Sr. Alicia’s Story

Visiting some Franciscan Sisters near the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock in Ireland

Visiting some Franciscan Sisters near the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock in Ireland

Peace!! On October 13, 2012, I professed first vows as a Franciscan of the Eucharist. I can never forget what the Lord has done for me, nor the generosity of countless men and women . . . My story is a testimony not only to Divine Providence, but to the steadfast love of God Almighty

Often women invited by God to the consecrated life are asked to write their “Vocation Story”, a narrative detailing their experience of God’s invitation to be totally his, to be a Spouse of Jesus Christ. I was invited by the Laboure Soceity to share my vocation story, which they generously published in their May 2009 newsletter! Here it is…

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Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.

It is only through God’s Divine Mercy and the constant care of Our Lady that I am able to share my story with you. I’ve finally been quiet enough to hear what God has been whispering in my heart for years, and now that I have experienced that Joy that only comes from God, I know there is nothing else that could complete me other than giving myself fully to my Beloved.

So many Little Chapels and so much Mercy! A vocation truly grows in silence. There is no silence richer than that silence spent with Jesus Himself. I remember as a very small child visiting our neighborhood church nearly every day with my mom, brother and sister. I would always carefully remember to pray both before the statue of Our Lady and that of St. Joseph–I didn’t want either to feel ignored! I knew Jesus was in the Tabernacle, and I sincerely longed for the day when I could receive Him in Holy Communion. Joyfully, the day to receive Jesus finally came in 1993.

I always anticipated Sunday Mass and spending time at the parish. My siblings and I were home schooled and St. Benedict’s Chapel was literally the center of our family’s activities outside our home. Every morning our mom would lead us in a prayer for vocations…which I remember to this day. Although we had pictures books with religious sisters, I never really knew any as a child. But, Fr. Damian, our parish priest, had a great influence on my life. He would often come to visit our house on Sundays. He would tell stories about his time in the Seminary, and taught us how to make the famous St. Vincent Abbey bread. Fr. Damian even came with us to Six Flags and rode the roller coasters with me! He was such an example of holiness and joy.

I do remember asking him once if I could take St. Francis of Assisi as my patron for confirmation…he said I’d have to choose a girl saint, which made me a little sad, but St. Francis would still come back to play a role in my life.

As I grew older, my mom began to have a devotion to the Divine Mercy, and so naturally, I did too. I began to attend Immaculate Heart of Mary School in 8th grade, and asked if we could pray the Mercy Chaplet on Fridays in our little chapel. The Sisters were supportive, but it was always so hard to get my peers to come pray. Yet, I was consoled by the 1st and 5th graders, who were ever faithful, as was my classmate, now Sr. Magdalen Marie, who entered religious life the year after we graduated high school.

Among the sisters, Sr. Marie-Jean had a particularly strong influence on me. She was constantly encouraging, and particularly supported me in my pro-life efforts. We would regularly go to pray in front of a Boston Area abortion clinic, and prayed daily at school for the end of abortion. Sr. Marie-Jean had such a motherly spirit, and truly cared for us students. Ever joyful, she shared the light of Christ with us, and was a tremendous mentor for me during my high school years..always, always she focused on Jesus!

After learning I was not accepted by the Naval Academy, I had to reevaluate the ‘plans’ I had made for my future, and finally ended up in Chicago at Loyola University. I was not a quite student, and became very active in Catholic activities and the pro-life club. I was a favorite on campus and I was trusted, too. My Junior year I was awarded the Arnold Damen Award, presented to students who exemplified the Jesuit values of services to others and being men and women of extraordinary character.

Yet, something else happened Junior year that was even more important. After many years of thinking about it, and seeing Sr. Marie-Jean and her community live it out, I finally made my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary–an amazing devotion spread by St. Louise Marie DeMontforte, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe and Pope John Paul II. The moment I made the Consecration, my life changed drastically and I began to feel tugs on my heart toward religious life.

After visiting the Sisters of Life in New York, I was convinced that Jesus was truly inviting me to be totally His. I was at peace and knew true Joy. Yet the purpose of the enemy is to take what is true, good, and beautiful and twist it. I began to doubt this grace that God was offering me..I went back and forth, committing to no real discernment process.

Yet, there came a moment when I realized that my life had entered a vicious cycle. I needed to make a choice to take Christ at His word.

On a pilgrimage to Europe I had the grace of encountering Divine Mercy at the Shrine of St. Maria Faustina in Krakow, Poland. I’d prayed the Chaplet for years, and yet when I was there it hit me so hard! I could not stop myself from sobbing, and I knew that Jesus, through St. Faustina, was speaking the truth of His love in my heart.

A few days later an even more powerful experience happened in Assisi. There, in the little chapel St. Francis built with his own hands–Our Lady of the Angels–I was embraced by God’s presence, and once again began to sob. It was not out of fear, but rather being overwhelmed by the immense love God has for me.

