Sister Mary Gemma

I believe God gave me the first indication that he had given me the grace of a religious vocation at the early age of six when my father died rather unexpectedly after less than two days of illness. Although I was quite young, his death had a strong impact on me and awakened in me the reality of life that we love and we lose. This by no means is a pure motive for embracing religious life, but as we know God will use a variety of means to get us where he wants us. At age nine I read a feature story in the magazine section of our Sunday newspaper aboutthe Trappist monks, in Gethsemane, Kentucky. The article related that the words: “God Alone” were inscribed above their entrance portal. I was very much impressed. It was the first time I became aware of contemplative communities of Religious. About the same time a young woman acquaintance of my sister joined the Order of Poor Clare Nuns, a strictly cloistered community of Religious women, and I would listen almost spellbound as my sister would relate features of their lifestyle. From this age until I was about eleven whenever someone asked me what I would be when I grew up I always said, “A Poor Clare!”

When I entered my teens I went through all the normal stages of adolescence, and my vision for the future began to change to the possibility of married life and raising a family. I seriously considered this possibility because of my widowed mother who had been orphaned of both parents by age nine and had buried her second husband at age 42. I certainly did not want to make life more difficult for her. However, God had other plans for me and the desire for contemplative religious life became stronger than ever during my last three years in high school. I graduated in 1951 and at that time college was not as essential for education as it is today. The thought of going to college for at least two years or of working for a short time was always met with a firm conviction that God did not want me to wait. I spoke to my mother about how I felt, and added the words, “but I don't want to cause you more suffering.” She told me that if I felt God was calling me to contemplative religious life I should go and not worry about her. When I think of my mother's love and great faith I recall the words from the Book of Ecclesiastes, “and her children rose up and called her blessed.”

The first thing I had to do was choose a contemplative community. One day as I was working at home, I asked myself the question, “which contemplative community should I enter?” Quite surprisingly the words came to my mind, “The Pink Sisters.” I literally stopped what I was doing and stood motionless because I never considered the “Pink Sisters” although I lived almost all my life only a couple blocks down from Mount Grace convent. After my first visit to the parlor of Mount Grace to speak with the Sister in charge, I was convinced that this is where God wanted me. I felt a strong attraction to the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters and my desire to embrace cloistered-contemplative life grew more powerful. I entered two months after my high school graduation. Now I can look back on more than a half-century of vowed religious life and say a heartfelt, “thank you, Lord!”

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