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A Reflection on My Vocation Story

by Sr. Mary Jane Bookstaver, OP

I guess my vocation story began when I was in the first grade. Back in the day, we received First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation in the first grade.  I took the name Therese for my Confirmation name. One of my friends gave me the book Little Queen as a gift for Confirmation. The book was a biography of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. I read that book over and over, so enthralled with the life of my patron and her “little way” of spirituality. She asked Jesus to make her his rubber ball and bounce her where He would. I was fascinated by her faith and trust in putting Jesus in charge. I adopted that spirituality and have followed it to the best of my ability ever since. That was the spark that grew into the flame of life as a Dominican Sister.

Throughout my school years thoughts of religious life came and went as I had fun with friends and dated throughout high school. Each time the notion came back it was stronger. Finally, my pastor approached me one day and asked me when I was going to give up the fight and listen to God’s call to religious life and respond with my ‘yes’.  The rest is history and I am now in my 53rd year as a Dominican Sister.

I know that my vocation came to fruition because of my response to God’s call and because I had the support of my parents and my entire parish family at Epiphany of Our Lord in St. Louis, MO. My parents prayed that one of their four children would serve God in priesthood or consecrated life. Our parish family embraced vocations to priesthood and religious life as a source of pride. The women held showers when a girl was entering the convent, helping us to fill our trunk with the list of things we had to take along. The whole parish celebrated when a young sister came home for a visit. Our peers were happy and supportive when one of us announced that we were going to the convent or the seminary. 

I truly believe that God is still calling young men and women (and not so young men and women) to serve the Church as priests and consecrated religious. However, I’m not sure that there is enough quiet time in the lives of young people today to be able to listen to God speaking to them. Prayer and reflection are essential in determination of vocation – to religious life or to any other way of serving the Church. So, I would encourage us to nurture our young. Let us pray for them and bring them to prayer opportunities, let us encourage them to be involved in youth ministry programs, let us pray for them that they will avail themselves of the opportunities for retreats during their high school and college years, let us provide for them what my parish family at Epiphany gave to me – a big family of supporters who think that priesthood and consecrated life is a value for the Church and the world. Let us pray every day that some within our family will receive the gift of vocation so that they can be preachers of God’s love to future generations. Let us believe the words of St. Catherine of Siena for all of us: “If you are who you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.”


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