Almost a year later, I knew I had to stop living in limbo and listen to that voice speaking in my heart. At that point I was working full-time for the Archdiocese of Chicago Respect Life Office. Coming back from a Theology of the Body presentation at the University of Illinois, I fell ill. I was at home in bed for nearly two weeks, the last two weeks of Lent.

During that time God sent me an angel, my friend Fr. Mercer. We were in the habit of corresponding through email. Being a holy priest, Fr. Mercer asked about my discernment, and encouraged me to pursue religious life. He shared with me the wisdom of the Saints, and many wonderful Spiritual Classics. During my time of illness, I wrestled with the question, “What is God calling me to?” I would literally awaken during the middle of the night and immediately think: am I to be a sister? What do I do?? The Sacred Triduum provided an excellent space for me to come closer to Christ, and even in my weakened state of body, my spirit was becoming strong…and I realized that I must stop turning a deaf ear on God’s invitation of Love.

I knew a Franciscan Priest in Chicago, Fr. Bob Lombardo, who’d been talking about a community of Franciscans here in our city. Fr. Bob invited me to the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, and listened to my story. He confirmed that yes, indeed, with the blessing of Cardinal George, the Spirit was moving to form a Franciscan Community in Chicago. With this prayer on my heart, I traveled to New York City for Pope Benedict’s visit in April 2008. As I was asking for clarity, I received a curious sign. A Jesuit priest invited me to reflect on the simplicity and joy of St. Francis while we were waiting for the Holy Father to arrive on the grounds of St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, New York. I’d never heard  Jesuit mention St. Francis before (and I’d been around Jesuits for years)!

When Pope Benedict began to speak at the Youth Rally that day, my heart felt as if he were speaking directly to me. His message was simple: Christ needs YOU. ALL of YOU. Do not be afraid! Finally I let Christ speak in the silence of my heart. The more I prayed, the clearer the invitation came…that Jesus wants me, all of me.

There is nothing more that could satisfy my heart. I believe we are all made for Heaven, but we must do something beautiful for Jesus before we get there. I cannot think of anything more beautiful than being fully, freely His. I know that the way God has created me to love is so big, it must be fully consecrated to Christ, so that in turn I may share that love with others, through my Beloved Jesus.

There is freedom only in love. I desire nothing more than to consecrate my life to Jesus, as his little spouse, following the Spirit of Joy lived by St. Francis. I want to be a witness to what we are all created for: Heaven. I want to be a messenger of mercy and love to the poor in our midst: those suffering from material and spiritual poverty.

I have no desire to measure the success of my life. As St. Maximilian, a faithful follower of St. Francis, said, “God is pleased even with our desire to please Him.” I may not be a success in the eyes of the world, yet my soul desires to please my Beloved, and with this, I am satisfied.

More than anything, I count on your prayers to help support me in my journey to Religious Life. Know of my prayers for you! May Christ, through the intercession of His Immaculate Mother, bless and keep you and those you love!

17 thoughts on “Sr. Alicia’s Story

  1. What a beautiful story. I hope the nunrun goes well, and I will continue to pray for you while you discern your calling.

  2. Alicia,

    This is beautiful. I cannot express how wonderful your story is, and how happy I am for you. God is so wonderful! It means so much to those of us still discerning to hear your story, so I thank you deeply for sharing your journey thus far. I hope everything goes well with the NunRun.

    I also want to thank you for all your efforts lately with the Right to Life movement! I don’t know too much about it in the Chicago area, as I am in Detroit, but I’m sure it is needed there as well.

    May God, Our Lady, and all the Angels and Saints continue to be with you and all!

    In Christ,
    ~*Andi*~

  3. Alicia,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you! What a terrific story and history through Jesus Christ you share. I pray that other young women open their lives to the spirit of God as you have by opening their hearts and souls through the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary and all the Angels and Saints. May God continue to bless you along your gracious path in life and may our hearts be open to aid you with the financial challenges involved.

    In prayer,

    Dave (St. John, IN.)

  4. Dear Alicia, Congratulations on your great story. I retired in March from Loyola University Chicago after working there for 40 years in Alumni Relations and Development. I am very proud of you as a graduate and alum of Loyola. Good luck on your run and I intend to support your cause. Also, best wishes in your community at Our Lady of the Angels. I have read a book about the fire and have driven past the area several times out of curiosity. Good luck and prayers, Marty

  5. Alicia — I read your story in the Chicago Tribune today (Sunday 9/13/09) and was inspired to come to your website so as to learn more about you and the NunRun.
    Alicia, I support your calling to serve the people in the neighborhood of the former Our Lady of Angels parish. I was a 4th grader in another Catholic school in Chicago on that fateful day. No one who lived in Chicago at the time of the O.L.A. fire (Dec. 1st, 1958) will ever forget the shock and grief of that terrible day.
    But time, and God’s mercy, heals all wounds eventually. It seems to me that you, and your two comrades who are also seeking to serve the OLA community as religious sisters, will in some strange and mysterious way, be taking up the work that was left unfinished by the 3 religious sisters who died as a result of the OLA fire — may they rest in peace!
    Alicia, I plan to send a donation to help you meet your goal of paying off the $94,000 in college loans that are standing in the way of beginning your life as a nun. I hope that many others will also contribute to your marathon fund. (It would be great if you could post a graphic design on your website showing how much you have raised / still have to raise to reach your goal).

