As prepared by Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, January 2012
The passage of the Annunciation has always had a special place in my spiritual life, particularly in my vocational journey. When I was received into the Roman Catholic Church, I chose the passage of the Annunciation to be the reading for the Marian Mass on that day. It was that same reading that I chose on the day of my final vows. This passage rests in my heart, because very often I feel like our Blessed Mother at the moment of the Annunciation. It is a feeling as though God is calling me to do the impossible, trusting that He will help me to accomplish it, and yet wondering how it will all happen.
Since 1991 there have been three major “annunciation” moments which God has put before me. The first of these was when I was called to start the Missionaries of the Virgin Mary, the first religious order for women in the Assyrian Church of the East in 700 years. The second moment came when I felt drawn to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church despite the risk of losing my community. The third moment happened when Cardinal Seán O’Malley invited me four years ago to begin discerning the task of establishing a new religious order for women within the Archdiocese of Boston.
In February of 2011, the Lord made it clear to Cardinal Seán and to me that the time had come to move forward with the foundation of this new order. As with the first two “annunciation” moments, when I felt called by the Lord, I found myself wondering how this could be. Knowing my past and my background makes me feel as overwhelmed as Mary, woman of the Annunciation, must have felt on that day. This is not a sense of being overwhelmed by a great burden but rather a feeling of awe at the great undertakings which God is entrusting to me, and working through me. I am truly humbled by the Lord’s trust in my nothingness, which is made evident through the Cardinal’s invitation. I shared with my spiritual director that I feel very unworthy of the task which the Lord is asking me to accomplish. God has shown His power by moving me from small and humble origins to do great things for Him.
Discernment Group and Cardinal’s invitation
“The consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse.” Blessed John Paul II, Vita Consecrata
As shepherd of this Archdiocese, the Cardinal has always done everything in his power to encourage vocations to the service for the Church, both priesthood and consecrated life. Since the time of my reception into the Roman Catholic Church in 2005, the Cardinal has continually encouraged me in my religious vocation and in my labors for the people of God, particularly for the young people whom I served as a campus minister.
On September 23, 2011, he wrote, “Throughout this past decade, Sister has cared for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of so many students at Boston University by fostering there a deeply Catholic community. She challenged students to serve Christ and His Church. She has served as a guide and spiritual mentor to young men in formation for the priesthood and women in formation for consecrated life.”
The promotion of vocations has always been an important part of my service to the Church. Recognizing the passion of young people for the service of the Church encouraged me to begin a discernment group for women at Boston University in the fall of 2005.
As I began meeting with a number of young women, it became clear to me that it would be necessary to have a space where I could gather with them, and where some of them might be able to come and spend some time in prayer, reflection and the experience of community life. After undertaking this work for a few years, I had the opportunity to speak about it with the Cardinal in 2008. At that time the Cardinal encouraged me to discern the possibility of forming a new community of women religious in the Archdiocese of Boston, as he stated in his letter of September 23, 2011
In 2009 the Cardinal gave me his permission to open a house of discernment on campus. After I received the Cardinal’s permission I established Nazareth House at Boston University. I continued to meet with the young women who approached me about their discernment for a little more than two years. Nazareth House became a place of grace and the genesis of our new foundation. The Lord directed the Cardinal’s discernment and mine to begin the establishment of a new community in 2011 after I finished my service as campus minister at Boston University. In the Archdiocesan announcement of this new order it stated that Cardinal Seán was deeply grateful for accepting his invitation to discern the foundation of a new religious order for women in the Archdiocese of Boston.
From Nazareth House to the Convent of Saint Joseph of Nazareth
Since the Cardinal’s official announcement regarding this new foundation we have been blessed by the spiritual support of Fr. Bob McCreary, OFM Cap., who is very familiar with Blessed Charles de Foucauld’s spirituality of Nazareth which we are called to embrace. Also, Brother Jim Peterson, OFM Cap. offered us the needed canonical direction to help us with the drafting of the Rules of Life for our community.
It is amazing to see the fruit of a small house of discernment on a non-catholic college campus. After less than three years of helping young women discern through the ministry of Nazareth House, we had 12 candidates interested in embracing the Nazareth spirituality and have been preparing to join our community, Daughters of Mary of Nazareth.
By the grace of God, the encouragement of Cardinal Seán, the spiritual guidance of Father McCreary, the support of our benefactors and the generosity of thirty three volunteers, our first convent, Saint Joseph of Nazareth’s Convent, is ready for our candidates to begin their formation. It is truly the work of the Church. I was amazed to see how many people came together to help us prepare the convent. We had many people young and old, priests, seminarians, parents, grandparents and even children from various parishes who volunteered to help us. In December of 2011, four young women, who have been discerning for many years and have completed the required application, start their formation for Postulancy. Four others will be in Aspirancy and will continue their weekly visit to our convent and their discernment until they finish their student’s loans in spring. They will move to our convent right after that. We have four other candidates who will continue their discernment with our community and will enter after they finish their academic studies by next year.
Lord, your summons echoes true when You but call my name.
Let me turn and follow You and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in You and You in me.