Eileen was raised Catholic at home and school, and felt a call to the religious life as a teenager. She pushed that call aside because she had other plans for her life. After some living, she still felt God calling to her. When she realized that nuns do much more than teach and pray, she decided to follow God’s plan instead of hers.
Did you grow up in the Catholic Church?
Yes. I’m a “cradle Catholic,” in other words, born and raised in the Catholic Church. I attended Catholic schools in the Cincinnati area from kindergarten through high school. Growing up, we attended weekly Mass as a family. My parents really set the example for my brothers and me of how to live our faith, teaching us compassion and the importance of treating others with dignity and respect. We learned to love God and our faith.
What did you do before you became a nun?
I attended college and earned a degree in communications, and served in the Army Reserves while I was still in school. After graduation, I spent five years on active duty and was stationed in Pennsylvania and Belgium. After leaving the Army, I worked as an assistant manager at Bob Evans, and then as a claims adjuster for an insurance company.
How did you reach the decision to make the change?
I actually started thinking about religious life when I was a student at St. Ursula Academy, which is sponsored by my order, the Ursulines of Cincinnati. At the time, there were still a number of sisters teaching there, including one young sister who taught music. I remember being struck by her faith and enthusiasm, her love for God, her ministry and her students. She was joyful and full of life, and I found myself wanting to be like her.
At the time, though, I thought that all sisters did was teach and pray, and while those are both wonderful things, I couldn’t see myself spending my life doing that. I later found out, of, course, that there is much more to being a woman religious. At the time, I also had other plans: to go on to college, get a degree in journalism, work for the Cincinnati Enquirer as a reporter, meet a nice guy and get married and have a family, and have a successful career. Obviously, most of that didn’t happen, and I couldn’t be happier. God knew better!
“I remember being struck by her faith and enthusiasm, her love for God, her ministry and her students. I found myself wanting to be like her.“
How did your family and friends respond?
My family members were very supportive. The first person I told was my mom via a phone call. She said, “I can see you doing that.” It was the same with my friends. They were very curious and had a lot of questions about what the process of being a nun was like and how my life would change, but no one seemed surprised by the news. It’s as if everyone knew something I didn’t!
What can you share about the transition? Any doubts or rough patches?
The transition was a little tough initially, especially when I entered the novitiate. At that point, I had to quit my “civilian” job, give up my apartment and move in with another sister. That was challenging after living on my own for many years and enjoying my independence.
I can’t say I’ve really had any doubts. I think it helped that I entered religious life after doing so many other things – living my life, so to speak. I really felt like when I entered the community that I was in a good place spiritually and emotionally. I had tried ignoring God’s call (plan for me) for so long. I finally had to give in.
The biggest challenge for me has been questioning whether I’m worthy. I don’t think of myself as a particularly holy person. I’m just Eileen. Even after all these years, it still surprises me sometimes when someone calls me “Sister.” It’s like, “I’m a nun – How the heck did that happen?” I look at some of our sisters who have been in religious life for 40, 50, 60 years or more and I’m just humbled by their faith, dedication and wisdom. They are truly holy women, and it’s a privilege to follow in their footsteps.
What kind of training/steps were involved to join the sisterhood?
“I had tried ignoring God’s call for so long. I finally had to give in.”
It basically took eight years from the time I got back in touch with the Ursulines until I made my final vows in April, 2004. The first step was becoming a candidate (what used to be called a postulent). That’s a period of at least a year. Then, I entered the novitiate (a period of at least 2 years). This was followed by my first or temporary vow, and final or permanent vows 3 years later.
During my whole period of formation, there was an emphasis on prayer, study and spiritual direction (this in an ongoing process). I also participated in a inter-community novitiate program with other women and men in preparation for religious life in which we took a variety of classes on Scripture, the vows, prayer, church history and various other spiritual and religious topics. In addition, I began working on my master’s degree in religious studies at the College of Mount St. Joseph and completed that in 2003.
What kinds of positions have you held in the church since becoming a nun?
I’ve actually worked at The Catholic Telegraph for most of the time I’ve been in religious life. I started here as a staff writer in 2000, and have been the news editor for eight years. I also work as the communications director for my religious community.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’m not sure there is such a thing! Most days I get up fairly early (5-5:30) and do my morning prayer, spiritual reading and/or spend some time reflecting on Scripture. Then it’s off to work just like anyone else. I do try to attend Mass several times a week in addition to Sunday. In the evenings, I often have meetings, choir practice or plans with other sisters or friends. Or, I may just stay home and read or watch TV with the kitties.
Share a little about yourself outside of being a nun.
Well, I like cats and volunteer at Ohio Alleycat Resource, so there’s that. I love fostering, being involved with adoptions, and serving on the board. I also enjoy reading, spending time outside, and with family and friends. I sing in my parish choir and have also volunteered with Hospice of Cincinnati.
How does being a nun influence your daily life/views/feelings?
I think, more than anything else, it’s an opportunity to live as the person God created me to be. It’s very important to me to do God’s will, whatever that may be. I don’t know for sure that I am, but I’m trying, and I believe God knows that. It’s very important to me, not just as a woman religious, but as a person, to be aware of God’s presence in my life, and in others. To that end, I try to treat others (all God’s creatures) with compassion and respect and be of service how and when I can. My Catholic faith is at the center of my life, and I hope and pray that I’m living it out and witnessing to do in way that makes God happy.
“It’s very important to me, not just as a woman religious, but as a person, to be aware of God’s presence in my life, and in others.”
What is the most rewarding part of being a nun?
It goes back to what I said before: just having a very strong sense that I’ve living my life as the person God has called me to be. I’ve been able to do that as an Ursuline, thanks to God, of course, and the example of my sisters. My life isn’t perfect by any means, but I can honestly say that most nights I go to bed with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for the life he led me to.
What is the most challenging part?
Wondering if I’m worthy, if I’m doing enough to serve God and others. This pressure is totally self-imposed, of course!
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a nun?
That God doesn’t ask us to be perfect. He just asks that we love Him, love others and do our best. It’s not that hard. We humans make it much more complicated than it needs to be.
Can you share an event that really left an impression on you?
That has to be the day I made my final vows. It was a beautiful spring day, and my sisters, family, friends, co-workers, so many people who have touched my life, came together to celebrate. It was such a blessing to have them there to share in the joy of that special day and to know that their love and support helped me reach that point.
What is something that most people would not know about being a nun?
That we love to have fun and have great senses of humor. We enjoy the same things as women who aren’t in religious life: spending time with friends, eating out, going to movies. And, many nuns and some pretty interesting experiences before joining their communities. One of mine was riding in a tank!
What would you say to other women who might be interested in working in the church?
To go for it, listen to God’s call and don’t hesitate to use their gifts (whatever they may be) for the good of others. That’s what we’re all here for!
What does strength mean to you?
It means having the confidence to live out one’s call in life whatever that may be, having the faith to stand by your principles no matter what, facing challenges with hope, not worry, and never hesitating to be yourself and embrace what brings you joy. That’s what God wants for each of us!
Are you feeling called to something?
Follow your heart and change direction – whether it’s God’s plan, or your plan – live your life doing what you feel most called to do.
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