When I was about 14 years old, I felt the desire to give my life entirely to God during Eucharistic Adoration, but I did not know what to do and the idea of becoming a sister seemed frightening to me.
SR. CHIARA GHIDOLI IS PICTURED ON THE CAMPUS OF HER COSTA MESA CONVENT. PHOTO BY YUAN WANG/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
But for most of my life, I was not expecting to one day enter religious life. By the time I was in college, I was focused on achieving a successful career and potentially getting married someday.
All of that changed when I decided to volunteer at a week-long Catholic girls camp, which was run by sisters. Six months prior to the camp, I had been preparing myself spiritually so that I would be a good example for the young campers who would be attending. I started to examine my life, purging bad habits, praying more and going to Mass a few extra times during the week. Once I arrived at the camp, I met a devout young woman whom I became friends with. She was very kind and relatable, and to my surprise she was discerning religious life.
THE NORBERTINE SISTERS SING THE HYMN “AVA MARIA” INSIDE THEIR CONVENT’S CHAPEL. PHOTO BY YUAN WANG/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
I was curious at the time and asked her many questions as to what the discernment process looked like. She gave me a great deal of insight and helped me to understand that discernment wasn’t so strange and far-fetched.
After the camp ended, I could not stop thinking about becoming a sister, but I resisted the idea because I had big plans for my life. Thankfully I kept in touch with the young woman and a religious sister whom I befriended at the camp, so I had someone to talk to about everything. But at that point I didn’t want to open my heart to it, and I kept holding on to my future plans. I stopped doing the extra prayers and daily Mass from before the camp, attempting to distance myself from God. This lasted several months, until one day I went to confession at St. Michael’s Abbey.
In the confessional, I was surprised that the priest asked me if I ever thought about becoming a sister. It was the only thing on my mind for the previous five months, and though I had been going to confession with the Norbertine Fathers for over a decade, never once had I been asked that question by one of them. I had a good conversation with the priest, though I was still resistant to the idea.
After that confession I thought about being a sister even more than before, and it seemed that God kept bringing up the thought of it. I went on a trip to Europe, encountering many sisters at various times – even at the airport. I tried to distract myself from the thought of a religious vocation, but to no avail.
When I got back from the trip I came to a point where I was convinced that God was really asking me to give my life to Him, and deep down I desired this too, though I would not have admitted it. A few days later, during Eucharistic Adoration,
I finally surrendered to God and opened my heart to religious life. At that moment I felt a deep peace like never before. I asked God to help me find the community I was supposed to enter, and just two days later I found the Norbertine Sisters – ironically discovering who they were from an article about them in the Orange County Catholic newspaper.
After my first visit, I knew they were the community for me. I entered the community after finishing college, and I’ve been happy since.