    Good luck, and God bless you on your journey to your the fulfillment of your vocation, Sr. Alicia Torres!

  6. Dear Alicia,
    I heard your story today in Miami on NPR. I, too, am a long distance runner and deeply religious, and I was inspired by your story.

    I am always in awe of people who can commit themselves to fully and with so much joy to their faith and I am certain that you will be able to reach your goal of paying your debt and taking the vow of poverty.

    I am more certain that you will be able to make a striking difference and help in the lives of others less fortunate and I applaud you for your charity of character and devotion.

    I am donating $18.00 to help your pay down your debt. In Judaism, 18 is the number that symbolizes life and is the donation amount given to worthy causes, as I believe yours is.

    Furthermore, I am posting a link to the NPR story on my Facebook page. I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon a week before your race and my friends have been following my progress there and showing me endless support for my efforts (I set a PR of 2:43, so I am VERY impressed with your time.) I am hopeful that my friends who were supportive of me may be inspired to be supportive of you as well.

    I wish you health, happiness, peace, success in reaching your goals and all of G-d’s abundance in your life.

    Sincerely,
    Rebecca Amster

  7. Dear Alicia,
    I am so touched by story. Back when I first met you at Loyola, I always knew you were going to do great things for our Lord. Your faith is truly an inspiration to all. My mother and I both plan to make a donation and help you in anyway that we can. I wish you great happiness in your new life with God and great success in your mission.

    Love,

    Tara Moody

  8. I thank God for your sharings. My kids and I will pray for you and find ways to support you. God Bless you!

  9. Little Sister Alicia,
    Your story is really wonderful ,wonderful in the sence that Jesus calla in you and you heard it.
    Your story will help so many others to love Jesus as you love Jesus and dedicate fully for his cause.
    All the best for the wonderful path you have chosen.

    George Azhikunnu
    Kirchenweg-18
    87459 Pfronten
    Germany

  10. Dear Alicia,

    Greetings from Germany.

    I have read your experice with Jesus with much interest.Your story is like a novel.It shows that Jesus is active and is working.Without the grace of Jesus ,you could not have made such a decesion ,for there are a lot of chances for you to engage other than the one you have chosen,namely to become a witnes for Jesus Christ in our modern world.

    For me you become a hero and it has made me think about my own future course of action.

    Please pray for me so that I may also take a good decesion regarding my future.

    Vipin George Varkey
    Ben-Gurion-Ring.78
    60437 Frankfurt
    Germany.

  11. Dear Alica,

    You have a wonderful story to share…and I encourage you to continue to share it. I first heard your story on Relevant Radio and again recently with your follow-up interviews. I also just read it in Catholic New World and felt that I wanted to help you with your goal.

    I’m so excited for you that you have chosen this way of life. It is very comforting and re-affirming that we have so many young adults looking to accept God’s plan when they are called to consecrated life or the priesthood. We all have our vocations in life but seeing the passion you have for yours is so is refreshing. You and your family have been very blessed and hope that you continue to receive all the support you need now and in the future.

    May God bless you always!
    In Christ,
    ~Veronica

  12. What a beautiful journey! My family will offer up many prayers and sacrifices for you. My little girl Hannah is only six, but she already has a pretty clear draw to religious life. I hold all of you dear Sisters close to my heart.

  13. Pace e Bene Alicia,

    My name is Nelson and i’m portuguese. Today i read your story and i’m very happy for you.
    There is no doubt that the “Nun Run” is something inspired by God.
    You are really an inspiration for everybody (christians or not) and your story can open the eyes of many persons to the freedom achived of those who trust totally in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    “seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind…But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Luke 12:29-32).

    This passage confirms that you will achive the goal you expect, because the “Nun Run” is the way you found to reach “the kingdom of God” in your live, and that is: live as a Nun.

    God Bless you, my dear Alicia,

    All the best from Portugal,

    Nelson Viana

  14. Dear Alicia,

    Mr. Olden and I had a nice talk with your parents at the IHM Bazaar today, and your mother referred us to your web site. You are a spiritual powerhouse! I remain grateful for your advice to me about financing college when you spoke at IHM last year. Hope to see you at IHM in December.

    Mrs. Olden

  15. Dear Alicia,

    God is working through you even now, before you’ve taken your vows! You are such an inspiration to me and others aspiring for the religious life and paying off college debt. In true Jesuit spirituality, I try to ‘see God in all things’. I even see God in your story. He is behind your movement to remove your debt. Your story is the catalyst to what will become an important issue in modern day vocation journeys. Many potential religious will have college debt, and in my mind, it is unfair to impart that debt upon one’s diocese or religious order. Those who believe there is no way out can now look to you and see that it is by God’s empowering of us to find our way into the religious life. He always gives us what we need. Congratulations and may the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you!

    God bless,

    Allen

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