“Higher daddy, higher!” I used to say to my dad as he pushed me on the swing set…
we had behind our hundred year old stone farmhouse. Our farm was 200 acres of fields, woods, streams and pasture, chosen 6 generations ago by my great-great-great grandfather. This is where I spent my childhood together with my family: mom, dad, my sister Kait and my brother Aaron, as well as many farm animals and pets.
Faith was an important part of our lives. My dad was raised Catholic and shared with us this gift. We attended Mass on Sundays and said our bedtime prayers with dad, “Now I lay me down to sleep…,” listing every person we could possibly think of to pray for. My mom, though not Catholic, shared a deep faith in God and His love for us. I thought that my mom looked like Mary and my dad had a beard just like the men I saw in my picture Bible. Dad was a lot of fun to be around. He would make us laugh, was easy to talk to and full of life and joy. This made it easy for me to speak to God as my Father when I prayed.
I had many dreams of what I might want to do when I “grew up.” It was hard for me to choose just one! Sometimes I thought I wanted to be a doctor or a veterinarian, maybe a teacher or a musician, an artist or a farmer. I knew I wanted to travel lots and go to university, but beyond that I wasn’t sure. I did know that all of my plans ended with me eventually returning to the farm, getting married and raising a family there.
After I graduated from high school, I spent one year doing missionary work in Ireland. While I was there, I lived with consecrated lay women who had dedicated their lives to Jesus. These women really caught my attention. They were young, beautiful, successful and fun. They could have done anything with their lives and they had chosen this. And they were happy. One day, I remember watching them sing a song. Seeing their joy, I thought: “I want that. I want to be happy like they are happy.” During my year in Ireland I had the opportunity to grow a lot in my faith through daily Mass, regular confession, spiritual direction and catechism classes. I was growing a lot in my prayer life and realized that I could speak to Jesus as a friend. I could tell him how my day had been, share with him my joys, sorrows, frustrations, hopes and dreams. I could share my heart with him. It was during this time that I began to wonder: “could God ask something of me like he asked of the consecrated women?” This question was exciting, but also terrifying. I knew that if the answer was “yes,” then my plans for my life would have to change. I tucked this question away deep in my heart, partly hoping it would go away and partly hoping it wouldn’t. I returned home and began university. I studied classical languages and was also very involved in starting a pro-life group on our campus.
Around this time my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He died a little over a year later. I found myself faced with death in a very real and painful way. I can remember in prayer imagining myself at the moment of my death, when everything else falls away. All of the things I had done, hadn’t done, had hoped to do, everything just fell away. Everyone else, their opinions, my own opinions, everything just fell away and it was just me and Jesus. In that moment, the question on my heart was, “Jesus, what do I hope to have done in my life?” My answer was “I hope that I will have loved You, that I will have given you everything.” Though this was a very difficult time in my life, it was also a time when I was able to see more clearly what my true desires were.
I finished my undergraduate degree and returned home to our family farm with my mom. I began several part-time jobs: at a library, playing music on my harp at weddings and helping to homeschool for family friends. Throughout the years since I had been in Ireland, I had not forgotten the question I had begun to ask: “God, what is your plan for me?” I was happy. Everything seemed to be falling into place that I thought I wanted and yet I knew that there was a “spark” of something missing. I knew that if I was to have peace in my heart, I needed to listen honestly for God’s answer about my vocation. I had met the Sisters of Life when I was studying at university. They opened our convent in Toronto during that time and I began to see them at pro-life events. I found myself in tears anytime they would speak of the value of each human life and how God treasures each person. Their charism resonated deeply with me. I was also deeply moved by the joy I saw uniquely in each one of them and the love with which they treated one another. I contacted them in the hope that even if I wasn’t called there, they could point me in the right direction. As I spoke with the sisters and prayed more specifically about my vocation, I felt drawn more and more to give my heart completely to God, but I was scared and wrestled with many questions. I was afraid that I might not be happy, that God might let me down. I wanted so much to have a family, could God really make me happy?
One day in the midst of all of this, I was sitting on my bedroom floor. This was the bedroom I had had since I was a child and the floor was still covered in a pattern of baby farm animals. I sat on the floor and felt my heart opened to ask very honestly and sincerely, “God what do you want me to do?” I was moved to read from my Bible where Jesus says “Greater love has no many than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…” (John 15:13) And I knew. My heart knew that Jesus had laid down His life for me and He was asking me to do the same for Him and for those He loves. He has been steadfast and faithful, and has never given up on me! He made my heart for joy and knew that I would only find it when I had given Him everything. I love living the adventure of life and love with the Lord that each day brings. On August 6th, 2021, I know my dad was smiling down on me at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as my Heavenly Father gave me to Jesus and Jesus to me through the profession of my final vows. I am His and He is mine…forever!