By: Sister Malia Clare
Former Magnificat Travel Missionary
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of our dedication to magnifying the Lord through pilgrimages and missions is what happens after the pilgrims or missionaries return. Often, journeys bear fruit through vocations, increased participation in parishes, greater works of charity or the formation of new organizations serving those in need. This post is part of a series on the fruits of pilgrimage.
Like so many south Louisianians, I grew up Catholic. I had the great gift of attending Sts. Leo-Seton Catholic School from pre-K to 8th grade. In seventh grade I began to realize I was more interested in the faith than my family and my peers, but I was afraid to stand out. I took this tension with me to high school at Episcopal School of Acadiana.
My experience at ESA provided the intellectual rigor that I sought but lacked the religious formation that I was accustomed to. It was also the first time I was around non-Catholics who wanted to know why I believed what I believed. This gave me a great impetus to learn about my Catholic faith. My parish priest, Father Harold Trahan, faithfully responded to my questions, which eventually led me to believe there were no unanswerable questions. I believe I received a great gift of faith during this time.
Desiring continuity in my experience of a faith community, I participated in the core team of the youth program in my parish and found great joy and peace in that capacity. At various times people asked me if I had ever considered a religious vocation. Misunderstanding the idea of religious life entirely, I felt offended that they would suggest this. Secretly I had wondered if religious life still existed in the Church, but I still had a deep desire for acceptance and belonging among my peers and family. These things did not seem to fit together.
I ran from the question of religious life for a time, fearful that it was a sentence to a life of misery. I pursued a biology degree from University of Louisiana at Lafayette and began teaching at John Paul the Great Academy in its earliest years. There, I encountered families who fostered vocations—who fostered my vocation. I was able to hear and accept my own vocation.
Having encountered only one religious order at the Veritas retreat my junior year in high school, Nashville was my logical starting point for discernment. I ended my discernment right where I began it. On July 24, 2018, I professed my final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for all my life as a Dominican Sister of Saint Cecilia!
I assure you what I thought was a sentence to misery is in fact a life of great joy and peace. The Lord is good and knows more than I do who and what I am made for. To paraphrase St. Augustine, we have been made for Him and do not rest until we rest in Him. I am so grateful for my vocation—for all my life!