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SMC sisters share stories of vocation and call to God

Caitlin HOUSELY | Friday, September 25, 2009

The call to religious life can happen at any time, in any place, over many years, or within one single revolutionary day, according to Saint Mary’s College nuns Sister Amy Cavender and Sister Eva Hooker.

Cavender, a professor of political science, and Hooker, a professor of English, had two different calls to religious life, but they now share a common goal and lifestyle.

Cavender did not hear her call to religiouslife until she was studying for her PhD in Political Science at Notre Dame. Her career path was teaching, but teaching wasn’t the only element of her vocation. So she sought a career that valued her education and allowed her to become part of a family. The Sisters of the Holy Cross was just what she had in mind.

While pursuing her teaching endeavors, Cavender visited with a Holy Cross Sister, Sister Alice Michelle, every Sunday. Sister Alice Michelle had Multiple Sclerosis, but that never got her down, according to Cavender. Cavender said she was a vibrant person and was unstoppable.

At this time, Cavender also had a vocation director and a local contact house that she visited one day a week. All of these were factors that lead her to her final decision of joining the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

By the time Cavender was awarded her PhD, she was already involved with the congregation. However, the application process for Sisters of the Holy Cross took a while before Cavender was accepted to the order. It was a year after receiving her PhD that she heard of her acceptance. At this time, she was teaching at Holy Cross College. “I was educated by the priests, teaching the brothers, and joining the sisters,” she said.

Hooker had quite a different story. In eighth grade she had a notion of her call to religious life. She attended a Lutheran boarding school and became mesmerized by her piano teacher, a Lutheran Deaconess, Sister Anna. Although she never talked to Sister Anna directly, Hooker could tell that she was a prayerful person, and a lover of the Bible.

“That was the seed,” Hooker said.

Eventually, she ended up studying at Saint Mary’s College. At 17, Hooker was dazzled by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. However, she had to make a decision about her life quickly because a Notre Dame student offered her a proposal of marriage at the time.

Hooker was drawn to the religious order. “I was attracted to the prayer of the church,” Hooker said.

She was interested in the readings of the mystical writers. “I was attracted to the conversations with God they had in their writing,” she said.

She said she spent much time in the library reading religious writers, especially female writers, during her discernment years.

Hooker was attracted to a life where women could have their writings published they could teach, study and read books. She was also pulled toward a community of women praying together.

Both sisters acknowledged that following through with their call was difficult. It took Cavender two years before she was ready to admit that she wanted to become a nun.

However, both say that if you have a call, follow it. Regarding the call, Cavender said. “You never know when it is going to strike.

“If you find yourself pulled [to religious life], do a favor to yourself, and check it out,” Cavender said.

Students who are considering a vocation should pray about it, she said. She also said they should find someone they trust to talk to about the issue.

The decision to follow their vocations has changed both Cavender and Hooker’s lives. Hooker said she takes more time for contemplation and values beauty more.

“Beauty is one of the things that moves the soul closer to God,” she said. She has made it her goal now to help beauty become a part of someone else’s life.

Sexuality definitely still played a part in Hooker’s life, she said. However, it is not the typical sexuality one thinks of in today’s society. She said no matter what profession you choose, the way you live your life is still going to be complex.