How did you adapt to life at the Motherhouse as Postulant and Novice?
Sr. Concepción Medina, Temporary Professed Sister, Nursing Student at Bellin School of Nursing. Home Diocese San Angelo Texas : As far as living community, Postulancy was easy. I didn’t come with any expectations on what anyone was supposed to be like or what I was supposed to experience. I think there was just this openness to meeting people and getting to know them. So that was really exciting for me.
Definitely in Postulancy, I talked too much to people and needed to be reigned back in. The Novitiate, aside from the Novitiate Community, that was more challenging that’s for sure. Feeling at peace with yourself and everyone else. It was definitely a different culture, Wisconsin from West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. That whole culture shift was definitely something to adjust to. But as far as talking to the Sisters and being able to relate to them, I enjoyed that so much.
Sr Anne Turba, Professed Sister, Nurse Practitioner at Holy Family Clinic Home Catholic Diocese Green Bay: For me, Postulancy adjustment was easy. Basically, I grew up here. My teenage years I was here until 17. My Mother would always call Sister Mary Frederick my second mother. She was my mother in teen age years. And you are with this group of high school year kids and you learn how to live and love each other.
You got an inside look during those high school years how the Sisters lived. You went to Mass with them. We had our prayers separate for Morning Prayer and Evening. So you knew the rhythm of the house, how their life ran so it wasn’t a big adjustment. Novitiate, you didn’t know what it would be like or saw what it would be like.
My Novitiate was where I was in high school, so it was kind of cool going back to the same place. Novitiate adjustment I feel it wasn’t that hard either. I remember at the end of Postulancy getting ready to take vows, poverty, chastity and obedience, I got rid of everything. I went home that last time before entering the Novitiate and I sat with all my sisters in my bedroom and I gave away stuff. I had nothing at that home of mine and it was such a wonderful feeling.
“It definitely felt like this was supposed to be where I was supposed to be.”
And I pretty much gave away everything, and I remember having my stuff down by the laundry and getting ready to bring my stuff over to the Novitiate and Sister Mary Frederick came by and she said, “Is this all you have?” Well yeah, we’re supposed to live poverty.” She said, “Well, yes.”
But slowly, you take vows. That’s Francis. Then you give it all away. You become comfortable in midlife. You have to keep, start, doing that. Novitiate, it was an exciting experience.
Sr. Concepción: I remember as a Novice, I had taken a walk with Sister Mary Ann Spanjers in the summer. I was a first year Novice. I don’t remember what I was talking to her about. Heaven only knows, but whatever I said inspired her to look at me and say “God gives you the grace that you need whenever you need it. Not before. Not after. Just as you need it.” I think that’s been so true, especially through the adjustment of each stage of formation, Postulancy, then Novitiate, then Temporary Profession, then second year of Temporary Profession. Every year there’s this new adjustment stage.
What was your first impression of Holy Family Convent Motherhouse?
Sr. Anne: : I thought it was beautiful. As a high school kid you signed in in the Patio Lounge and wrote the check for $360 for room and board. I just so love this building. You get emotional about these kind of things. I remember feeling at home. It definitely felt like this was supposed to be where I was supposed to be. In grade school I was very, very shy, really not able to do things in front of people. I remember coming here and I kind of got a little too loud at times, Sister Mary Frederick would get after me. I was hanging around with the wrong group of kids. I was changing and I was becoming this mouthy thing. Anyway, I was beginning to become more comfortable doing things. I remember going home and reading at Mass and my Mom said, “Gosh, you know how to read at Mass.” I never would do that kind of thing at Mass before, because I was too, too shy. I’ve always said to people, I feel more myself here than I did at home really. You get to know your true self.
“Well, my first impression of Wisconsin was green.”
Sr. Concepción: Well, my first impression of Wisconsin was green. I remember the first time Sister Julie Ann and Sister Mercita, we were driving back and Sister Julie Ann said, “What do you think?” “Well, it’s green.” It wasn’t until Sister Mary Teresa was here this summer after being gone, and not being able to come back last year and stuff, she noticed how green it was. It was like-yes. I know exactly what you mean. It was almost at first, it was obnoxiously green. I truly love it now. It’s so beautiful.
