“I realized ‘that is how Jesus interacts with me.’ It’s when I’m able to be present. When I am able to leave my time schedule. When I am able to slow down, when I am able… to be able to see another person instead of being angry because I didn’t catch the bus. That I can give of myself and allow another person to gift themselves to me. That is when I experience… God most closely. Just, out of the blue. No preparation whatsoever. It’s like God just reaches in and [says] ‘Here I am!'”
When Sister Bernadette Reis was 13 she felt a voice from the depths of her soul telling her that the only way she was going to be happy in life was if she became a nun. It was January 31st, 1980 and it was the day her class watched the movie, “Song of Bernadette.” When she came home that day she had to steal her mother’s library card since the book Song of Bernadette was only in the adult section of the library. I am sure it was the last time she stole anything!
Her family was always praying that one of their five children would choose a religious vocation but it was assumed it would be one of the four boys who would pursue the priesthood, because her father was so looking forward to walking his one daughter down the aisle one day for her wedding. One day, her father encouraged her to check out a number of communities of sisters at a religious vocation fair at her school, and she wrote to every community. Because Mary (her name at the time, she took the religious name Bernadette when she made her vows) was so very young, only one order wrote her back: The Daughters of St. Paul.
She moved from California to Boston to attend boarding school with the order and joined religious life. Because of her age, it was 15 years before she would become a sister. When I met Sister Bernadette, she was living in Rome pursuing additional studies. I was struck by the sense that this woman was pure love, pure open heart, fully present. In her presence, I began to understand how some people feel called to serve God and to serve humanity….and that anything short of that would not work for them.