A revealing, candid interview with Dominican Sister Mary Magdalene
In this revealing interview, Sister Mary Magdalene discusses her vocation and her experience thus far.
REGINA: Sister, how did you learn of the Dominican Nuns of Summit?
I actually found them online, but first I had discovered them in the “Blue book." I was praying a lot about where God wanted me to be, and I kept seeing this word “cloistered." I thought they’d all died out in the Middle Ages. I had no idea they were still around. I visited some nearby Carmelites and as I was driving home thought to myself, “Those women are crazy.” After a long pause, I said, “I think I’m crazy, too.” Then I started looking into the Dominican Nuns and everything started coming together.
REGINA: Did you know you had a vocation for a long time before this?
I was certain I had a vocation, even before I knew where. I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a nun, but it took a lot of prayer and grace for me to accept that. I did a lot of praying, and the hard part was accepting it.
From the first time I contacted Summit, I had only known for about three months. In April of 2008, I had the opportunity to attend the Papal Mass at Yankee Stadium so I made a point of arranging a visit here beforehand. At my first visit I was 20, and 21 when I entered.
REGINA: What were your first impressions?
Hmm…. I loved the magnificently huge church! I also really wanted to see the other side of the grille. I was also impressed by their hospitality — when they picked me up from the train station all the stress of traveling was soon forgotten. I also love the diversity of the sisters.
REGINA: What would you say drew you to the Monastery?
Ultimately, God’s grace drew me in. Next, it was really funny things. I loved meeting the Novitiate in the parlor, the tremendous amount of laughter and joy, and the excitement. It was a very brief visit overall, but I remember thinking I could see myself fitting in here.
I also recall this extremely strong desire to want to get inside.
You can really only tell so much about cloistered life from a conversation — experiencing it is something completely different. That pull to go deeper was really strong for me. I like to describe Dominican Spirituality as very balanced. I think our monastery is also like that, balanced.
REGINA: How did your family react?
Just like any controversial subject, you have the extremes. Some acted as if I’d just told them I was volunteering myself to catch a fatal disease and concluded I must be mentally disturbed. Others reacted as if I’d just won something better than the million dollar jackpot (and in ways I have). The ones who were able to be most happy for me weren’t thinking about themselves.
Also, I’ve always been an energetic, lively and outgoing person, so I think the “cloistered nun” idea shocked basically everyone. My father, who is not Catholic, said, “Well, it wasn’t what I would have imagined you would do, but if that’s what you think will make you happy, go for it! We support you.”
Many people think cloistered nuns sit in a corner and pray all day. We do pray a lot, but the day is very dynamic.
The “most” surprising thing to me is, and I think will always remain, human nature: the incredibly generous things that people do and the incredibly selfish things and the same goes for myself. The incredibly selfish things I do, and the real moments of grace.
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