Update: See below.
My friend Mary Beth Baker is entering the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecila, better known as the Nashville Dominicans. It’s a good example of God’s sense of humor, since she’s been running a blog about life as a single Catholic girl in D.C. for some time now. She’s actually the second of my friends to enter the order, but there’s a hold-up: she’s got about $25,000 in student loans to pay off.
I asked her if she would write an introduction so that I could share her story with you readers, to see if any of you felt called to help her. She’s got an inspiring, and she’s a good friend of the blog: in fact, she’s been my editor for the book that I’m working on (work that she’s been doing for free, by the way). So without further ado, here’s a link to help, here’s a story on ABC News written about her, and here’s the introduction that she wrote at my request:
Mary Beth BakerMy name is Mary Beth Baker, and I have just been accepted as a postulant with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee, to enter this August. It’s been a challenging, terrifying, beautiful year of discernment, and I am eager to answer the call and enter the convent this summer–to step out of the boat without fear and see what Christ has in store.Pursuing a religious vocation as a 28-year-old professional has definitely taken me by surprise. After a pretty serious bout of discernment in late high school and early college, I put the whole thing behind me and thought I would get married and raise a family. I come from a great Catholic family myself, the oldest child of seven in a large military family. For the past four years I’ve even kept a blog about living the single life well as preparation for marriage, called “Life in the Gap,” focused on the daily ins and outs of being single and trying to live the present moment well. I have to chuckle at the way God surprises us — his plans far outdo anything I could have come up with for myself.But it took me a long time to figure that out. I’ve enjoyed a rewarding career as an editor and writer, and for several years I was happy to focus on my work and let my vocation work itself out in its own time. I remember when I first decided to major in philosophy at Christendom College, one relative quipped, “So you won’t have a job, but you’ll know why.” I was bent on proving him wrong. And I’ve had a wonderful career, working my way through the ranks at a conservative book publisher, rubbing elbows with well-known authors and making sure no embarrassing typos or comma splices detracted from their notoriety. I left that job for a newspaper’s opinion page, where I fielded op-ed submissions, developed story ideas, tracked down writers to discuss news-of-the-day, and even helped launch a new feature for the page focused on young professionals. I left newspaper for the “dark side” of PR about a year ago, and now work with several C-level professionals to hone their writing, fine-tune their message, and share their expertise with the public, on everything from policy to social commentary. It’s been an exciting and rewarding field, but about two years ago I became aware of a growing restlessness. I needed something more in my life, but I wasn’t sure what that something was.
It was around this time last year that I asked God to “turn my life on its head.” I realized I had gotten comfortable with singlehood, comfortable with my own selfishness, comfortable in a life lived not for others, but for myself. Whatever my vocation was, I knew I needed to ask God to show me in a concrete way and give me the courage to chase it. I needed to be shaken out of my complacency. My discernment journey began in that moment, helped by a number of factors in my work that forced me to realize a career, while it can be rewarding, can never fulfill a person. We’re made to love and to be loved, and work can only satisfy so much.Once I started discerning in earnest, there was never any question about which order I should look into first. I’ve been in love with the Dominicans for a long, long time, with their deep intellectual tradition, their rich monasticism, and especially their devotion to the Blessed Mother. Throughout my life I’ve been inspired and helped along by Dominican saints, from St. Rose of Lima (my first book report project in 1st grade), to St. Martin de Porres (my Confirmation saint), to St. Thomas Aquinas (the main focus of my studies at Christendom). From my very first visit there, the convent of St. Cecelia in Nashville felt like home. I love the sisters’ ever-apparent joy, the liturgy they sing together three times daily, the beautiful blend of silence, teaching apostolate, and community life. More than anything, I love the order’s complete focus on Christ. The moment you walk into their house, the first thing they say is, “Let’s go to the chapel.” He is their source and center, and it overflows into everything else they do.I long to seek Him with that undivided heart. In order to do that, though, I have to pay off my remaining student loan debt. Despite six years of working and paying them down, I still have a ways to go. So I am asking that you prayerfully consider donating whatever you can to help me pay off my remaining balance and enter the postulancy in August. I’ve launched a website to facilitate the process, as well as a Facebook page.As we approach the canonization of Blessed John Paul II, I’m daily reminded of his constant refrain throughout his papacy: “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” Fear grows in us when we think we have control over our own journey. It’s only when we let go, open the doors, and let him work in us unhindered that he can make something really beautiful out of our lives. I pray that all of us will be open to his call, and I thank you in advance for anything you can do to help me answer it. Even if you can’t give yourself, please share my story with your own networks and let them know about my fundraising page. More than anything, I ask for your prayers. You can count on mine.
Update: Thank you to everyone who has contributed! Mary Beth tells me that she’s “all set,” but won’t turn away prayers. God bless you all, and thanks for your generosity!