The fire that raced through Grace Del Priore’s college freshman dormitory—the fire that claimed the lives of three students and injured many others—would forever alter the course of her life.
Although she was not directly affected by it—able to safely escape from her room on the opposite side of the dorm, away from the epicenter of the tragedy—she nevertheless was irrevocably affected by the events of that night.
The night triggered a flood of questions that had her asking herself: Why had her life been spared? For what purpose? Had she made any meaningful contributions with her life thus far? Could she in the future? If so, how?
She continued to question—and she got some surprising answers.
Grace came to realize that there was something more being asked of her. She realized there was more she wanted to do, and more she wanted to give. Her questions brought her to a deeper self-awareness, a deeper exploration of her faith and into a deeper relationship with God. Her questions prompted a journey—an eight-year journey in faith that would ultimately lead her to dedicate herself to God and the Church as Felician Sister Grace Marie Del Priore.
Sister Nancy Marie Piecewicz has lived the past 39 years as a Felician Sister in joyful service to God, the Church, and to her Felician community. Although her decision to become a Felician Sister was easy—it “just felt right, as I had a deep-seated conviction that this was where I was being called”—acting on that decision was not as easy.
When she began seriously exploring a vocation to religious life as a college student, she visited with the Felician Sisters in Connecticut. It didn’t take long for her to realize she wanted to join the Felician Sisters on their journey in faith. She felt an almost immediate sense of peace and joy and oneness of spirit and purpose with the Sisters.
Her decision was greeted with disbelief and disapproval by her parents. They did not understand the call to religious life and so could not conceive of their daughter being called to religious life. After parental pleas to reconsider did not sway her, her father declared that she would not be welcomed back into their home if she entered the convent. This left her torn between doing that which her parents had expressly asked her not to do, and doing that which she knew to be true and right for her.
Her decision to join the Felician community posed ongoing challenges as it severely strained the relationship with her parents for the next 11 years. Yet, Sister Nancy saw her parents’ initial resistance as a blessing “helping me to define a choice I knew I had to make in order to fulfill a longing deep within my heart and soul.” And in time, her parents came to appreciate and take great pride in their daughter’s calling, relishing the great happiness and peace that their daughter found in living life as a religious sister.
Sister Desiré Anne-Marie Findlay is currently a second-year novice in the North American Felician Novitiate—part of the formative process for women who wish to become Felician Sisters. She will tell you that “now, perhaps for the first time in my life, I feel so alive and so very joyful.”
Her journey to religious life began when she was a college student at the University of New Mexico.
A Spanish education major who did well in school, she had lots of friends, partied on most weekends, and loved to shop. An accomplished dancer, she also had been a member of a professional dance team. Her life was full, and to most observers, seemed satisfying.
But, for Desiré, the shopping, the parties, the dancing—all the things that she did enjoy and had been important to her—had left her feeling empty and hollow. To Desiré, the fun was fleeting, the satisfaction always temporary.
A chance meeting with a group of Felician Sisters at a retreat along with a subsequent meeting on a pilgrimage in New Mexico gave her new insight into religious life and a glimpse of the joy radiating from the Sisters she had met there. She would join the community several years later, embracing a life that “not only would bring me closer to God, but one that would also help me to bring others closer to God.”
Louise Edwards’ life changed rather dramatically with the realization that the life she had always envisioned and aspired to—a life revolving around career, fame and fortune—left her feeling empty inside. That realization helped draw Louise closer to God, seeing God for the first time as a very real presence in her life—a presence she could no longer deny and one she could no longer live without. Her search for a more meaningful relationship with God ultimately led her to religious life where she is now a Felician postulant—the first stage of the formative, preparatory process for women who wish to become Felician Sisters.
Louise was enjoying a promising new acting career in New York City, landing appearances in commercials and small roles in films. A recent theatre graduate, her string of on-camera roles was something she had always dreamed about and had fervently worked toward. But she never expected that realizing her greatest dream would leave her feeling so absolutely hollow inside.
As she began to search for meaning in her life, she began to grow spiritually, developing a relationship with God that over time gave Louise a clarity of purpose, a strength of conviction, and a boundless love not only for God but for all around her.
It transformed her.
She walked away from the life she knew in New York City—away from the stage and screen—and into a new life that she absolutely hungered for—a life dedicated to God in service to God’s people.
Louise discusses the journey that led her here to religious life as a Felician Sister—living in community with Sisters who share the same love of God, who help each other grow closer to God, and who share in the joy that that brings.