Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 28, 2010
God invited her in many different ways
Sr. Margarete St. John prayed for vocational direction and then Providence Sisters entered her life
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
God works in mysterious ways and Sister Margarete St. John is proof of that. She had been praying and asking God for vocational direction when she met a Sister of Providence who eventually invited her to join the congregation.
Surprised as she was, she did join in 2001. Today, after years of theological studies, spiritual reflection, foreign trips and caring for the elderly, St. John is ready to make her final vows.
Archbishop Richard Smith will preside at the Aug. 14 Mass where St. John will make her perpetual vows.
"I'm feeling very happy about it and I am feeling very clear," she said in a recent interview at the sisters' headquarters in Edmonton.
"I know that this is where God is inviting me to serve God and God's people. And I know that this is the community that God has invited me to live out my life and to live my vows."
St. John has been serving as a pastoral care worker at Calgary's Father Lacombe Nursing Home since last September and expects to continue there following her final vows. Before that, she had been working in crisis intervention violence in an Edmonton women's shelter.
St. John was born and raised in Charlottetown, along with four sisters and two brothers. She is the youngest. One of her brothers, Leonard St. John, is a priest for the Ottawa Archdiocese.
To be sure, St. John grew up in "a very Catholic family" where everybody was expected to pray and attend Mass regularly. "If you lived in my family, you had to get up for Sunday Mass."
As a young girl she attended a convent school where she met religious sisters but she never considered entering religious life. She moved to Alberta to attend university in 1996 and the following year she met the Providence Sisters. An ad in her parish bulletin was looking for women to serve as hostesses at Providence Renewal Centre.
St. John already had a job so she didn't respond. But the ad kept appearing so St. John decided to look into it and ended up being hired. She started working on weekends, welcoming retreat attendants and seeing they got to the right program.
One day after praying and asking the Lord, "How can I serve you in my life?" St. John met a Sister of Providence she was working with.
"I noticed how loving and compassionate she was in working with people who were really suffering, people that were broken. And I wondered inside myself why she decided to be a sister because she has lots of gifts and she could have many choices."
WITNESSING THE JOY
St. John observed the sister "and (the sister) seemed to be happy and she seemed to be grateful for the opportunity to give service, especially with the very poor," she said.
"One day, out of the blue, she said, 'Come, join us.'"
Inside, St. John thought, "Why would she ever think that I would want to be a sister?"
She continued praying and attended exploratory sessions to see what God had in mind for her. Soon she accepted the possibility God might be calling her.
As St. John got to know more about the Sisters of Providence, she came to realize that the world needs the values of the order.
"The world really needs compassionate love and it needs it to be proclaimed and the Sisters of Providence have such a deep trust in providence and also in working in solidarity with the poor," she said in a 2009 interview.
Finally St. John asked for an application to join the sisters but it took her a while to complete it. "Then one day I had a deep experience of God's call to me and I handed the application in."
She was accepted. In 2001 she entered the Sisters of Providence as a candidate and went to live in community with three other sisters. In 2002 she did her novitiate in Spokane, Wash.
The following year she returned to Edmonton for her "apostolic" year and volunteered at the Wings of Providence women's shelter. St. John made her first vows in 2004. She also visited the Sisters of Providence in Chile for three weeks that year.
After that, she completed studies in social work at Grant MacEwan College and started working as a crisis intervention worker.
In 2008, she spent three months with the Sisters of Providence in the Philippines, who minister to the poor. "I'm very grateful that God has called me to the Sisters of Providence and I'm very grateful that the sisters have been so welcoming and so generous," she said.
Asked why she thinks religious life is for her, St. John said, "It fits me and this community fits me. The charism of God's loving providence and being in solidarity and prophetic with the poor - that fits me."
Apart from serving God and others, St, John has other predilections. "I love walking and I love music. I grew up in a household where there was contemporary music, rock and roll, classical music and lots of jazz."
She also enjoys reading spiritual books, history, mystery novels and books about technical design, namely "how things are done."
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