SISTER STORY: Sister Susan Quaintance
I first started thinking about a vocation to the religious life as a senior in high school while taking the “Lifestyles” class in Religion. Religious life seemed like an interesting alternative, and I had great models of sisters and brothers as teachers and advisors. Once I got to college, though, I realized that I was considering a huge life commitment, and I was too young. (I compared it to marriage, and I knew there was no way that I would contemplate getting married at eighteen or nineteen.) So I stopped thinking about it. And somewhere, in the back of a dark closet in Urbana, IL, there is probably still a stack of dated vocation brochures!
After college I did the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) for a year. I was attracted to all three of the JVC pillars: simple living, social justice, and community, and it was a pivotal year of my life. While I enjoyed my work at Howard Area Community Center (H.A.C.C.), and learned so much living in the pre-gentrified Uptown neighborhood, it was living in community that was most life-giving to me. I intuitively understood that the support and accountability that living in common, in a context of faith, provided was something that would help me grow into the person I wanted to become.
I began exploring entering the community of sisters who had taught at my high school. They moved around quite a bit, which I knew would be difficult for me, but surely God wanted me to do something really hard, right? Then, a very astute person who I worked with at H.A.C.C. said, “Knowing you, and knowing the Benedictines, why don’t you go talk to them?” That wasn’t hard since, at that time, Sr. Patricia Crowley was H.A.C.C.’s executive director, Sr. Dorothy Van Alstyne was the business manager, and Sr. Benita Coffey taught G.E.D. classes. I learned from Sr. Benita (who also happened to be vocation director for the community) that I wouldn’t move all over the country as a Benedictine; rather I would take a vow of stability that would root me in this community of women. That resonated so much with who I was. Maybe God could accept my service even if I was happy! (I have since learned that living in the same place with the same people for over twenty years has its own set of challenges!) My Jesuit Volunteer community and my family both came to visit, and each reflected back to me what I suspected. This was a place where I fit.
"This was a place where I fit."