I believe in mystery
April 26th, 2016
By Sister Carla Kovack, OP
A few years back, listeners of National Public Radio would recognize the program titled “This I Believe.” Around the same time I was in campus ministry at Dominican University in San Rafael. One of our student leaders who was active in our ministry wanted to reach out to students who were trying to figure out what was important in their lives. He suggested we do a weekly version of “This I Believe” in which faculty, staff and students would be invited to offer a prepared reflection of their core beliefs. When it came to my turn, the word MYSTERY kept tugging at my consciousness. And it became my topic sentence: I believe in mystery.
I do believe in MYSTERY, the mystery of God, of faith and yes, the mystery of a call to religious life. When I was young and felt that mysterious attraction I was neither wise nor fully mature. At 17 I just knew that I had to explore that deep attraction to be love in the lives of others. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and decided that in community the shared desire to offer God’s love would multiply and have a deeper impact.
I had mixed reactions from my parents: My mother was overjoyed, my father asked why do you want to do something so unnatural as to choose to not have children … what did your mother and I do to make you want such a life? I assured him I was not running away from love and intimacy of marriage rather I was seeking it in a relationship with God. I couldn’t explain this attraction but I knew I had to try it out.
For most of us celebrating jubilees, we have been privileged to live the span of years of renewal of religious life given to us by the council fathers of Vatican II. We witnessed and lived a focus on the Gospel way of life, a return to our charism and adapted our lives to modern society. As a Dominican sister I have turned to the Gospels and deepened my commitment to follow the way of Jesus as a teacher and preacher. I have appropriated St Dominic’s way of life in which study and contemplation within a community feeds the joy and vitality of service in witnessing to the presence of the risen Christ in our midst.
Fifty-plus years ago my father was concerned that I would have no children. While this choice has been a sacrifice, the life of celibate loving has offered a freedom to love all those who cross my path. As a young sister I was an elementary school teacher spending 11 years with first graders. Our daily engagement taught me how to be human … the children lived in the present, they would say sorry after a fight and mean it; they were vulnerable enough to welcome the care of friends and their teacher, and they absorbed stories of Jesus who loved each one of them in a unique way.
The mystery of God’s unfolding love continued as I served in roles of leadership, formation and vocation ministries. My father, when he gave me a blessing to leave home for the convent, made me promise him one thing … if I ever found myself not happy I would come back home. My life is a witness that deep inner joy or happiness can remain through times of both joy and challenge.
The fidelity of God’s love and our freely offered response is witnessed by each religious here. We continue to give our lives in service of others. We believe that God’s love of us is mirrored in our loving others. We believe that our years in religious life are fruitful in ways we often don’t realize. We believe that others who follow us will continue to cooperate with the attraction of God’s love given in service of those on the margins of societies, those who are different from us, those who seek the mercy of God made flesh in us.
Yes, I believe in mystery, the mystery of love given and received, the mystery of vocational call, the mystery of the risen Christ in our midst. Yes, I believe in mystery.
Dominican Sister Carla, who is on the leadership team of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, gave this reflection at the Mass of Consecrated Life on Good Shepherd Sunday, April 17, at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Mass included celebrations of significant anniversaries from 25 to 75 years of men and women religious in the archdiocese.
From April 28, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.