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 | By Mary D. Dillard

‘What do You want …’

The adventure of discovering the Lord’s will

I wanted to do something that mattered. I wanted to help people,” remembers Dominican Sister Krista Marie Hall, a teacher at St. Rose Academy in Birmingham. Her call to serve was clear, yet the longing to be of service presented a conundrum: What kind of help really makes a difference?

Not long after graduating from college, she visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. She made her way to one of the basilica’s side chapels known as Mary, Help of Christians Chapel, and, in prayer, asked, “Lord, what do You want me to do with my life?” Looking up, she noticed a quote inscribed on the chapel’s wall: “Give me souls, away with all else.” In that moment, it clicked: spiritual, not physical. She was destined to “work for the good of souls, leading them to Jesus.”

Her newfound clarity led her to missionary work in New Zealand. While on mission, she briefly met some Dominican sisters who encouraged her to visit their motherhouse in Nashville, Tennessee. When she returned home to the States, she visited the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, better known as the Nashville Dominicans. After making good on her promise to visit Nashville, she carried on with her work for souls, which, at the time, translated into teaching at a middle school in Temple, Texas, St. Mary’s Catholic School. “Working for the good of souls and teaching blended,” remembers Sister Krista Marie.

Admittedly, she loved teaching, but on one fateful Texas afternoon with the sun shining through the window of her apartment, she had a question looming heavy in her heart: “Why am I not happy?” She had everything she thought she wanted, living in a “great” apartment with her best friend, but there was still an emptiness. Turning to prayer, she asked the question again, and a little whisper of a thought entered her mind: “You remember those sisters? They were really happy.”

Jolted by the thought, her first reaction was disbelief. The thought, however, would not go away. “I compromised with the Lord,” she recalls. She figured she would apply, not get accepted because this was a crazy idea, and then be able to move on from the possibility of being a sister.

As she wrote to apply for entrance, a peace and calmness came over her. Not long after completing her application, she went for another visit to Nashville, just to be sure she was fulfilling her end of the bargain. When she was accepted for postulancy, the peace persisted. She recollects telling the Lord, “All right, Lord,     if You want me in Nashville, just keep opening the doors You want open and shut the doors You want shut.”

God continued opening and closing those proverbial doors, but it was still a challenge. “When you enter the convent or enter any vocation, you bring yourself with you,” shares Sister Krista Marie. “So, you’re bringing your selfishness. You’re bringing your bad habits. You’re bringing you.”

In 2012, she entered the convent as a postulant, knowing she wanted to save souls, to work with the Lord, and to teach, but it wasn’t until about five years after entering the convent that she knew with “her whole heart” that she wanted to do all those things as a sister. “You fall in love with Jesus and follow Him, but you don’t stop growing in that love,” she explains. “I knew His will would be where my happiness was found.”

Just as she did at the beginning of her journey, she continued seeking out the Lord’s will, and in 2019, He led her to final vows. She admits with a smile that the day was the “happiest” of her life, but her journey did not conclude there. Professing final vows was also a beginning. “I still pray to grow in the desire for Jesus and to love Him more every day,” she insists. “The Lord made us with this sort of ‘God crater’ in our heart that only He can satisfy. And He will do it!”

And it is in seeking out the Lord’s will, just as Sister Krista Marie has done and continues to do, that we will come to realize that our hearts will only truly be fulfilled when opened to the One Who made us.

In the context of the universal Church, what does it mean to be a sister?

“In our hearts, we are the daughters of the Church, and, in a way, mothers of the Church. We love the Church with motherly devotion: we pray for her; we support her; we hurt when she hurts. As daughters, we are obedient, and we are guided and cared for. … Priests have a very specific role in the Church: They are Christ in the Church. I think sisters provide the heart of the Church. We love her and represent her as love to the world. The people of the Church can receive love from a sister in a very different way than a priest. They are not the same. … St. Paul talks about the different parts of the body: how we need all of them and can’t go without one. In a family, you need a father and a mother, so within the Church, you need both: spiritual motherhood, like spiritual fatherhood, is so necessary. … It is such a privilege to be the love in the Church: to be mother, to be daughter, to be spouse of Christ.”

How has religious life made you a better teacher?

“Once you’ve surrendered your life, I think it makes it easier to preach surrender and to preach Christ. I loved teaching before I was a sister and I love teaching now as a sister. The idea of being the spouse of Christ means you are called to a universal love of His children, so you are called to love all of them and participate in helping them get to Heaven. To me, it is just at another level. … you want their souls in Heaven more than you want anything else. If a student who loves Jesus is trying his or her best and really wants to be holy, it really brings me joy. You don’t have to have an ‘A’ to do that, though. So, the priorities are a little different. There’s nothing else like helping students understand what will make them actually happy in life.”

How do you hear the Lord’s call?

“In order to hear the Lord, we have got to spend time with Him. You won’t necessarily hear His voice audibly … We forget that He is with us all the time and that He is communicating with us all the time, but we have to stop, be quiet, and listen. I would recommend 15 minutes a day, consistently. If you’re being quiet for 15 minutes a day, reading the Scriptures, going to Mass as often as you can, going to reconciliation as often as you can, the Lord will communicate with you. … We get these thoughts all the time we take credit for, but, in fact, they are often a prompting of the Holy Spirit. Any good gift comes from above, so if you ever have an inspiration for doing something good, it’s coming from God. … If you’ve had the thought, ‘Maybe I should look into religious life,’ I would just stop there and go look into religious life because that thought didn’t come only from you.”