Soil for Ministry: A Journey in Two Parts

EA & MariaPart 1

I believe that the monastic life is soil for ministry. Here I have found fertile soil for the cultivation of the fruits of the Spirit. To be still and to listen. To be. Here I hear the words of the Hymn by Carol Owens: “…freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give. Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live.”

This place is a school and a hospital for the soul. Within these walls are people that demonstrate with their lives the power of God’s love. It is the power that saves people’s souls. I know because it saved mine.

I first visited St. John’s Convent in July of 2016, when I attended the Women at a Crossroads Program. During Women at a Crossroads, I learned that the vows my parents made on my behalf at my baptism were to be a foundation for my life in Christ. When I renewed my Baptismal vows at the end of the three-and-a-half week program, I knew that I was embarking on a great journey, though I didn’t know what lay ahead.

Following the conclusion of Women at a Crossroads, I underwent a series of life-changing events that led to an exhaustion beyond belief. I was already living in this shadow when I lost my brother and my son within ten days of each other. Now total darkness came. I had lost all. Father, three brothers, and my son.

I felt like I had been hit by a train.

This loss called everything I had ever thought into question. I had never had much courage, and now, the courage that I did have was shattered. Worse, everything I had ever believed about God seemed to vanish. The beliefs that I had once cherished became like foreign thoughts. My faith had suffered serious trauma. I needed spiritual surgery. I needed a hospital.

I returned to St John’s Convent in February for a Lenten quiet day led by the Rev. Stephen Kirkegaard. The topic was God’s Peace in a Troubled World. It was a message I really needed to hear. We spoke about the prisons we build for ourselves. How in our efforts to save ourselves we build walls so high that we block ourselves in, away from everyone and everything. And we spoke about how God can break through these walls and break into our prisons.

You can imagine how my exhausted and groping soul clung to these words. All I heard was “God can break in.” This kindled a spark within me.

We spoke about seeing our calling with the eyes of our heart as in Ephesians 1:18. I had long felt a call to the religious life, but up to that point, everything had seemed to point me away from pursuing that call.

We spoke about how the Spirit sent by the Father in Jesus’ name will reveal all things, and in an Affirmation prayer, we prayed together:

God make haste to help me.
Sow the seeds in my heart
And open the eyes of my heart
That I might see again.
Amen.

I thought I had prayed genuine prayers before, but now I was hanging on for dear life. I believe that God heard that feeble and weak-kneed prayer that day. And when I applied for the Companions Program, I knew two things. The first was that nothing mattered except getting my relationship with God fixed. The second was that if God was going to help in any way, shape, or form, it would be here.

To be continued . . . 

Maria Potestio
Postulant, SSJD

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