Susanne's Story

Hello. I live in New Brunswick, right on the Atlantic coast of Canada. I grew up a Christian outside the organized Church and remember feeling some kind of tug when I was about 13—I felt as if I was missing something. But I had felt a pull to religious life previous to that, the first time I saw a nun, several years earlier. Through my teen years, I explored Roman Catholicism and the Baptist Church, neither of which my parents felt we could embrace as a family. I chose to attend St. Vincent’s High School in order to be near the RC Sisters of Charity, who founded it, and my experience of nuns was that they were secure in their faith, supportive of the faith of others and, above all, serene, all things that I aspired to. Finally, when I was 18, we joined the Anglican Church, and I knew I had come home. I soon began lay reading, partly because there was a need, and I felt qualified to fill it, and was licensed as a diocesan lay-reader when I was 24. This provided much opportunity for learning and growth and fulfilled part of my need to be involved more deeply in the Church, but I did not feel called to ministry or the deaconate.

Later, I was busy establishing a teaching career and a home of my own and exploring a few romantic relationships, though I always felt better in my relationship with God when I was on my own. And from time to time, that attraction to religious life would re-emerge. Finally, in 2009, when I was 41, I made contact with Mother Mary David at St. Mary’s Abbey in West Malling, and in July 2010, I spent two weeks inside with them as an aspirant. For the next two years, I struggled: I love the Sisters and fit in well with them, but I felt called to stay in Canada—to continue teaching and lay-reading and not to leave my parents, my cats (5!) and my home.

It was a very difficult time, as I felt pulled in both directions: I felt I couldn’t leave home, but God was still drawing me to something more.

Then in autumn 2012, I stumbled across the SCL website and thought it might be what I’d been looking for. So I immediately wrote to Sister Mary Stephen, the novice sister at West Malling, with whom I’d remained in touch, and she wrote that she had been wondering for some time whether that might be the way forward for me. She suggested that I formalize my connection with the abbey by becoming a Friend and agreed to become my spiritual director. I immediately began formal discernment, which, in June 2013, developed into formation. I now have a local spiritual director, as well, and despite ups and downs, I feel I’m progressing. It’s satisfying, if somewhat amusing, to feel that I’m finally becoming who I’ve always been.

I’m deeply grateful for the support of the network. Although SCL will be easier in some ways than joining a formal community, it’s more difficult in ways, too, as the only other SCL person I’m aware of in Canada is Karen Ann in Ottawa, an hour’s flight away; we correspond via email but haven’t met. So my connection as a Friend of the network is very important to me, as does sharing in the prayer diary.