Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My friend, Sister Elizabeth Ann

+JMJ+

I love snail mail. Don't get me wrong - we receive all of our bills and paperwork electronically and I definitely don't enjoy receiving excessive amounts of coupons for stores I'll never shop at or free magazines that I do not and never will subscribe to. What I do enjoy is what Michael and I refer to as "real" mail - the kind that's sent from an actual person we know. The kind that someone takes the time to hand-write, type, or draw just for you. Call me cheesy, sentimental, traditional, or whatever else - but that kind of mail just seems extra special to me in this world that's been infiltrated by computers, cell phones, and social media everywhere we turn.

Last week I went to check the mail, expecting nothing but the "fake" kind of mail that promptly finds its way into our trash can.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the mailbox and saw a package - when I hadn't ordered anything and wasn't expecting something from any family or friends. I had no idea what it could be until I saw the printed return address - Sacred Heart Novitiate in Nashville, Tennessee.

Last month on August 15th my friend, Liz, became a postulant with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. Liz, who is now known as Sister Elizabeth Ann, sent me such a thoughtful, random package that I am just bursting at the seams to tell someone about (besides my husband, obviously)!

At a Matt Maher concert with the future Sister Elizabeth Ann over FOUR years ago! So much has happened with discovering each of our vocations since then....

Sister Elizabeth Ann is basically the kind of friend every girl dreams of having. She is thoughtful, kind, and goes entirely out of her way to maintain friendships and ensure that her friends feel loved. She sees God and His love in the beauty of everyday life - whether that takes the form of a nice nail polish color, good coffee, a hand-written note of encouragement, or the carefully penned calligraphy on an envelope...and she does her part to help others see that Beauty, too.

A little background: we first met during my junior year (her freshman year) in college via campus ministry. I'm not positive, but I think our paths first crossed on the Kairos retreat I was leading that she attended. The next year I was one of the retreat's Co-Rectors and she was on the retreat team. After that our paths were constantly crossing through our involvement in the church and she was even at that Frassati Society conference I went to right before Michael and I became an official item. We had/have a friendship rooted entirely in the Lord and our shared faith, so we naturally began to ask for prayers from one another whenever we had specific intentions.

During my volunteer year with the Dominicans, she was one of few people that I stayed in constant communication with and frequently told me she was praying for me. She and my younger sister are the same age and I'm so thankful that the two of them ended up becoming extremely close friends their senior year. Not only has Sister Elizabeth Ann been a huge blessing in my life, but she has also been a beautiful friend to my sister!

Sr. Elizabeth Ann reunited with one of our other campus ministry friends on my wedding day

During my volunteer year after college I began receiving semi-regular snail mail from her. She always made a point to include extra thoughtful gestures with her notes; whether it was a prayer card or sticker of a Saint she knew I loved or something else entirely, she always took time to really personalize any kind of correspondence we shared. Once Michael and I became engaged she began gifting me all sorts of prayer cards she found about the wedding at Cana, marriage, etc. It wasn't a difficult choice to ask her to do one of the readings at our wedding. Then, after I got married, Sister Elizabeth Ann continued to support and encourage me in my vocation in ways unlike any of my other single friends did (and in more tangible ways than many of my married friends did!). She constantly emailed me links to articles I might appreciate, mailed me prayer cards about married life, shared pins with me on Pinterest, and even sent me a copy of a Catholic Mothers' Manual when I was pregnant.

Long story short, this young woman's friendship is such a treasure. She is constantly thinking of others and doing whatever she can to help them live their vocation to the fullest.

At this point it should come as no surprise to you that last week I found myself opening an unexpected package, wondering what thoughtful gem(s) Sister Elizabeth Ann had thought to send me this time. I began pulling out an assortment of books, holy cards, and a few little treasures that seemed to be from Korea. I looked and looked, but there was no note of explanation. Then, as I sifted through the gifts one by one I saw the magnets we had given her as a wedding Save the Date and later as a wedding favor. At that point I knew without a doubt the reason for her gift: now that Sister Elizabeth Ann is in the convent she is passing her belongings on to her friends and family that will appreciate them. 

Gifts from Sr. Elizabeth Ann's package

This considerate, unexpected gift nearly brought me to tears as I reflected on how many times Sr. Elizabeth Ann has sent me little notes and packages in the mail in recent years.

I'm so insanely happy for my dear friend who seems to have found the path Christ is calling her to. Selfishly, I'm also grateful that I am still able to communicate with her via snail mail during this formative, prayerful time of her ongoing discernment. In many ways I feel as if I could never execute a grand enough gesture to thank her for her selfless friendship and countless and continued prayers...but at the very least I can pray for her and ask all of you to join me. Please hold Sr. Elizabeth Ann, all the other postulants in her class, and all those discerning a vocation to religious life in your prayers.

My friend is just one of several women seeking to dedicate their lives to serving Christ and the Church in this way - but I know that the Church will be incredibly blessed by the joyful, humble, unique ways I know she will live out her beautiful vocation. If you want to learn more about her as a person, her discernment process, or any of the awesome European and African adventures she's been on (including all the times she saw the Pope!) you can check out her blog, Just a Small Town Girl.

+Ss. Dominic and Cecilia, pray for us.+


"Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives and remembering what one receives." 
-Alexander Dumas


6 comments:

  1. Absolutely beautiful! What a lovely friendship and witness. Thank you for sharing Steph. Ps. Email en route soon....sorry it's not snail mail ;) hehe

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  2. This made my day just reading about your sweet and thoughtful package! Don't you just love true friends?!

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  3. Awwww - I LOVE this!!!

    Rest assured of my prayers - my guess is she and her class would appreciate them most of all anyway. :)

    Friendship is such a treasure - especially such a Christ-centric one!

    What an absolute blessing. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for the prayers! I'm sure she (and the other postulants) appreciate it! :)

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