Sr. Anne: And the west grows on the Wisconsin people.
Sr. Concepción: I don’t remember my initial impression of the Motherhouse, except that it was big. One thing, too, I did visit one Community before this and they had a bigger complex, too. The difference between their building and ours is that parts of their building seemed really cold and empty-ish. Where as here, even the rooms that are empty, still feel homey, welcoming, warmth and love. The buildings here have pointy roofs. They are not like that in Texas and New Mexico. I realized that that’s an architectural thing. Snow slides off. It makes a lot of sense, but that’s what I noticed. House went up, instead of out and they have pointy roofs.
When in Formation, what made the most impression on you in terms of embracing your vocation? An understanding or teaching or discussion, something that reinforced your sense of being called?
Sr. Anne: Sister Judanne comes to mind. There are things, learning to pray with Scripture, the life of Francis, but Sister Judanne really had a big impact on me. She really, there was a depth to her spirituality that really was an impact, a good directress in that way and she challenged you. She wanted us to grow in a personal relationship with the Lord, to really focus on that relationship. I am forever grateful to her for that. She was really good. I’m trying to think of the stuff we took in the Novitiate, learning types and ways to pray, teaching us how to have personal prayer, personal relationship. Growing in that made my vocation more firm.
Sr. Concepción: I really liked Sister Judanne.
Sr. Anne: She really would have liked having you in the Novitiate, too.
“Sister Judanne really had a big impact on me. She wanted us to grow in a personal relationship with the Lord.”
Sr. Concepción: I really liked working with her and Sister Karen in St. Rita’s.
Sr. Anne: She had such an art to her. She taught us how to be more creative, creative with prayer and how to prepare for prayer experiences with a group. She just made us comfortable with that. She opened that up for us. She modeled it with her creativity. Art, anything nice, decorating…how important that stuff was for Religious Life and helping your spiritual life.
Sr. Concepción: I’d say I’ve gotten more creative since I’ve been here. I would never have said I was creative.
Sr. Anne: You’ve learned a lot of skills since you have been here.
Sr. Concepción: Decorating, creativity was not my thing. Sister Mariadele helped me grow with that one.
Sr. Concepción: Most impressionable in embracing my vocation, I would say my relationship with the Lord was the greatest impact in terms of staying, 1, that you can look into it and come, 2, to follow the Gospel and 3, to stay.
Sr. Anne: You’ve had some powerful retreat experiences.
Sr. Concepción: Yes, but mostly prayer and granted there have been just angels along the way that have helped me with so many different things, as I have gone through them, that have been there, shown me so much kindness, love and I think, too, that I love the Sisters. They have also been a huge impact. Even all the times I’ve spent in St. Rita’s Infirmary through my Initial Formation, I love those Sisters with all of my heart. I love all my Sisters. It seems, too, it has been super, super helpful to keep these before your face, one, the Lord, two, all my Sisters and how some have loved me, too.
Sr. Anne: The Lord does send angels along. The Sisters in St. Rita’s. There were always Sisters you could talk to, that weren’t irritated with the young ones. And then there’s people like Sister Jerianne. When we were Novices she worked in the kitchen. She was such a help. She was a younger Sister and she could encourage you and I can remember her telling me…”Why do you always doubt yourself? Stop it. Don’t doubt or question your vocation. You need to stop that.” The Lord and others.
Living Your Vocation: So far what has been the most challenging?
Sr. Concepción: That’s hard. I feel like for that one in each phase even as I’ve grown and it’s been a different thing. One thing that we did that was hard for me in the past, was accepting and learning to love every one’s humanity. More specifically right now within the last year of just going to school for nursing and being more involved with other people outside Community, has been challenging in the unexpected. There are a lot of people out there traumatized by Sisters or have been in their past so I carry the weight of all of that when they see me. They are cautious or afraid me or don’t like me.
“God gives you the grace that you need whenever you need it. Not before. Not after.”
Sr. Anne: But you gave them another experience of a Sister. Hopefully that can heal some of those hurts.
Sr. Concepción: That’s an unexpected challenge. Being aware of that, I have to be better. I have to be good to people. I have to.
