Last weekend, the theme for our Future of Charity gathering was The Appearance on the Road to Emmaus. I spent much of our time together, and the time since, pondering the passage: Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way…?” It got me thinking of the way that has led me to where I am today and where it is taking me. Growing up, God was not a part of my life; or should I say, I was ignorant and indifferent to God’s presence in my life. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to feel the love of The Father, the friendship of The Son, and the mysterious workings of The Holy Spirit. Fast forward a few years, and here I am as an Affiliate with the Sisters of Charity. Me! Considering religious life! How did I get here? If I’m really meant to be a Sister, then why hasn’t my heart been burning for God my whole life?
Recently, while reading James Martin’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage, one particular line jumped off the page at me. It was Matthew 14:31, “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” Although I had heard that verse many times before, in that moment I could feel myself, like Peter, being tossed around in the waves, gasping for air as I struggled to stay afloat. Then, looking up, I saw the smile of a friend who knew me better than I know myself—a friend who has been with me my who life. But instead of questioning my faith in him, I heard Jesus challenging me with something else: Why do you doubt yourself? Why do you doubt the road you’re on?
Why was I doubting? Before moving to El Paso last October to begin my Affiliate stage with the Sisters, I had a lot of concerns about how I would adjust to the changes. As a Midwesterner my whole life, the thought of relocating to the Southwest was hard to imagine. On top of that, my complete lack of Spanish skills made living on the Mexican border somewhat daunting. In the past six months, however, I have undergone personal and spiritual growth that I probably would not have experienced back home. When I thought of the two travelers on the Road to Emmaus, they were not standing still. Jesus was walking with them just as he has been walking with me my whole life, whether I realized it or not.
Even though I knew I would be stepping well outside my comfort zone this year, I took that step because I knew it was what I needed to move me forward. I needed this new experience to grow—as a person, as a woman, as a friend, as a daughter, as a sister, and as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Ending up here was not by mistake. And this time has not changed me into a different person. It has given me the opportunity to discover and embrace who God created me to be.
This week was the 6-month checkpoint for my Affiliate period, which means an evaluation by my director and local community, as well as a serious conversation about whether or not I am ready to begin the application for Novitiate. Among my many considerations while weighing the options of staying in Affiliate another year or moving on the Novitiate, one of the most important questions I asked myself was: Where do I have the most potential for growth?
When I think of how much I’ve grown in this time as an Affiliate, I recognize not only my progress but also my potential to grow even more—in my personal life, in my spiritual life, in my community life, and in my ministerial life. So although I am looking forward to discovering what lies ahead along the way, for now, I am excited to extend my time of growth, discovery, and discernment as an Affiliate in El Paso. And knowing that Jesus will be walking with me, my heart is finally burning within me!