Surprised by God, a vocation story

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

Aug 21

Have you ever been surprised? I have…sometimes by joy, sometimes by grief. Among life’s unexpected happenings, being surprised by God has opened me to experiences and perspectives I could have never even imagined. Here are a few musings from my journey of discernment, seeking peace and purpose in my life.

Born in Forest Lake, Minnesota, I was the eldest of six children. My love for nature was nurtured by growing up on a farm; I especially loved working with horses who taught me much about relationships. My ability to work collaboratively with others was strengthened by participating in 4-H. As I grew into adulthood, my assumption that I would get married, have children, and become a veterinarian or an engineer did not happen!

Instead, in college the Franciscan friars at Steubenville, Ohio, inspired me by their joy and authentic Gospel witness. At the friars’ invitation, I became a Secular Franciscan and later helped begin a new fraternity of enthusiastic young adults in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We were committed to common prayer and service among those who were poor and marginalized; still, I yearned for a more intensive shared life, prayer, and ministry. I was haunted by a relentless restlessness, a hunger for something more.

In time, I discovered that what I had resisted for so long (religious life) was actually what I wanted with all my heart! When that became clear, I responded and became a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls. Now 31 years later, I am grateful for communal living, seeking to live in communion with God and fostering community wherever we are. In religious life we, together with Associates, friends and partners in ministry, and whomever we live and work among, share in a collective quest for God, and seek to foster right relationships with others and with the gift of creation. I love it! This is worth living for!

Hawaiian Luau celebration with Franciscan Community Volunteers, Companions and Sisters at Welcoming House

My service over the years has ranged from parish ministry in Fargo, North Dakota to accompaniment in a barrio of Managua, Nicaragua, and from parishes/retreat centers in the Bay Area of California to our Sister Community (the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph) in the Homa Bay Diocese in Kenya. Currently I serve through our community’s Franciscan Life Center and Companioning Ministry, and am part of the Franciscan Community Volunteers program in St. Cloud. What a blessing to live in an inter-generational community of Franciscan Sisters and young adult men and women—all of us committed to spiritual growth, communal living and service!

Indeed, life is an adventure in ongoing conversion as we turn anew to God and to our neighbors. We are invited each day to deepen our spiritual lives, increase our capacity for mutual relationships, and give ourselves in service through life’s challenges and joys. From the earliest biography of Saint Francis of Assisi we hear:

Living within himself and walking in the breadth of his heart, [Francis] prepared in himself a worthy dwelling place of God. (1 Celano 43).

So may each of us prepare within ourselves “a worthy dwelling place of God”, risking to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

Sister Michelle L’Allier is a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls who writes from the Franciscan Welcoming House in St. Cloud where she lives in a mixed community of Sisters and young adult Franciscan Community Volunteers. Currently she serves at the Franciscan Life Center based out of Little Falls by offering retreats, workshops and spiritual direction, as well as in Companioning Ministry as she accompanies persons in vocational discernment.

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Shelly Smith September 6, 2018

Michelle Is my beautiful niece who I love and respect for the life she has chosen. She was with our family through several tragic events. She prayed over my dying sister (her Aunt and God Mother) as Jesus took her from earth to be in the presence of our Lord. Thank you Michelle for the many prayers over the years for my pain from 2007-present.

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