During the next few days we will journey with Sr Eileen as she shares her story with us.

An article I read this week mentioned how hard, even impossible, it is to make plans during this time of lockdown. It led me to think again of my tentative, but very exciting, plans for this coming summer. One by one, these have come to nothing as each has been cancelled or called off or postponed. Perhaps, the learning of these days and weeks and months is that we are not in control and plans are just that – plans. They are no more concrete than our hopes and dreams until they come to pass.

How, you might well ask, does that connect to vocation? What does Covid-19 have to do with vocation?

My vocation story is perhaps one of seemingly radically changed plans! Certainly the life I had envisioned was called off, very much redirected in an unanticipated way. Despite always having belief and faith in God, I don’t remember ever wanting to be a sister or a nun. I don’t think it even fleetingly crossed my mind. Yet, here I am: a Dominican Sister, a member of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Catherine of Siena, Cabra! To paraphrase Woody Allen: if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

My sense of call came suddenly. To me, at least, it was totally unexpected and I was quite taken aback by the accompanying sense of urgency. Looking back, it shouldn’t have been such a surprise. The clues were there! Having chosen Catherine for my Confirmation name, I learned about Saint Catherine of Siena, making this formidable Dominican woman ‘my saint.’ Years later, I visited her tomb in Rome and stumbled across her statue near the Vatican. Without knowing about Saint Dominic de Guzman, I had visited the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in Carcassonne where he had preached centuries earlier. Growing up, I visited Saint Mary’s Priory regularly because my mum preferred the Dominicans for confession. On the fourth anniversary of my entry to novitiate, I spotted for the first time another one of those clues, hidden in plain sight: a beautiful stained-glass window of Saint Dominic de Guzman in our Parish Church, Saint Mary’s and Saint John’s, Ballincollig.

It looked as if God had been gently drawing me along this way, long before it entered my awareness, not just to religious life, but to Dominican religious life. It seems God was fussy in choosing the path for my life!

Moreover, although I was taken aback, it wasn’t at all surprising to those who know me! Perhaps, my younger years go some way to explaining why. Growing up, my parents passed on a strong commitment to God and to the Church. We prayed the Rosary each night as a family and I enjoyed going to Mass and to the different devotions. Perhaps unusually in our culture and times, I never lost touch with the Church. I have been blessed that my faith has not left me, nor I it. I have always known God to be with me. While still in school, I met Sr Elizabeth, an Infant Jesus Sisters, who invited me to help in one of her ministries. We worked together on various things for over twenty-five years. Later, I joined Sr Colette, a Bon Secours sister, in various projects. We were good friends and I admired them both very much, but didn’t have any sense of wanting to be what they were – not then at least.

Part 2 tomorrow………………………