Vocation Story of Sister Barbara Smith, OSB
My vocation story is pretty unique, in that, I was raised Methodist, was baptized and confirmed in the Methodist church. During my college days, I remember going to Church with many of my friends that were not Methodist. And I think I did this because I was curious about how different religions practiced their faith. Looking back, I think God was beginning to call me even then.
After college, I continued to meet different people and make new friends of different religions. I was always attracted to the Catholic faith. The mass seemed to be very organized and I felt I was actively participating in it more than I ever had in other churches. The draw to the Catholic Church led me to volunteer my services for six weeks with the School Sisters of Notre Dame (apostolic order) in MN. I had read about them in a Life magazine and was interested in them. Once I arrived and lived with them and worked with them, I fell in love with them and their lifestyle. They were highly educated women who either taught in the school system, worked in the parishes, or worked with the poor, immigrants, etc. It felt right for me to be in a community of women that worked together, prayed together, and lived together all in service oriented positions. So, I began to study the Catholic faith and joined the RCIA program to become a member in the Catholic Church.
After I became a member, my spiritual director recommended me to look at other communities before I decided to try to join their community. Since I was interested in doing more volunteer work and interested in the Native Americans, I looked in the National Catholic Volunteer Program Book for possible places to go and volunteer for a short period of time and discern religious life. I ended up going to Belcourt, North Dakota to work for a year on an Indian reservation, which was run by the Benedictine sisters. I went there because they offered volunteer work with the Native American elders and the Benedictine lifestyle of a balance between prayer and work, where the community stopped in the midst of their work day and prayed four times throughout the day. I had desired more prayer in my life since I was with the sisters in Minnesota, so this was perfect. It was really far away from my family, but I felt like I needed to check out this desire of doing service for others and seeking my prayer life.
After 1 1/2 years in North Dakota, as a volunteer, I went back to school for the summer and to finish my discernment of which community was a better fit. Was the apostolic community or the monastic community a better fit for me? I decided to join the Benedictines (monastic order) and after a year of postulancy and two years as a novice, I decided to leave the community to enter a chaplaincy program (Clinical Pastoral Education) in St. Louis, and look for another Benedictine community to join. That same year, I traveled to Ferdinand, Indiana, Columbia, Missouri, and Atchison, Kansas, to look at the three different Benedictine communities. After I made a weekend retreat at the Benedictine monastery (Mount St. Scholastica) in Atchison, Kansas, I set up an immersion experience with them that winter for three months.
On August 25, 2002, I entered the community in Atchison, and began my religious formation process once again. I went through my postulancy, my canonical novitiate and during my second year novitiate, I went out on mission as a chaplain in a hospital in Kansas City and lived in a small mission house of seven Benedictines. I was called back to the monastery to go back to school and become a CNA (certified nurse aide), so I could work in our nursing home for our sisters. After completing two years of this work, I was asked to become the Director of Pastoral Care in our nursing home, Dooley Center. Now I serve as our community's vocation minister.
Email Sister Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org