Living as a young nun
For as long as she can remember, Sister of Providence Sister Anji Fan felt the tug of religious life calling.
“When I was younger, I felt the call to do something special for God,” Sister Anji said. “Being a Catholic in China was very unusual and counter cultural when I grew up, and the only ‘special thing’ I could think of was to join the convent.
“I started to think about religious life when I was very young and I loved to read stories of inspirational religious women.”
As those thoughts continued to flutter through her mind, Sister Anji constantly prayed to God for clear direction.
As time continued to move forward, she believed the answer was there all along; even though, she was having difficulty interpreting it at times.
“I came to understand that God’s calling is more of a mutual interaction through our human relations,” Sister Anji said. “In other words, we should not feel isolated and stuck in life about our choices. God’s calling to religious life is a process of discernment and we somehow have to pay attention to different – physical or spiritual – signs along the way.”
In 1965, at the conclusion of Vatican II, there were approximately 180,000 nuns in the United States, according to The New York Times. However, the number has declined to fewer than 56,000 today, and the median age of a nun is 74.
The Sisters of Providence have more than 315 sisters currently. However, the median age is 78. This year, Sister Anji will turn 44, making her only one of eight sisters and two postulants currently in the Congregation who were born in the 1970s or beyond.
Having younger sisters – like Sister Anji – continue to enter the Congregation is important for the community.
But before she joined the Congregation, Sister Anji admitted she looked at all of her options, as she said it’s part of “normal” life process.
“At one point, I thought about searching another type of life such as getting married and having a family,” she said. “I finished college and started my medical profession in a local hospital. At the same time, I was always searching for a way to freely worship God and serve the people.
“I never gave up the idea of trying religious life first. After I came to the United States and started the discernment process to join the Sisters of Providence, I felt at peace with the decision.”
When she turned 21, Sister Anji said she began contacting several religious communities to learn more. Within three years, Providence found her after she made contact with the Sisters of Providence.
“I met one of the Sisters of Providence in China,” she said. “We got to know each other through a mutual friend at a local church. She introduced me to the Sisters of Providence, so I came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and found home at the Woods quickly.”
Sister Anji said her early beginnings with the Sisters of Providence were extremely important in her decision to live a consecrated life.
“As I began to learn about this particular religious Congregation, I was energized by the mission and spirit of the Congregation,” she said. “I was totally enthralled by the story of Saint Mother Theodore and the history of the Sisters of Providence. Eventually, the encouragement and support of the sisters with whom I became friends led me to become part of the Congregation.”
Sister Anji entered the Congregation in 1998. She professed first vows in 2002. She professed perpetual vows in 2006.
“I was excited about starting the new phase of my life,” Sister Anji said. “I saw entering the Sisters of Providence as a transition and a chance to live out the purpose of my life. I felt meaningful about my life choice. I also felt committed.
“It’s a big commitment to God, to the community and to me, that I would walk the journey with other sisters.”