God calls us individually using the persons and circumstances surrounding us. In my case, that was in rural Putnam and Van Wert Counties in Ohio. When I think back, I feel that my religious vocation had its beginnings in my family surroundings, including my parents, grandparents, my aunts and uncles. In each of their homes I heard prayers, saw rosaries, pictures, crucifixes, and statues. My family spoke respectfully of clergy, religious, and church. Religion was such a part of our everyday experience.
I remember so vividly processions from the town of Ottoville, Ohio, into the country to bless the farm fields. Growing up in a rural area, we prayed for rain for gardens and fields at Mass. That was certainly an important part of a farmer’s life. Farmers did not work on Sundays. At the end of the harvest season, we were grateful for blessings of good crops and life. There was such goodness in the farm life and that kind of atmosphere. My parents and grandparents taught me so much about nature. There are so many ways in which one can see life and the care and caring for all forms of life. I am proud to claim being a farmer’s daughter.
In Ottoville, Sisters of the Precious Blood taught me in first, second, and third grade. I liked my teachers, Sisters Norma Osterloh, Ida Kramer, and Grace Rottner. I enjoyed helping them after school.
Around the age of seven, while on a trip to Chicago, my aunt asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I replied “a Sister.” I continued to say that I wanted to be a Sister as the years went on. When I was in fifth grade, my family moved to a farm in Van Wert County and we children attended Hoaglin-Jackson Public School. On Saturdays we came to Ottoville for religion classes. Precious Blood Sister Eileen Monnin taught my religious education class. During eighth grade, she invited me to visit Fatima Hall, the Sister’s former aspirancy in Dayton. The words from Mass that impacted me during that time were, “How can I make a return to the Lord for all He has done for me? I will take up the chalice of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:13). Those words echoed in me for a long time. I entered Fatima Hall at age 13 for high school.
Over my 56 years as a Sister of the Precious Blood I have taught and/or ministered in seven states, including in Ohio at Columbus Grove and Vandalia. I was a teacher and administrator in elementary schools; then worked in congregational administration; and then in health care as a nurse’s aide and later as a hospital chaplain. Each type of ministry had its own rewards and challenges, and called me to utilize all of my life experiences to be of service to God’s people. Today I continue to use my skills as a volunteer Eucharistic Minister at Miami Valley Hospital and as a volunteer tutor at the Brunner Literacy Center, both in Dayton, Ohio.
I think women today who feel a call to religious life need to explore it. Listen to what their heart is being stirred to respond.
While the environment in which I was raised nurtured my vocation, the Sisters who taught me in my early years influenced me. They had a presence and way of life that was appealing to me. They helped me find and fulfill a response to that question, “How can I make a return to the Lord for all He has done for me?”
Photo by Sister Mary Ellen Andrisin