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Finding my Vocation in Quarantine

The Dominican Sisters Of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist Share New Holiday  Album : NPR

by Genevieve Gignoux

My name is Genevieve Gignoux, I am 18 years old and I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I just graduated from Saint Mary’s Catholic High School, and I am preparing to enter the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. My discernment lasted only two and a half months, but the roots of my vocation go far back to my childhood. If you had told me a year ago that I would be entering the convent, I would have thought you were joking. But now that I have found that God made me to love in this way; I could not be happier. My vocation began to develop long before I realized that religious life was what God was calling me to. I grew up in a Catholic family who cherished the faith. Going to Mass every Sunday and praying as a family was a blessing and helped me to personally embrace the Catholic faith. My parents have always been great examples of self-sacrificial love and have modelled what it means to be a good Catholic. They never spoke to us about becoming sisters, but they sent my sisters and I to events hosted by the Sister Servants of Mary Ministers to the Sick, in Kansas City, Missouri. I grew up knowing what sisters were, but I never thought I would become one.

I had the blessing of receiving a Catholic education throughout grade school and high school. My family lived in Kansas City, Missouri until I was thirteen, and then we moved to Phoenix, Arizona. In Phoenix, I was blessed to attend Saint Mary’s Catholic High School where I found friends who were authentically Catholic, and I deepened my faith through the sacraments and theology offered on campus. The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist taught at my high school and I was blessed to have them as teachers. I loved having class with them and hearing their vocation stories. Freshman year, I had Sister Mary David as my theology teacher, and she told us her vocation story and let the class ask her questions. I remember someone in my class asked her if it was possible to lose your vocation. She answered that God is not going to force you to do something no matter how many times he offers it to you, and that it is possible to get distracted and to lose sight of the vocation God is offering you. This really struck me, and I felt a deep conviction that I needed to find my vocation. I began to pray that I may always do God’s will, although I did not always know what that was supposed to look like or how I was supposed to seek it out.

As high school continued, I watched my older sister encounter the Lord and begin to discern her vocation. In the winter of her senior year, she attended the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist discernment retreat and came home with application papers. I saw her joy and excitement throughout the process of getting ready to enter the convent. Her yes to Jesus deepened my desire to find out what God wanted for me and to find the same joy in something as she found in religious life. As high school went on, I got distracted, and I convinced myself that God could not possibly call both my sister and I to religious life. I was trying to escape the tug on my heart to discern. The summer before my senior year, thanks to my grandparents, I was given the opportunity to attend a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France with other high schoolers. This trip had a great impact on my faith, as I had recently consecrated myself to Mary and I have a devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. Throughout the trip, I experienced deep peace and happiness, and loved serving and praying with all different kinds of people. One night, the Sisters took some of us to the grotto to pray around 1 a.m. I knelt in the grotto before Mother Mary. I had never been happier than when I was kneeling before her. Lourdes deepened my faith and impacted my vocation although I did not realize it at the time. 

Throughout my senior year, I ignored the tugging on my heart to discern. I convinced myself that God could not be calling me to religious life, so I made plans to go to college. I had a good Catholic college as my number one choice, and I attended their scholarship weekend in January of my senior year. I thought that I would come home and know for sure that I wanted to go there, but instead I came home more lost and restless than before. The school was wonderful, but something was not right. Its community was faithful, its programs were good, and some of my friends wanted to go there, but still something was missing. I was not at all sure that it was God’s will for me to go there. I started attending daily mass a few times a week and increasing my prayer life. I prayed to God multiple times, saying, “God, all I want is to do your will and I will give up my plan in a heartbeat if you ask me too, but I need you to show me your plan”. I was a bit bold with God, but that was all I could think to do. On the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I prayed to Mary asking her to help me see God’s will for my life, and I laid down in bed after I finished praying, and I felt this gut feeling and I thought to myself, “what if I am supposed to be a sister and I have been ignoring it this whole year.” So, from that moment on I decided that I would discern, but I did not picture myself doing anything serious, anytime soon. But God had other plans.

