INRI: I’ll Never Regret It
As I returned home, at the end of the summer, I knew if God was really calling me to become a Sister, the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus would be the Order I would choose. I saw only good and dedicated women working for the Lord.
by Sr. M. Immaculata | Source:
I sealed the envelope and hurried, lest I change my mind, to the mailbox to mail my letter asking for admission into Carmel D.C.J. I realized a new life was about to unfold before me, but, I thought, if I get that letter written and mailed, half of the battle is already won. And so it was. It was a Saturday morning, the day dedicated to our Blessed Mother, when I was determined to write and mail that first of many letters to my beloved Carmel.
September 25th was the day set for my entrance into Carmel of the Divine Heart of Jesus. Oh, how I awaited that day and yet how anxious I was of the life that I was soon to embrace. But a sense of peace filled my heart, and a surge of happiness, with the thought that I wanted to be a Bride of Christ, played a vital role in my final decision to become a Sister.
I grew up on a farm in northeastern Kansas with my parents, seven brothers and five sisters. I was tucked in the middle of thirteen children given to my parents, Frances and Henry Osterhaus. Growing up on a farm had many wonders and advantages of its own. The wide open land where we, as children, had plenty of space to romp and roam and call our own. Bringing my Dad an afternoon lunch as he worked in the fields was always a joy for me. He would stop his work and we would sit under a shade tree as we helped him eat his hardy lunch. With fond memories I recall the many evenings when we chose teams and played games among ourselves in our large front yard. Baseball was a Sunday afternoon favorite in the summer and sledding in the winter months. And to talk about the luxury of having your very own riding horses, well, that’s just what we had and lots more. I did not only have to give up a cat or a dog, but I left behind horses, cows, chickens, little piglets, and even a few tame geese. But living on a farm meant more then just play for us as children, for we also had chores to accomplish. My particular little job was to help feed the chickens and gather (not pick) eggs. Oh yes, we also had our little responsibilities in the house. For the most part the boys had to help with the outside jobs, and the girls had to help with the housework. I remember as we did our work Dad used to say to us, “When you do something do it right the first time, that will save you time from doing it over.”
We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to receive a Catholic education during our elementary and high-school years at St. Mary’s. We were taught by the good Benedictine Sisters whom I come to admire very much. After school I tried to find reasons to be with the Sisters, either to help them clean the blackboards or just help carry their books. I’m sure the Sisters had a big part to play in my vocation. Each year one of the Sisters would talk to the students about religious life. I guess the Sisters were always like a magnet for me; I felt so comfortable in their presence.
In spite of the fact that I was attracted to the Sisters, I was by no means deprived of the fun and outings that teenagers take part in. I attended all the school excursions, proms, dances and just all the exciting things young adults like to do. I recall dancing at one of the school’s functions when I felt such a calling to be a Sister, I said to myself, “This I do enjoy, but I would rather give myself to God as a religious Sister.” I would say I missed very few dances in the surrounding communities, but they left a void within me, I wanted something more, something better. I was falling in love with Jesus, I wanted to be His Bride.
Although I can credit the Sisters in school for being fine role models for me the first and foremost training and schooling began at home. My parents taught us to reverence and love God and to be loyal to the Church. Sunday Mass was not even a question, we attended willingly, dressed in our best. In fact, the whole day was treated as something very special. My dad, being a farmer, never worked on Sunday. He wanted to teach us respect for the Lord’s Day. Then there was the family evening rosary. If, when we were praying the rosary, we had visitors, we invited them in and they joined us in the recitation of the rosary. Even on Christmas Eve, before we opened our gifts, the family rosary was never missed. Morning prayer was said after breakfast and night prayer followed supper. Confessions, First Fridays, Forty Hours devotions with night adoration, and the Way of Cross were always well attended by our family.
My acquaintance with the Carmelite Sisters began during the summer months between my high-school years. My aunt, Ann, who worked for our Sisters as a cook in one of our nursing homes, asked me if I would like to work with her during that summer. That was my first time ever meeting a Carmelite Sister of the Divine Heart of Jesus. In fact, there were many Sisters I came to know during those two months who edified me by their kindness, joyfulness and dedication. As I returned home, at the end of the summer, I knew if God was really calling me to become a Sister, the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus would be the Order I would choose. I saw only good and dedicated women working for the Lord. This I admired very much in all of them but especially in dear Sister M. Martina with whom I was privileged to work. She was always so kind and joyful; truly a beautiful person whose faithfulness to the love of Jesus was the hallmark of her life. Still to this day, it is with happy memories that I look back on my first job working in the Lord’s vineyard with the good Carmelite Sisters.
Throughout the remainder of my high school, although I was engaged in high-school activities, Jesus was tugging at my heart; thus, after graduation I found myself working again with the Sisters. I wanted to be a Sister but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then one Sunday morning I met the Superior of the home and all she said to me was, “Why don’t you ask for an application?” There was my answer! But how did she know the secret of my heart? I had said nothing to anyone outside of my own family. This was the beginning of my final step in fulfilling that long-desired vocation — becoming a Bride of Christ. Now, I had to write that first letter asking for an application. And so I did.
My parents, since they wanted my happiness, always supported my desire to become a Sister; my brothers — well, one of them — told me I would be home again in two years, and here it is, oh my goodness, forty years; then there were my sisters, my three older sisters were already married and the two younger ones weren’t going to cry after I left, so they said. Well, after leaving the house, I remembered something I needed, so as I returned to the house there they were amid sobs and cries. They were so happy to see me again and I was only gone a few minutes.
I traveled via a train with the Sisters, from St. Louis to Milwaukee, on September 25, 1961. From that first day to this day my life story has unfolded: however, I know for certain that the momentous step I had taken, the I.N.R.I. which one sees on the Cross, has for me an added significance: I’ll Never Regret It. To become a religious, one has to want Jesus. Do you?