Sister Mavis Champagne
I first met the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows in 1982, the summer after I graduated from high school. I was working at a summer camp and the bishop asked if a group of girls from a local school for children with developmental disabilities might be able to join us. We all agreed that it would be a wonderful experience for ourselves as well as for the campers, and so the “special kids” joined us – accompanied by some sisters who cared for them. Just as we thought, it was a wonderful experience for all. There was an overall feeling of joy at having the kids with us and of intrigue at having the sisters with us. The majority of those who came to camp were from Italy and just their accents were enough to peak our interest. At the end of the camping session, the sisters invited those of us who worked at camp to visit them at the school and convent where they lived. We were happy to go and were all quite impressed with the school. I was immediately struck by the fact that here were 150 children with special needs who, for some reason or another, their own parents could not keep home and care for – yet, here were these sisters, who had left their own families, and even their own country, in order to care for, love and serve these special kids. It’s an impression that I have never forgotten and I doubt that I ever will.
After meeting the sisters, I thought they were nice and interesting and I was very impressed with the work they did, but I had no desire to join them myself. Throughout the next couple of years, I kept contact with them. During this time, although I was not really aware of it, at least not in the beginning, something began to shift inside of me. I began to hunger for a deeper relationship with God, and as a result, my prayer life began to develop. Things that seemed important to me before became less important – and things that were not, became so.
It was after getting to know the sisters, praying with them, experiencing a taste of community life and seeing them involved in ministry that I began to wonder if this might be the life that God had prepared me for. In addition, there was a growing sense in me that I had been blessed by God in many ways and I had a strong desire to be able to give back to God some of what I had been blessed with. I could think of no better way of doing this than to love Him by loving and serving His people. Initially, this thought scared me! After all, it’s not really what I had in mind for myself. For as long as I could remember, I was pretty certain that I would go to college, major in art, get married, have a family, and settle down near my family. I thought the sisters were special, holy women – and I knew I was neither – so how could I think God would call me to this life? But call He did.
After a time of discernment and prayer, I decided to give it a try. When I made that decision, I was overcome by a feeling of peace. I shared my plans with my family and friends and was blessed to have their love and support. In 1984, I moved in with the sisters and began the initial formation process. I entered novitiate in 1985 and made my profession of vows in 1987. Since then, I have been challenged and blessed in many different ways that have caused me to stretch beyond what I thought I was capable of. Being a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows has allowed me to grow in many ways, it has called forth gifts from within me that I was unaware of having, and it has given me many opportunities to love and serve God’s people. I am so very grateful to my sisters and to my family for their love and support throughout these years, to the people who I have ministered to and who in turn have ministered to me, and to God who is so very patient and faithful.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.