The next day I was at school. Some Dominican Brothers were on campus and my theology class decided to take a pilgrimage (as we called it) to find them. We found them in Sister Mary David’s classroom, and listened to their vocation stories. Then, as we were leaving, Sister Mary David told me that Sister Mercedes wanted to talk to me after school. Immediately I experienced that tug on the heart, that gut feeling and for the rest of the day I thought to myself ‘Oh no, Sister Mercedes is going to tell me I have a vocation’. I am not entirely sure why I thought this besides the grace of the Holy Spirit, but sure enough, I was right. I went to Sister Mercedes’ room after school, and she encouraged me to go on the March discernment retreat and told me she thought that I might have a vocation. So, I decided that I would take my discernment more seriously and try to figure out God’s will by the end of senior year. I signed up to go on retreat at the end of March, and I had this perfect picture in my head of what my discernment would look like. I was going to daily Mass, increasing my prayer life, preparing to lead a Kairos retreat, and preparing to go on the discernment retreat. I was convinced that with all that going on, God would provide the grace for me to know His will. But once again, God asked me to step back and not follow my plans for anything, not even for discernment. Instead he invited me to surrender completely to Him.

The discernment retreat was cancelled due to Covid-19, and I felt so lost. I had come to the decision that God’s will was not for me to go to the college I liked, but I still did not quite know what God was calling me to do. Since school and mass were cancelled, I decided to go to Eucharist adoration as often as I could. I ended up going almost every day. It was one of the greatest blessings I have ever received, and it came during the most uncertain time in my life. My soul took refuge in the peaceful adoration chapel, and I fell in love with Jesus. One night, in the silence of my heart, I realized by the grace of the Holy Spirit that God was offering me everything I had dreamed about in religious life, and He was offering to fulfill even my smallest desires. He was offering me: motherhood, consecration, joy, children, a continual education, and a beautiful community in the Dominicans. In Eucharistic Adoration, I experienced Jesus inviting me to “Come follow Him” and surrender myself wholly to His plan, even if that meant sacrificing some things for Him. I found adoration to be like my second home, and I found myself longing to always be with Jesus. I realized throughout adoration that if God was calling me to religious life, it would be to the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. They have Eucharistic adoration every day, and recite a daily act of consecration to Mary, both were two aspects that were significant in my discernment. Also, the Dominican Sisters of Mary are already basically my family since my older sister, Sister Catherine Paul, is in formation there. It was never really a question of which convent I was going to enter; it was just a question of will I accept the grace I need to say yes to religious life.

Since the discernment retreat was cancelled, Sister Mercedes had a few other girls and I, who were supposed to go on the retreat, call her. While I was talking to Sister, I attempted to explain what I had experienced in adoration, and I told her every fear I felt that made choosing college over the convent seem so easy. But in the end, Sister told me that I could not let fear control my decision, and she reassured me of the peace, freedom and joy that comes from acting on God’s calling. When she asked me if I was going to take papers, I had no legitimate excuse to say no, and I knew that if I did not ask for papers, I would regret it forever.  By the end of the phone call, I had decided that I would call Sister Joseph Andrew, the vocations director, and ask for application papers. So, the next morning, I sat in my backyard in my pajamas and talked to Sister Joseph Andrew, and she asked me if I wanted to take papers, and by the grace of God I said yes. The fear did not disappear, but it had turned into something so small and insignificant amidst the great gifts of God. After taking papers and really reflecting on God’s grace in my life, I came to realize how every grace God has ever given me was in preparation to the moment I realized my vocation. It was like I finally saw how the puzzle pieces of my life fit together, and my vocation was the missing piece that completed the puzzle.

By the grace of God, I was accepted to enter the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist on August 22nd! I experienced a completion of joy which can be given only by God when we do His will. Without Covid-19, I am not sure where I would be in life right now. So even though everything seems so uncertain, and there is much cause to fear, if we surrender that fear to God, He will bring something better than we could ever imagine out of it. There are 17 other young women preparing to enter with me this fall. God has led my group in a special way throughout this process, through the sacrifices He has asked us to make. One thing my group has learned is that God certainly will take care of us if we place our trust in Him. Please keep the 2020 postulants in your prayers as we prepare to enter.

Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
Ann Arbor, Michigan

FAST FACTS:

  • The Order was founded in 1997 with four Sisters
  • The community has grown to over 150 Sisters
  • The average age of the Sisters if 32
  • The average age of the women who enter is 22
  • The Sisters presently represent most of the States across America, various Provinces in Canada, as well as Europe and Asia

If you are interested in our community please visit, https://www.sistersofmary.org/. Our vocation discernment retreats are scheduled for November 7th and 8th, 2020, February 13th and 14th, 2021, and April 24th and 25th, 2021. Due to Covid-19, the sisters are not entirely sure that all of these retreats will happen in person, or if they will have to opt for a virtual retreat over Zoom. If you are interested in the retreats or the community, and want more information, contact the vocations directress, Sister Joseph Andrew using her email: sjab@sistersofmary.org. Again, I ask for your prayers for the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist.

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