Sheila, Megan’s mom, spoke to me when I visited her parish. She was dumbstruck. How could Megan, her youngest, the dependable one, surprise her this way? Megan was valedictorian at St. Mechtild’s. She’s doing well in college, a peer minister and teaching assistant, preparing for a super internship. It was a bolt from the blue when Megan told her mom, “I’m thinking of becoming a Sister.”
It’s not that Sheila doesn’t value the Sisters, although she’s never really known one. She wished there was one at her parish, or the kids’ school. She prays the vocation prayer at Mass quite fervently: “Lord, choose from our homes those needed for your work.” But she didn’t mean Megan – not funny, generous, lively Megan!
Website advice helped Sheila a little. The Washington Archdiocese site understood her confusion; they even anticipated her feelings: Why didn’t Megan talk to me first? Won’t she be lonely without a husband? Is she religious enough? But their answers were generic and unsatisfying. The Dallas Diocese gave her practical tips: Be supportive and informed, don’t badger Megan about her vocation or assume it’s just a phase. Sheila wants the best for her. She’s doing her best to follow the expert advice. But she’s struggling.
“What about my turmoil?” she asks. “I’ve spent years preparing to be mother-of-the-bride and grandma, not mother of Sister Megan – or whatever, Sister Mary Anthony.” The websites didn’t help her cope with her own feelings – work she needs to do if she’s going to support and help Megan the way she wants. .
While we were talking, I suggested three realistic things Sheila could do:
- Accept her feelings. It’s normal to be surprised and confused. The future she dreamed for Megan – and for herself – may not happen.. Squashing the confusion, worry, even disappointment, won’t help.
- Learn a lot. Find out about religious life. (Sheila was surprised to find it takes at least five years to get to final vows). Learn the language. Don’t try to manage Megan’s discernment, but be ready to walk it with her.
- Pray often. Sheila attends Mass often – she gave Megan her grounding in the faith. “I ask God for a lot of things,” she said, “but I don’t listen much for His guidance.” Whatever the result of Megan’s discernment, I told her, God is clearly inviting both of you to draw closer to Him.
A few families hope a child grows up to be a Sister or a priest. Most are more like Sheila: trying to raise faith-filled children but stunned when that faith blossoms into a religious vocation.
Discernment: a journey you can travel with your daughter.