Interview with Sr. Lucia Marie & Family

Glenda Meekins, journalist for The Florida Catholic newspaper in Sr. Lucia Marie's home diocese of Orlando, recently interviewed Sister and her family about her vocation to the Passionist Nuns.  The resulting articles gives a little insight into vocation from the perspective of the one called, and from the perspective of the family called to offer one of their own to God's service.  Glenda graciously has given us permission to share the article with you below - thanks, Glenda!

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Sister finds peace in cloistered living

BY GLENDA MEEKINS OF THE FLORIDA CATHOLIC STAFF | MARCH 16, 2018

ORLANDO | Born Elizabeth Anne Johnson, Sister Lucia Marie grew up in Lakeland attending Resurrection Parish. Through the faithful example of her parents and involvement in youth group and Catholic Heart Work Camps, her love of Christ took root. But it was spending time before the Blessed Sacrament that attracted her most of all, flourishing into a vocation to religious life with the Passionist nuns of St. Joseph Monastery in Kentucky. It was in that silence that she could hear God’s gentle voice, instilling within her a desire “to be totally his.”

She was 17 years old when she began to discern her vocation. Being organized by nature and knowing nothing about nuns, she said she approached vocation discernment like she would a job search.
“I took stock of my gifts and talents and tried to find something to match those,” she recalled. “I thought I would join an active community, teaching, working with the youths or doing mission work, because I had a lot of gifts and interests that would lend themselves to these forms of service. Yet in looking at these kinds of communities, I never was quite at peace. I knew that I could do any of these things, and that they were very good and holy things, but I felt like God was asking me to give him something different and something more.”

It was during the Liturgy of the Hours on a retreat that Sister Lucia Marie came to a turning point in her discernment.

“When I discovered this beautiful prayer of the Church, which priests and religious pray at set times throughout the day, I was extremely attracted to it. I started to realize the value of a whole life given over to prayer for the Church and the world. As I continued to pray about these desires the Lord was placing on my heart, I became convinced that he was calling me to the monastic religious life, which is structured around personal and communal prayer.”

However, the question of where still loomed large. One day as she searched the internet, she stumbled upon the Passionist monastery and something resonated. From then on things began to move quickly. After a weeklong visit as a live-in, she was sure. But at the urging of her mother, Jeannette Johnson, she participated in the “Nun Run,” a day of visiting active religious communities within the Diocese of Orlando.

“Seeing all the beautiful ways those sisters were serving just inspired me with a greater longing to support their works with the power of a life of prayer,” she said.

A semester away from finishing her degree in anthropology, she completed it and then participated in the aspirancy program, a three-month deeper discernment experience. The stay convinced her that she had found her new home. Six weeks later, on Jan. 5, 2014, she entered the monastery and is currently a junior professed nun, meaning she has professed temporary vows for a period of three years and is still in initial formation. She hopes to make her final, perpetual profession of vows in 2023.

While her family has supported her each step of the way, the journey for them has not always been easy. When a man or woman commits to a cloistered or moderately cloistered order, the family also commits to sacrificing for the sake of honoring God’s call. Limited visitation and communication make it impossible for the religious member to be present at most family events, during illnesses and even momentous occasions such as siblings’ graduations. Her siblings still feel somewhat disconnected from her. But the fact that her father, Martin Johnson, had discerned for a year in the seminary himself and could relate to her process was helpful.

“We (my wife and I) were not really surprised by the call,” he said. “We were surprised by the cloistered aspect of it. It was very difficult to leave her there when we took her up for her postulancy four years ago. We have to say our goodbyes the night before we leave to return home, but typically we do not actually leave until after morning Mass the next day. At that time we see her on the cloistered side of the chapel, but we cannot give her a last hug before we leave. This is hard for us because we are huggers. This has gotten a bit better now that we have found that we can smile and wave to each other as we leave the chapel.”

“My only regret is that I couldn’t process the whole idea fast enough to keep up with how quickly things were changing,” admitted Jeannette. “She obviously had been thinking about this and processing for quite a while. It definitely teaches you that you aren’t in control.”

As for Sister Lucia Marie, she said, “I love the balance of my life here in the monastery. Everything is in proper proportion: work and prayers, solitude and community, fasting and feasting, silence and recreation. Everything has its time and place, and that balance is so freeing. It really gives us space to become more whole, healthy and holy, in body, mind and spirit.” She said one of her greatest joys is community life.

“There is a genuine love among our sisters,” she added. “Living and working with these women, who are also seeking God with their whole hearts, is an incredibly joyful experience. We may be quiet while we are working and praying, but when it is time for recreation, you have not heard such laughter as the laughter ringing down our monastery’s corridors.”

Despite her joy, Sister Lucia Maria acknowledged that it has been an adjustment to having more limited opportunities for visits and phone calls. And although Jeannette is sure that more time would have made a smoother transition for the whole family, she is at peace knowing that it happened in the time frame her daughter needed.

These days, both Sister Lucia Marie and her mother find a deep communion and peace in the body of Christ. “Eucharist is very important to me, because that is where I feel I can go and be near her when I miss her,” said Jeannette. “Sometimes I envision her worshiping across the church during the consecration prayers. And when they pass the basket … I want to touch the basket and put into it all my children. It reminds me that they are his and only mine for a short time.”