Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 11, 2002
Woman called in second half of life
Providence led Maggie to unexpected place
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
It began with a question in Maggie St. John's mind.
"I think I was at that place, in my early 40s, looking and asking what does God have in store for me next? What am I called to do with what I like to call the second half of my life?"
What happened next was providence, in more ways than one. St. John moved to Edmonton and noticed an ad in her church bulletin for a part-time job at Providence Centre.
"It was through working here and seeing the sisters, getting to see how they lived and how they worked, and particularly their relationship - their love and compassion - for those they worked with that really drew my attention.
"I thought, these are amazing women!
"So I guess it was an unfolding, but I was really asking what it was that God had next for me, and that was an important place to be."
St. John is now a candidate for the Sisters of Providence, and is taking the time to learn more about the order, and more about living in community.
Growing up in Prince Edward Island, one of seven children in a family of deep faith, St. John says she had at times felt the presence of God in her life, and was comfortable with that presence, but had never made a decision to pursue a religious life. But when she found herself living alone again, after being married and raising three sons, she began to feel it wasn't enough for her.
"I wasn't coming specifically looking to become a sister, but I see it as an opportunity and a place to continue my relationship with God, and being part of a community supports that."
Simply being around the Sisters of Providence, a community she had never met until arriving in Edmonton, her curiosity was piqued by "the reality of how they live."
"Their deep faith and their trust in God - what they call providence - was so evident in them and how they lived and how they worked with other people, that it really impressed me."
St. John doesn't see her "Sister Mom" status as setting her apart from other members of her community.
"Being a mother and all the situations that go with that, the ups and the downs, and being married - I bring that depth of personal experience and understanding.
But because her "first vocation" was being a mother, she says it is important for her to talk to her sons about her journey, and have their support.
"I didn't at first share with people what was happening, because it was kind of a 'look and see' - just watching and paying attention, and from time to time I would get a chance when a sister was around to ask them questions, and they were always generous enough to share what made them become a sister."
When she did let her family know what was happening, reactions were varied.
"Everything from 'That's great' to 'Well, I thought maybe you would get married and share your life with someone, because you have so much to offer.'
"And one of my sons said the same thing, challenging me, and that was a good thing because it made me think that yes, I am going to be sharing my life, and how am I going to do that, and what kind of change is that going to mean for me?
"We have three choices in life: we can live singly, we can live a married life, or we can live a religious life as a sister or a priest, and for me the other two weren't calling.
"It was a question of how do I deepen my relationship with God, and in entering as a candidate, I see that supported in a daily aspect.
"When we're together we have a lot of fun, we laugh together and we pray together, but it's all so much more than living under the same roof.
"There is something bigger about community than those things because anybody could rent a house and share expenses. There's something so much bigger than that, and it is the focus being on God and on each other's gifts and being there for each other.
"It's a very positive experience for me."