By: Dr. James and Emma Stewart
People often ask us the question: “What did you do so that your daughter chose to become a nun?” Then the next thing they say is: “You are so blessed.” Our answer really is: “We did not do anything in particular.” In our daily lives, we try to practice our faith and live by the Catholic traditional values. As we started a family, our prayer for our yet-to-be-born child was for a healthy baby, and this prayer went on until each of our children reached the age of reason. At that stage of development, we added another prayer that our children choose the right path and make the right decisions and choices. In addition, from the moment of their First Communion, we prayed for a strong faith that would always follow our Lord. We will continue these prayers for as long as we live.
Sister Marie Suzanne is the oldest of our three children. She began kindergarten and first grade in a public school. After a while, we thought she needed to be in a Catholic school to better prepare her for First Communion. One of the patients at our medical office suggested their own parish, Sts. Felicitas and Perpetua School in San Marino, would be a good school for her. The presence of the Carmelite Sisters made it our first choice of school. Her dad was an alumnus of St. Therese School in Alhambra and was taught by Sisters. The first seed of Carmelite spirituality must have been planted when she entered second grade. Our two younger children, Christopher and Kimberly, also attended and graduated from Sts. Felicitas & Perpetua School.
“Get a good education.” We heard this advice from our parents and we tried to pass this on to our children. They made their own choices for their high schools, and we were very happy that they continued on with their Catholic education. Both Sister Marie Suzanne and Kimberly graduated from Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Canada, and Christopher from Loyola High School in Los Angeles. These kids were very busy growing up – from school activities, sports, music lessons, service hours and family summer travels here in the USA and abroad.
When it came time for college choices, Sister Marie Suzanne, on her eighteenth birthday, told us or showed us what she wanted to do with her life. She showed us a photo taken from one of our previous family summer travels. That summer, we decided to visit and stay with very good and dear family friends in Germany. However, Sister Marie Suzanne wanted to visit Lisieux, France, so we rented a car and drove there, spent the night in Paris, and the following morning arrived at the home of St. Therese, where she grew up.
In their garden, we noticed the statues of the young St. Therese standing and asking her father, Blessed Louis Martin, sitting on a bench, permission to enter Carmel. Sister Marie Suzanne and her father mimicked exactly this scene and I, her mother, took the picture. This was the picture she handed to us and said, “Dad, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Obviously, she was not going to college. What can you say? Jim’s response was, “If this is what you want, and it will make you happy, then I will support you 100%.” I sobbed with joy for her decision and with sadness, thinking I would never see my daughter again.
We try as parents to lead a life centered in our Lord and our faith, setting a good example for our children. In other words, choosing a vocation in religious life, the vocation which Sister Marie Suzanne embraced, is a special calling from God – not exactly based on anything that we did as her parents. Yes, indeed we are blessed for being parents of a nun.
Article originally appeared in Spring 2011 edition of Spirit of Carmel