(Pope Francis proclaimed a Year of Consecrated Life that began the first Sunday in Advent and will conclude Feb. 2, 2016. The Catholic Messenger asked members of religious communities in the Davenport Diocese to reflect on their ministry in religious life.)
By Sr. Pat Miller, CHM
For The Catholic Messenger
My journey to join a religious community is an unusual one. I was 23 years old when I joined the Sisters of Humility. I was a professional nurse who was teaching nursing at the time. I grew up in a very Protestant community with only 43 families in our parish. I remember as a small child asking mother if the nuns who taught us vacation school were born with their habit on.
After receiving excellent education in high school and graduating from college with my master’s degree in nursing, I was teaching at our university and satisfied with a good life. I began, however, to have feelings that the Lord was asking something else from me. I began to search religious orders but was not impressed with what I found. Many seemed very rigid and with only one method to prepare sisters.
A parallel issue was that I was thinking of marriage, which is also a wonderful life. I was visiting a former faculty member then teaching in Ottumwa. I will never forget the three sisters who greeted me. They exhibited exactly the Charism Statement of the Sisters of Humility, that of simplicity, humility and a lack of affectation! After returning to Omaha, after a lot of pondering and discussion, I knew the CHMs were where the Lord wanted me to go.
My ministries have always been in the area of nursing. After profession of vows, I went on for further education at The Catholic University and a doctorate at the University of Iowa. Most of our community members were teachers; my service was to nursing, so I lived at different sites than many of our sisters. My focus was development of nursing programs, which I did in both Nebraska and Iowa.
I kept in close contact with our sisters in the area I worked and was on many committees at our center in Davenport and participated in our general retreats and assembly each year. Since we serve in many regions of the country, we use every method of communication available to keep contact with each other. We get and give information about how our activities help the people we serve and how that fits within our mission to be attentive to the call of the Holy Spirit in the signs of the times, especially with the poor and powerless.
We all put our heart and soul into many varied types of work based on our preparation or the needs of the people and that has to be based on a lot of help from the Lord. Daily meditation and contemplation are so necessary to keep the ship moving in the right direction. In my early years with the Sisters of Humility, one of the sisters was a great inspiration to me. She worked with the poor in Davenport. Her ability to place everything that happened in the context of its relation to God gave me the framework I still use in my daily life.
Holy week is especially meaningful to me. The Lord tells me over and over not to fear, he is always with me, and that is a great consolation which reinforces the fact that truly, consecrated life was the right choice for me.