Sister Nina Vincent
I really didn’t have a relationship with God until I got to college. I don’t think I let God become a real presence in my life until then. I was a cradle Catholic, and sure, my family went to church every Sunday, but the rest of the week, God was pretty much absent from my life, or so I thought.
When I got to college, I was introduced to the Catholic Student Center on the ULL campus. Walking through those doors totally changed my life. It introduced me to a God I had never known before, and it sparked my interest to get to know this God. The people I met there were on fire for Jesus, and it was something I wanted within myself. The presence of God and the love I felt there kept me coming back for more. I was so hungry for God, and I didn’t even know it. And so, I started getting more involved with the activities at the Center – Newman nights, praise & worship sessions, mission trips, daily Mass. Jesus was extending an invitation to me to develop a relationship with Him, and whether I realized it or not, I was accepting that invitation. I knew a conversion was happening in me when I began to schedule my classes around the Mass schedule.
Through my involvement at the Catholic Student Center, I gained fellowship, I developed a prayer life, and I was challenged to stretch and to grow. God was definitely working with my heart. As I was growing closer to God, my pastor approached me and asked if I had ever thought about becoming a sister. Of course, my answer was “no.” I was a sophomore in college, and I had never even met a sister before. It was just not a conscious option for me. So, life went on, but the seed was planted.
I graduated from college, got a job teaching elementary school, and was getting comfortable with Jesus. But we can never get too comfortable; Jesus loves us too much to leave us where we are – He’s constantly calling us to more. So, just as I was getting settled in life, I suffered a significant loss. My grandmother, who had been my rock and a sign of Jesus’ unconditional love for me, died of cancer. After working through the stages of grief, it really made me reassess my life and brought home the mortality of life. And I began to question myself, “What are you going to do with the one precious life God has given you? What does God want you to do with this life He’s given you?”
It can be a scary question, “What does God want?” because He can take you places you never imagined. I’m living proof. I spent a lot of time in prayer, looking at the bigger questions: What is my greatest desire? In what vocation can I be the most holy? The most loving? My greatest desire was to serve this God that I had fallen in love with, and to know and love Him more. I wanted to be Christ for others. My yearning for God was bigger than anything else, and still is.
It was only then that the thought of religious life resurfaced. Really, religious life was nowhere on my agenda. What did I know about religious life? I went to public school and had no contact with sisters growing up, so my ideas on the subject came from the Sound of Music and Sister Act. But God uses the situations and circumstances, the struggles and the choices in our lives to guide us along His path, to form us and mold us into the persons we are to be. God draws straight with crooked lines. And as I look back on my life, I can now see how His hand has led me to this point.
So I became open to discerning religious life, even though I had no idea what I was considering. God took my desire to serve and to love and began opening all kinds of doors for me. I began reading everything I could find on religious life, I connected with sisters on the internet, and secretly started going to discernment retreats. I even met my first nun while participating in a Busy Student’s Retreat at church. As I was still a “closet discerner”, it surprised me when one day after Mass, a girl approached me about coordinating a Nun Run. That was the greatest experience for me while I was discerning. It opened my eyes to the vast spectrum of religious life. It showed me a life centered on God with the opportunity to be an awesome witness of His love.
It was on this Nun Run that I fell in love with the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows. I felt at home with them. I was drawn to their lifestyle, their joyful spirit and their ministries. The community life had a family atmosphere, and the diversity of sisters from different nationalities attracted me. If only the world could get along as well as these sisters do, I thought. I wanted to become a part of something bigger than myself, where I would be given the opportunity to continue to go deeper in my relationship with Christ, and this is where God led me. St. Therese said that “to have beautiful and holy thoughts do not count so much as to answer as soon as you are called.” That line stood out for me when I was discerning my vocation. And after several visits, I finally said “yes” to God and gave religious life a try. That was nine years ago, and I’ve just professed final vows this September 2009.
For me, the spiritual journey has been a journey of discovering the truth in me and finding God in the process. It’s been about getting out of my head and learning to listen to my heart. It’s been about learning to let God love me and seeing myself and others with God’s eyes. It’s been about learning to trust in God along the way and not trying to always be in control of my life. It’s been about coming to recognize the sound of God’s voice in my life and being still enough to listen. I still have a lot to learn…
I want to fall more deeply in love with Christ with each passing day. That’s what motivates me to get out of bed each morning. I’ve come to learn that my “yes” has to be a daily “yes.” We are all works in progress, always becoming, always being invited to go deeper. And once we open our heart to Him, the journey is always more than we could ever have dreamed for ourselves.
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope.