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 | By Mary D. Dillard

A pilgrimage of trust

How one woman exchanged her plans for those of God

“The call is hard to put into words, but I knew that my life would be very incomplete if I didn't have God in the first place,” reveals Sister Rose Marie Gauthier, a Sister Servant of the Eternal Word. Her realization that God should come before all else in life did not materialize out of thin air, however. One very important aspect of her life played a significant role: family.

Sister Rose Marie’s mother and father raised their family as devout practicing Catholics, praying the Rosary, going to Mass, and going to adoration — all together as a family. “I think those all fostered my vocation by introducing me to the love of God,” she points out. The Gauthiers put their faith as priority no. 1 not only in their own lives, but in the lives of their children, and those efforts drew the family closer to God and closer together.

At around the age of 10, Sister Rose Marie began to build on the foundation her parents had laid. She began to truly encounter the Lord in the sacraments, and she felt this longing for a personal relationship with God. It was also during this time that she was introduced to consecrated religious sisters. “Their life,” she recalls, “impressed me in a very deep way. I saw that their joy came from consecration; came from their total gift of themselves to God.”

Over the course of Sister Rose Marie’s early teenage years, the desire in her heart to “belong to Him” did not subside, but it was somewhat “subtle.” As a young girl, “belonging to God” meant a general desire to practice the virtues, living “for good, for truth, for love” as a way to please God as our Father.

While studying in college, doors seemed to open, making sense of life and providing a rough blueprint of her future. Yet, right when she thought she knew what her next steps were to be, the Lord stepped in and gave her a jolt. “I was very confused when I began to sense that God was asking me to put everything aside,” Sister Rose Marie explains.

Confusion, however, was not the only emotion she experienced. “I was torn, knowing that this was beautiful, but also feeling anger at the idea of having to give up my plans,” she confesses. Fear was also a temptation. “What if this doesn’t work out or what if I am not happy?” she thought. God’s plan seemed like a risk: a risk she wasn’t quite ready to take. Without realizing it, part of her wanted to see His plan laid out in front of her, so she could then judge whether it was “good or not.”

In the midst of her struggle, Sister Rose Marie found herself attending a retreat in Nashville with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. “He shook me up,” she says with a smile, remembering the retreat, which compelled her to face the reality that before she could trust God with her life, she needed to truly believe that He is all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. “He showed me that I needed to accept His plan before I saw all the details,” she says. “I needed to say, ‘Yes, I trust You,’ and follow as He let it all unfold, which He did.” Engulfed in His love, patience, and generosity she began to see that His plan was sure to be the better one. “He encouraged me, reminding me that since He had created me, He knew what I was suited for and how to fulfill everything I needed.”

With a willing heart, Sister Rose Marie dug through all the lists of religious sisters she could find, being especially interested in cloistered communities. At the same time, though, one community kept coming to the forefront. “God likes to work through people in our lives,” she observes. Those so-called “instruments” were pointing to the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in Alabama. Being raised in Michigan and living in Texas, the Irondale convent and retreat house had never registered high on her radar, but a few friends and even her pastor mentioned the community. She didn’t rush to meet the Sister Servants, though, choosing to visit other communities instead. Her search led her to what she thought was the closest Dominican cloister to her home, the Monastery of St. Jude, located in the Archdiocese of Mobile. To get there, however, she needed to first land at the Birmingham airport. In an effort to finally appease her friends and pastor, she decided to make the most of her trip and visit Casa Maria Convent and Retreat House, home of the Sister Servants. “It was all providential,” she remarks, “and humorous, too,” for it wasn’t until after her return home that she learned Texas was, in fact, home to a Dominican cloister.

By the end of her three-day retreat at Casa Maria, Sister Rose Marie was deeply moved by a sense of belonging: she felt at home. “I realized that without having a clear idea of my vocation, I had been living as if only half of myself, as if a shadow,” she notes. “When God brought me into contact with the sisters and their charism, He showed me the first glimpse of what my life was really for.”

After three months, Sister Rose Marie made another visit to Irondale, delving deeper into her discernment. Everything just seemed to “click” in her mind, from the Sister Servant’s mission of catechesis to their retreat house. A year after her first retreat at Casa Maria, Sister Rose Marie entered the community as a postulant, discerning, living with the sisters, and deepening her spiritual life. She continued to the novitiate and after two years made her first profession of vows. In August of last year on the feast of the Queenship of Mary, Sister Rose Marie made her perpetual profession.

Looking back over the past year, she notes: “More than anything else, I feel gratitude for the gifts that God has given me in this calling … just to belong to Him, to be a spouse of Christ, for the providence of being in this community, for all the work that I've been involved in, for the people I've been involved with apostolically that have been such a gift to me in shaping who I am and showing me the beauties of God's work and what He's doing in the Church and in the world, and for people's joy and enthusiasm in receiving Him.”

Sister Rose Marie’s life as a Sister Servant has been, and continues to be, “a privileged position: a sacred position.” With so many starving for God, she and her fellow sisters bring God into their lives. “It is an amazing gift,” she exclaims, “to be in a position where we are facilitators in that relationship between God and souls.”

While the work Sister Rose Marie carries out with the Sister Servants results in many blessings not only for her but also for those around her, she always goes back to her relationship with God.

She explains that she wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than giving her entire self to God. Putting the Lord first has enabled Sister Rose Marie to live out His plan for her: her vocation. Her ever-present smile is proof of the boundless joy that comes from living out His plan, zealously and authentically. In short, we all must earnestly seek out His plan, and in so doing, a peace and indescribable happiness will be found. “It’s like the key going into a keyhole,” Sister Rose Marie points out, “we are going to be frustrated unless we follow what we were made for.”