Story of a vocation

by Sr Marie Lise Adou

It was in the midst of my work as a secretary at the Notre Dame de Sion secondary school in Saint Omer that my vocation was born, little by little. It was not plain sailing…

My vocation was born little by little

It was May 1983, the diocese had organised a vocations day which began with a pilgrimage on foot from the Cathedral of Saint Omer to the Benedictine monastery in Wisques. Many parishioners were there. After the picnic, those young people who wished to do so were invited to attend a meeting with the Benedictine sisters.

Out of curiosity, I went to the meeting, during which questions were put to the sisters. I was especially curious to know about their lives behind closed doors. The sisters then invited us to join them in the chapel, with all the pilgrims of the day, for a time of prayer. Texts from the Pope and the Bible were read and meditated on, and there… it was as if I heard my name, “Marie Lise”, at the end of each text. I was overcome by a feeling of fear and I went home in tears, not knowing what was happening to me. I didn’t have a telephone at the time, so I wrote a letter to a religious friend about it. I received her reply: “Don’t worry, just pray and we’ll talk about it again”.

Each one welcomed me, quite simply, as I was

I went about my usual life: secretarial work, catechism, parish involvement, outings with friends, welcoming people into my home, reflection groups for single people, prayer groups: a full life that gave me much joy. However, little by little I took more time for prayer, asking the Lord to enlighten me about the meaning of my life, about my vocation. I felt that He was calling me, but what to? At the time, friends were committing themselves to marriage, to religious life, to the diocese for a job in the Church… and me? Since that event in Wisques, these questions had been on my mind.

I began to meet regularly with a priest who gradually helped me to see things clearly. And after three years I was able to say “Yes” to the Lord’s call to follow him in religious life. It was on August 15 after a day of pilgrimage to Our Lady of Rocamadour.

I felt very quickly part of a family

Why Sion? First of all, the welcome I received the day I arrived as school secretary showed me immediately that I was not working in a company. Then, thanks to my work, every day I shared something of the life of the sisters – there were at least 25 of them at the time. Each one welcomed me, quite simply, as I was. For example, one of them would pass by my office in the morning to say good morning before going to her class. Little gestures like that touched me right from the start. They invited me to take part in the Bible classes offered to the teachers.

After the departure of the St Omer community, I continued to visit them, with friends from St Omer, to share a little of their life in Auvergne, their prayers. I had also got to know them in other ways during a car trip we had made to Rome, and during my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a group from St Omer.

Sharing all these moments of their lives certainly helped me to choose this congregation where I very quickly felt a love for the Bible and the Jewish people, and an openness towards everyone, regardless of religion or background. I felt very quickly part of a family – long before I’d even thought about religious life…