Sister Maria Goretti

I was born on June 27, 1947 (on the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help) in north county St. Louis, Missouri. My parents had emigrated as children to America from Sicily. I was the last child of eight to be born in my family, and was born after my parents had celebrated their silver jubilee of marriage. My Mother was 42 and my father was 53 when I was born. My older sister Toni was very instrumental in my vocation. Toni was 21 when I was born. She worked for the railroad as a comptometer operator and would stop by the convent (Mount Grace) for prayers for my parents who were quite sickly. My mother had an almost-fatal heart attack when I was five years old and my father had a series of strokes. Toni told me years later that she would bring me to the chapel (perhaps after age five or so) but I don't remember her doing it.

Toni gave me a prayer book with a picture inside of a Canadian Sister praying in her cloister before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I saw that picture and I wanted to be a nun. After making my first Holy Communion in 1954 (the year St. Pius X was canonized), I went to daily Mass and Holy Communion right up to the time I entered the convent at age 21. At age ten in the fourth grade, I wanted to be a contemplative Sister. I looked up at my fourth grade teacher, a Franciscan, and thought in my heart that she only went half-way as a Sister and I wanted to go the whole way and be a Sister who prays always—a contemplative Sister. During recess time in grade school, I would sneak away to the parish church and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

When I was in the eighth grade, I told my mom that I wanted to be a nun. Toni was there and she said, You should see the Pink Sisters! So Toni brought me to Mount Grace during the Christmas season. I observed the Sisters entering the sanctuary with veils over their faces, and mysteriously I knew immediately that I wanted to be a Pink Sister, then and there. The thought of being a Pink Sister remained with me every day for the next seven years. All through high school I wanted to be a Pink Sister. Sister Marie Francis, my English teacher in freshman year, gave me her copy of A Right to be Merry to read since I had written my autobiography for class, saying I wanted to be a Pink Sister. Well, I loved the book about cloistered life.

I wrote to all the contemplative orders in Saint Louis—the Carmelites, the Poor Clares, the Passionists, and Redemptoristines—seeing all their colorful habits (the Redemptoristines wore blue, black, and red habits). However, I always kept in mind the Pink Sisters, because I had seen them in person and they were near my home (only seven miles away). I reasoned that all the contemplative orders were just about the same in their lifestyle. At age 18, I visited Mount Grace, asking to enter. But Sister Superior told me that they were no longer accepting 18-year-olds and I would have to work or go to college for a few years. Because my family could not afford college for me, I worked in an office for three years, continuing to go to daily Mass and Holy Communion. Always, every day, I wanted to be a Pink Sister.

At age 21, I entered the Pink Sisters and a profound peace came over me as I knelt at the threshold of the convent. I had dated for six months to find out if I was normal, before entering, but I made my decision to enter religious life. I could clearly see that when God gives a vocation, he asks that you make a free decision. He does not force you, But I knew in my heart that if I did not follow his call, I would never be as happy. In my life, marriage would take second place not first place, and I wanted to be happy. Since I have entered the convent, I have loved the psalms in the liturgy. When I was a very young Sister, the superior asked the community to study the psalms. It was a seed planted and the liturgy has blossomed out ever since for me. The readings, the psalms—the whole liturgy—matches daily, but one has to seek in order to find, just as Our Lord tells us. I found what I was looking for.

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