmland, was a really great fringe benefit of the Sisters of Providence,” she said.
Answering the call
And so at age 27 Sister Becky officially joined the Sisters of Providence.
“Professing my first vows was one of the happiest days in my life. Because I had fought it for so long, it was great that I was making a public commitment with the Sisters of Providence and to God. And it was great because my whole family and so many of my friends were with me that day.”
She recalls a picture taken that day of her standing before the gathered crowd as they were applauding after she had professed vows. “To me that picture captures how happy I felt that day. It had been the desire of my heart since I was young,” she said.
Today, Sister Becky has lived that call for more than three decades. She’s spent those years teaching high school religion, in parish ministry and helping new sisters in formation.
Currently her effervescent, positive personality is put to good use in her ministry as coordinator of volunteer services for the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Here she enjoys getting to know the “generous and wonderful” people who volunteer their time with sisters and their local ministries.
Excited about SPs
For Sister Becky, this also allows her to promote and serve a Congregation she admires.
“I’m really excited about the direction the Sisters of Providence are moving. I feel like we really are open and changing with the signs of the times: which would be the needs of the world. We look outward. And I feel we try to listen to each other’s perspective of what the signs of the time are and how we need to respond.”
To her the unique benefits of being a sister include the support and challenge of being a part of a group of women who have similar values, goals and dreams as she. It is also the power in numbers. “I think a group can affect change more than one person can,” she said.
Sister Becky has continued her life-long quest to know God and share that with others.
“My whole understanding of God through life has broadened so much — to include all of life, really. And I keep learning different aspects of who God is — in community, in ministry, with friends, with family, in myself, with creation. I’ve learned about God through pain and suffering. It’s just that my idea of God has grown to be so huge,” she said.
Passion for justice
That vision of God present in all of creation spurs her toward justice.
“I am passionate about justice. And that is one of the reasons I am so excited about the Sisters of Providence. I feel like we focus on justice for all creation. I believe that all life people, animals, all creation should have the opportunity and conditions to not only survive but also to reach their potential.”
In addition to justice, prayer is central to Sister Becky’s life.
“I just think it’s important for me to take time to try to see who God is and who I am and how I am being called. I have a very busy mind, and so I do really have to take time apart and settle myself down. I can’t just do it in five or ten minutes; I really need to quiet myself in order to be able to listen. But on the other hand, I do feel God can speak in my busiest moments of life. And that always makes me smile because God is forever challenging my narrow perspective of life. God speaks all the time,” she said.
What advice would Sister Becky offer a woman considering religious life today? “I think you need to ask God’s help, and then do your part which could be getting to know some of the different communities and understanding a little bit what religious life is all about. My philosophy is that God always comes through. It’s kind of dangerous when you ask God’s help, because God always answers. “
Starting with the “Unknown Desire,” as Sister Becky refers to her call, to entering a community knowing little of what to expect, Sister Becky believes God led her where she needs to be.
“It just feels right,” she said.
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