Seeing God's Plan Unfold
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen. “ Jeremiah 29: 11-12
Time melts together and so it’s hard to remember at what exact year Sister Catherine Marie came into my life, but I remember it being somewhere around 2002. I was graduating from Long Beach State and getting my Master’s Degree at Chapman University. I was on the CORE team for Life Teen at a parish in Orange County and we had the ministry dream team. I was humbled to minister alongside such wonderful people who were striving to grow in their faith and share it with our youth. Sister Catherine’s brother had been on our team for a while, and if you ask me, I don’t remember Sister Catherine ever not being around. She’ll tell the story different as she remembers showing up at her first Life Night, which was school year Kick Off. Her joyful child-like spirit was an instant draw to us all and she fit in as if she had always been around. After ministering together, we were given the opportunity to move in together in an apartment in Los Angeles, just down the street from UCLA where Sister was attending college. There were four of us girls in a two-bedroom apartment, and I was blessed to share a room with Sister Catherine. All of us did Life Teen together and used our apartment as a place for ministry as often as we could. We drove together with our Youth Minister, who also worked in Los Angeles and drove to Orange County, a few times a week. A commute, which could drive someone to road rage, became an intense study of our faith, as our Youth Minister, Leo Severino shared his growing knowledge of Holy Mother Church. Side note, if you’re looking for a powerful book, you can find his book, Going Deeper, on Amazon.
In the spring of 2005, we noticed that a few of our teens, both male and female, were beginning to consider religious life either in the priesthood or the convent. We’d given the yearly Life Night on the 3 vocations – marriage, religious life and the single life. A young girl approached Sister Catherine, then just a college student, and shared with her that she was discerning religious life. Sister Catherine, assuming she was called to marriage, encouraged the young girl. After the conversation however, something began to stir in her and she wondered if she had discerned. This conversation would inevitably send Sister Catherine into a process of discernment. Once she began discerning and found the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, I became drawn to the sisters as well. We both attended separate discernment retreats and felt God calling us in the direction.
For now, I’ll skip the discernment story, as you can see she ended up joining and I found my vocation in marriage. We were scheduled to enter together in August of 2005.God called her to Michigan and He called me to Modesto. I got a job working in a Catholic school and I remember going into the chapel on the day that the sisters were entering in Michigan. I began to cry as I questioned the Lord as to why I wasn’t entering. Did He not want me anymore? I had thought He was calling me to be His spouse but now He wasn’t. Was I not good enough? I don’t remember the end of that moment, but looking back now I realized it had a lasting impact on my relationship with the Lord. Instead of trusting that God was calling me to something different, I let the evil one speak words of hurt into my heart. Looking back now, I see how the Lord so quickly fulfilled the desires of my heart for sisterhood and for my vocational calling. Within a year of not entering, I was living in a household of beautiful Catholic women, and within 2 years met my now husband. The Lord’s plans are better than our human minds can imagine. He tells us so clearly in Jeremiah that He knows the plans He has for us… full of hope.
This past weekend I had the privilege of bringing my dear friend Sister Catherine out for a marriage/vocations conference. In the 14 years since she entered, I have only seen her twice. The first visit was an afternoon visit in 2008, at her parent’s house when she was in California for her “home visit.” I believe it as 2012 or 2013, when she made her final profession. I was able to fly to Michigan to attend the Mass. It was a beautiful experience to return to the motherhouse to watch as the sisters who I would have entered with became fully professed. We were able to spend maybe an hour or so with sister at the celebration after the Mass.
Having spent only a matter of hours with Sister Catherine since 2005, my heart cannot comprehend that I just had her in my home for the weekend. The time she spent with my children is something beyond priceless. We spent Friday evening and Saturday evening at the conference, while I was not speaking, I had a table representing A Mom Revolution, which was next to her speaker’s table. We spent the whole time together and I couldn’t believe we were ministering together again after all these years. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours together, attending Mass together, catching up on each other’s lives and sharing meals together. We both commented on how it had felt like no time had passed since we’d been together all those years ago in Los Angeles.
Here I am, married and here she is, a fully professed sister. We have each found our vocations and are doing our best to live them out each day. This weekend we were able to be together again, to minister and to enjoy each other’s company. It may be another 14 years before we are together in person together, but I know that as I read my Liturgy of the Hours morning prayer today, that we are joined together in prayer and in the Holy Eucharist through Mass and adoration.
I will rejoice in the Lord’s love for me, for I now see that all those years ago, He did love me and still does and chose marriage for me, but with a different mission that I expected. Being married in the Catholic Church means that our sacramental marriage invites Our Lord into our marriage and into our covenant. I am just so grateful to be able to look back on how He so particularly laid out my journey to Him and then to my vocation. The joy I felt this weekend, was one I will long ponder on and be thankful for.
Copyright 2019 Courtney Vallejo All Rights Reserved
Image Credit Copyright 2019 Karen Padilla. All Rights Reserved