“There have been just angels along the way that have helped me with so many different things…that have been there, shown me so much kindness.
Sr. Anne: Because you are not just you. You represent a whole bunch. Like you said, the weight of all the Sisters was on you.
Sr. Concepción: And not just because of Sisters, in general, too, the burden of the habit that we consume. It could be not just Sisters, but Church in general. It’s not something I regret or want to take away, it’s just a challenge. Each part of life brings a different challenge.
Sr. Anne: What a wonderful thing you are bringing them is another perspective of what they have this set view of, judgment of, and here comes this Sister who doesn’t quite fit my picture. It really does help. I am sure your classmates have come to know you now, too, and that heals a lot.
I would agree with you, every age has its challenge. When you are younger, I look back on my young years and it was being able to do a good job, what people thought of me meant a lot, just trying to perform well and be a good Sister. Now, it’s not quite as important any more. I’ve got to be a good Sister, but you start to getting to know we are all really human and growing in acceptance of your own imperfections and not that you don’t try to get better, but I find in getting older the challenge of being gentle with myself and letting go of that ego. That’s the challenge now.
I need to let go of that ego that tries to protect you and make sure that you look good and then the role of suffering. I think Covid kind of clinched that. Suffering is in our lives. It’s not like you need go looking for it. I will never do that. There’s enough that comes your way and the stuff that comes your way, the Lord’s blessing is in there, too. But the whole thing of suffering and just being with it, you know. Not trying to run away from it or avoid it or ignore it. And just to wait, waiting on that and finding what’s the lesson that’s going to come out of this. It’s challenged me in faith and trust.
God’s in charge. And in the end, God is going to get you where he wants you to be. It may be for some years some don’t need suffering to learn. But I need suffering to learn, that’s been beat into me a couple of times.
And there’s a quote from John of the Cross that I just love, now I can’t say it by heart, but basically it’s the idea that “I know the river we must cross for heaven, to eternal life, and the name of that river is suffering. But the boat that carries us there is love.” And remembering we are always caring and loving in suffering, and just hang with it. Liminal space is kind of the same thing. Just letting, not fixing it, seeing what God is wanting out of this experience. That’s kind of where I am right now.
If you want to learn to love, you must learn to suffer because it is in suffering you learn to love.
Sr. Concepción: And the quote from St. Gemma Galgani: If you want to learn to love, you must learn to suffer because it is in suffering you learn to love.
Sr. Anne: It’s pretty much universal that you gotta suffer to learn how to let go and love.
Consecrated Life: What has been the most surprising?
Sr. Anne: It’s just amazing that we have lived with each other and we haven’t killed each other. Really, you think about Religious Life, the variety of people from all over, it’s a miracle. It’s really, a miracle. I think we forget that all these women from all these backgrounds, families, can actually grow to love each other in our messiness. Praise the Lord, that’s amazing, I think.
Sr. Concepción: Mine is a joyful surprise…all of the love. I didn’t know I was going to come to a convent and fall in love with all these people. And even better, that they could even love me.
Sr. Anne: The big surprise is love.
Vocation As a Franciscan Sister: What has been the most rewarding?
Sr. Anne: The most rewarding is serving. Serving the Sisters. I mean I love serving God’s people in the hospital, but being somehow I wish I could know how to serve other people better. What could I do to serve. It’s right in my ministry, too. We are always able to be there to serve. It’s something we can always share with others.
Sr. Concepción: I think that’s true for all people. Whatever their gift is. How do you serve God’s people? Just live your gifts whatever they may be.
Sr. Anne: The ability to serve and share God with others.
Sr. Concepción: The most rewarding thing…being able to be with God and being able to be with other people who love God just as much as you do. And so the biggest reward and the biggest struggle sometimes, is just community. Very rewarding.
Sr. Anne: The struggle is seeing that God is in every single person and sometimes you can see it so well and other times…
Sr. Concepción: Being with the Lord there are so many beautiful things. Like today it is just beautiful outside. The trees. The most breath-taking moments for me when I am just caught are on the second floor porch. I am heading to chapel. Sometimes it will just strike you.
Sr. Anne: Sometimes the wind in the trees when you walk and it is quiet, just the wind. Nature speaks a lot.