Me, a Nun? No Way!

I understood that God had planted a certain desire in my heart when He first created me, and that the fulfillment of that desire would make me happy.
by Sister Ellen Kraft, SJH | Source:
Me, a nun? No way! That was my response to the Lord when I first experienced His call to religious life.

Being the eldest of four children and growing up in a good Catholic family prepared me well, I thought, to carry on the tradition of getting married and raising a family. Only I wanted 12 children! On top of that, in my Bible there was a paper with a nice, long list of qualities I considered important in my future husband.

Growing up, I spent much time with my family outdoors; skiing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, or just simply walking. One of my fondest childhood memories is taking long walks around the lake our cottage was on, with my father telling stories that ended just as we got back to the house. Since many of our relatives were in Europe, we traveled often. German folk music, choral music and classical were also an integral part of our life. As a member of a closely-knit German community, there were very many celebrations to attend. Besides weekly Sunday Mass, our family attended choral concerts, plays, picnics, anniversary celebrations, and dances. I loved to dance, and one year our German youth group took ballroom dancing lessons all together. It was great!

Then I went to college. There are only two places in Canada where one can study to become an orthotic/prosthetic technician, and the closer one to home was in the big city of Toronto. So, that’s where I went. During those two years, I still went to Sunday Mass, but I also became more and more drawn into the way of the world. It wasn’t until I went back to Ottawa to work in the family business that I realized how far away from God I had wandered.

Back in Ottawa, I began to search for God. I knew Him somewhat, but I wanted something more, something deeper. What I found was a young-adult group at an English-speaking Catholic church that was on fire with love for Jesus. I had never seen anything like it, nor had I ever seen so many good-looking young men singing songs of praise with such gusto! The young women there were very kind and solicitous, and drew me into their company with great enthusiasm. The young people would gather every Friday evening for a teaching about the Faith, some praying, singing, and sharing. They would go to Mass on Saturday mornings, and then go out for breakfast. It was a new thing for me to go to Mass on a day other than Sunday! In their midst I began to see Jesus as a Person, Someone to talk to as to a friend, but also as God to worship. As time progressed, I began to go to daily Mass and to regularly celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, simply because I loved Jesus. I had come to appreciate the role of God in married life, and was looking forward to marrying someone who wanted Jesus in the center of our life together.

While I dated a few of the young men, the Lord was also working on my heart in other ways. There was perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at this Church, and I had the 12 a.m. slot every Thursday morning. I absolutely loved it! It was a beautiful, profound, intimate one-on-one time with Jesus that I relished. In my heart grew an awe and a reverence for the Lord’s humility in the Eucharist. I looked forward to this time every week. Then, as I went about my life, I began to notice certain things. The desire to go shopping diminished, I began to have less and less interest in clothes, I longed for a more simple lifestyle, less clutter, and to spend more time in church, more time in prayer. I volunteered at the parish office to answer the telephone. I began to do the layouts for the weekly parish bulletin. I joined a little choir, and became its director when it was invited to sing for Mass every Saturday evening. I just couldn’t seem to get enough of being in church!

The Lord’s call to be a Sister came during this time, enveloped in a prayer that came from the depths of my heart for greater humility and the grace to surrender all. While my initial reaction to the idea of becoming a nun was a negative one, I realized that I didn’t know anything about religious life. So, I decided to investigate. Around the time of my birthday in January, in my youthful brashness I told the Lord that I would give Him one year to influence my heart one way or another, toward marriage or religious life, and that He could lead me wherever He wanted. Then, on December 31st of that year, I would make my decision. Some very wise friends of mine recommended a certain priest as spiritual director, and I met with him on a regular basis.

That year of discernment was a time of tremendous growth in my spiritual life, and a year of little miracles of grace. I understood that God had planted a certain desire in my heart when He first created me, and that the fulfillment of that desire would make me happy. So I prayed: Please reveal to me the deepest desire of my heart. Jesus honored that prayer, and by November I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that my greatest desire was to give myself, wholly and completely, to Him. That was my choice. The profound peace that pervaded my whole being was something I had never experienced before, and the joy that welled up inside me seemed to come from a source beyond me.

During my investigation of religious life I visited about eleven different communities. I noticed in my heart that the more I saw of religious life, the more I liked it. When I visited the Sisters of Jesus Our Hope in New Jersey, it seemed to me that they possessed all the necessary qualities of a vibrant religious community: love of the Lord and His Church, a treasury of wisdom in their older Sisters, a deep and dynamic prayer life, and exuberant joy in simply being together! In 1992, I entered as a postulant and in the Year of Jubilee 2000, I had the tremendous privilege of making final profession in the Sisters of Jesus Our Hope. While it was difficult in the beginning to think of giving up those things that I had enjoyed so much in life, Jesus promised that those who give up everything and follow Him, will have it all returned a hundredfold (Matthew 19:29). This is a truth: the Lord is loving, faithful, and true to His promise! I am very, very happy as a Sister, and have received much more than I ever gave up. Its a wonderful life!

Sister Ellen Kraft, 43, was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She received her BSc in Education from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. She is currently teaching second grade at Immaculate Conception School in Clinton, NJ.

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