Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Help Fund a Nun!

Update: See below.

My friend Mary Beth Baker is entering the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecila, better known as the Nashville Dominicans. It's a good example of God's sense of humor, since she's been running a blog about life as a single Catholic girl in D.C. for some time now. She's actually the second of my friends to enter the order, but there's a hold-up: she's got about $25,000 in student loans to pay off.

I asked her if she would write an introduction so that I could share her story with you readers, to see if any of you felt called to help her. She's got an inspiring, and she's a good friend of the blog: in fact, she's been my editor for the book that I'm working on (work that she's been doing for free, by the way). So without further ado, here's a link to help, here's a story on ABC News written about her, and here's the introduction that she wrote at my request:
Mary Beth Baker
My name is Mary Beth Baker, and I have just been accepted as a postulant with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee, to enter this August. It's been a challenging, terrifying, beautiful year of discernment, and I am eager to answer the call and enter the convent this summer--to step out of the boat without fear and see what Christ has in store.

Pursuing a religious vocation as a 28-year-old professional has definitely taken me by surprise. After a pretty serious bout of discernment in late high school and early college, I put the whole thing behind me and thought I would get married and raise a family. I come from a great Catholic family myself, the oldest child of seven in a large military family. For the past four years I've even kept a blog about living the single life well as preparation for marriage, called "Life in the Gap," focused on the daily ins and outs of being single and trying to live the present moment well. I have to chuckle at the way God surprises us -- his plans far outdo anything I could have come up with for myself.

But it took me a long time to figure that out. I've enjoyed a rewarding career as an editor and writer, and for several years I was happy to focus on my work and let my vocation work itself out in its own time. I remember when I first decided to major in philosophy at Christendom College, one relative quipped, "So you won't have a job, but you'll know why." I was bent on proving him wrong. And I've had a wonderful career, working my way through the ranks at a conservative book publisher, rubbing elbows with well-known authors and making sure no embarrassing typos or comma splices detracted from their notoriety. I left that job for a newspaper's opinion page, where I fielded op-ed submissions, developed story ideas, tracked down writers to discuss news-of-the-day, and even helped launch a new feature for the page focused on young professionals. I left newspaper for the "dark side" of PR about a year ago, and now work with several C-level professionals to hone their writing, fine-tune their message, and share their expertise with the public, on everything from policy to social commentary. It's been an exciting and rewarding field, but about two years ago I became aware of a growing restlessness. I needed something more in my life, but I wasn't sure what that something was.

It was around this time last year that I asked God to "turn my life on its head." I realized I had gotten comfortable with singlehood, comfortable with my own selfishness, comfortable in a life lived not for others, but for myself. Whatever my vocation was, I knew I needed to ask God to show me in a concrete way and give me the courage to chase it. I needed to be shaken out of my complacency. My discernment journey began in that moment, helped by a number of factors in my work that forced me to realize a career, while it can be rewarding, can never fulfill a person. We're made to love and to be loved, and work can only satisfy so much.

Once I started discerning in earnest, there was never any question about which order I should look into first. I've been in love with the Dominicans for a long, long time, with their deep intellectual tradition, their rich monasticism, and especially their devotion to the Blessed Mother. Throughout my life I've been inspired and helped along by Dominican saints, from St. Rose of Lima (my first book report project in 1st grade), to St. Martin de Porres (my Confirmation saint), to St. Thomas Aquinas (the main focus of my studies at Christendom). From my very first visit there, the convent of St. Cecelia in Nashville felt like home. I love the sisters' ever-apparent joy, the liturgy they sing together three times daily, the beautiful blend of silence, teaching apostolate, and community life. More than anything, I love the order's complete focus on Christ. The moment you walk into their house, the first thing they say is, "Let's go to the chapel." He is their source and center, and it overflows into everything else they do.

I long to seek Him with that undivided heart. In order to do that, though, I have to pay off my remaining student loan debt. Despite six years of working and paying them down, I still have a ways to go. So I am asking that you prayerfully consider donating whatever you can to help me pay off my remaining balance and enter the postulancy in August. I've launched a website to facilitate the process, as well as a Facebook page.

As we approach the canonization of Blessed John Paul II, I'm daily reminded of his constant refrain throughout his papacy: "Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ." Fear grows in us when we think we have control over our own journey. It's only when we let go, open the doors, and let him work in us unhindered that he can make something really beautiful out of our lives. I pray that all of us will be open to his call, and I thank you in advance for anything you can do to help me answer it. Even if you can't give yourself, please share my story with your own networks and let them know about my fundraising page. More than anything, I ask for your prayers. You can count on mine.
There you have it. I hope that you can help her out in some way: financially, and especially spiritually. She's about to embark on a major life change and I'm sure she can use all the prayers she can get. And if you're not familiar with the Nashville Dominicans, check them out: they're an amazing order of women doing tremendous good within the Church.

Update: Thank you to everyone who has contributed! Mary Beth tells me that she's "all set," but won't turn away prayers. God bless you all, and thanks for your generosity!

4 comments:

  1. Mary Beth I applaud your decision to enter the religious life. However, I do find it interesting that you are asking others to help pay off your college debt from Christendom. Like most Catholic colleges, they cost 2-3 times more than a state school. So you readily accepted the debt for the "Catholic" experience over a rational decision to go where you could afford to go. Yes, as a father of 8 children, I too have watched my daughters apply to Catholic colleges only to be disappointed to see the $32K per year price tag. I have let them each decide where they would go but highly discouraged taking on such large debt. They have chosen the state school and yes their faith did remain intact. I did discourage them taking on any debt due to the life that I knew that they would someday want(religious life, marriage and staying at home with more than 1 or 2 kids). You see like you many faithful kids have bought into the lie that Catholic college is the only way to grow in your faith. They have marketed it very carefully to grow their profits. You see if Christendom was really concerned about your faith and new found vocation, they would pay off your debt. Unfortunately, that will not be the case. So my advice to you as an adult, pay off "your" debt and seek the religious life after that has been done. If you follow the Dave Ramsey model, you should be there in two years. Good luck and God bless.

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    1. Carey
      Your post is absurd. Did you even read her story? She thought she was preparing for a career which would have paid off her debt. You also make assumptions..."You see like you many faithful kids have bought into the lie that Catholic college is the only way to grow in your faith. ". How do you know she bought into that? You must be a mind reader, that's cool.

      Finally, you say "You see if Christendom was really concerned about your faith and new found vocation, they would pay off your debt." Carey, Christendom is a college and colleges have professors and professors have lives, families and plans. What they do with their money is their decision. I doubt Christendom could function if they paid off anyone's debt who discerned religious life, not to mention potential fraud due to students who get down on their luck.

      So in reality what your post did is 1) read Mary Beth's mind about what she bought into. 2) set a crazy standard for colleges to meet if they "care" about their students. 3) show how great of a financial planner you are. My advise to you Carey, as an adult, is to let people raise money for a great cause if we want, and not to potentially upset a great young lady trying to SERVE US THE CHURCH. Unbelievable.

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  2. Carey, shut up. Mary, Don't listen to these naysayers.

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  3. Joe, I trust you (and Mary Beth) are already aware of the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, which pays off the college debt of those men and women seeking to enter religious life. Its website is fundforvocations.org. As long as they remain in formation, the loans will continue to be paid off, with a full pay off upon their final vows. I am a long-time supporter of that fund.

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