Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Answering 'Yes'

by Sister Sharon Richardt, D.C.

Sister Sharon Richardt, D.C.
As I approach the 56th anniversary of my entrance into the Daughters of Charity, I again marvel at the way God let me know I was being called to be a religious woman.

I think it began when I attended a Miraculous Medal Novena with my mother when I was in the second grade or so. I was in awe of the devotion to Mary of the people in the Church. After that I found myself pouring over the "medal" stories in the "Miraculous Medal" magazine my mother received. I also began to think I wanted to be someone who gave my life entirely to God for His work.

I always have had a devotion to Mary. While in grade school at St. Anthony's in Evansville, Ind., I volunteered to assist in cleaning the church. Frequently, I would talk to God while I was cleaning the vigil lights, the communion rail and the statues (as far as I could reach).

Although I had always thought I would be a religious, I did nothing about it until high school at Mater Dei. My algebra teacher, Mr. Francis Hillenbrand, asked me what I was going to do with my life. I spontaneously answered that I wanted to be a religious. When he inquired which Order, I again answered, "The Sisters at the hospital." St. Mary's Hospital was across the street from St. Anthony Church, and I observed the Sisters coming to Mass Saturday mornings when I cleaned the church. Mr. Hillenbrand said he assisted the Sisters with some of the bookkeeping and that he would introduce me to one of them.

He introduced me to Sister Stella Polheber, and she took it from there. Sister Stella asked me if I would like to visit the Provincial House in St. Louis. The visit was very helpful. When I accompanied one of the Sisters on a visit to a man who needed some reading glasses, the man's son asked me if I was going to be a nun and I again answered "yes." I am in wonder now at how certain I was of being a religious, but it just came spontaneously. I believe it was truly the grace of God.

However, when I returned home, I entered back into high school studies and events. It took another question from Mr. Hillenbrand for me to make a follow-up telephone call to start the application process. It was only after the application had been sent I began to have doubts as to my acceptance into the Daughters of Charity.

During this time, I met with Father Eugene Dewig, superintendent at Mater Dei, for counseling and direction. Again, all of these people-supports were seen by me as messengers of God supporting my very naïve understanding of religious life.

My life as a Daughter of Charity continues to be very full both spiritually and ministerially. Our community makes, besides the traditional vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, a vow of service to persons who are poor. We annually renew our vows, which always reminds me of the first time I made vows. A true renewal of our dedication.

From a ministry perspective, I am a registered nurse, and early in my life as a Daughter of Charity served as a rehabilitation coordinator. When I was about 10 years in the order, I was asked to prepare to serve in formation, retreat work and spiritual direction. This I did by obtaining a master's degree and later a doctorate in formative spirituality from Duquesne University.

With both a nursing degree and preparation in spiritual formation, I developed a role in Catholic healthcare known today as Mission Integration. Most recently, the Community asked me to serve in another new position, coordinator of spiritual transformation, which is one of being available to our Sisters in various kinds of life transitions from a spiritual perspective.

I am grateful to God for my vocation to religious life and the Daughters of Charity. After 56 years, I can testify it continues to be a most rewarding life. God has blessed me with ups and downs, but I have never doubted I have been called. God has kept His promise: the blessing has been a hundredfold indeed.

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