New Steps Toward Healing

A Special Announcement

During our first postulant class in January, Sister Anna made a big announcement.

“Sister Maria’s family has offered to pay for a rental bus to Washington, DC. All of the postulants are going to the March for Life!”

We all gasped and cheered with delight. A road trip to DC, with all the postulants? What an adventure! What fun!

“You will stay with our Sisters at the convent there, near the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception…” Sister Anna began telling us about the different sites and locations we would be visiting while in DC. “And of course, this is really a pilgrimage. A time to make sacrifices for the unborn and their mothers and fathers. A time to pray and stand up for the pro-life cause.”

With these words, we sobered a bit. The DC road trip would certainly be fun, but that was not its primary purpose. Our purpose was to give witness to a culture of life. To show that the Sisters too cared about America’s tiniest future citizens—some of who might become our future students.

That evening, the postulants chatted happily amongst each other. What would it be like, traveling as a Sister? Where would we visit, and what people would we meet?

That night, I returned to my cell peaceful and content. It felt good to be back to the daily routine after a week of Christmas and New Year festivities. And it was lovely to have new things to think about, like the upcoming March for Life.

Back Trouble

Before we left for our trip, we had to get through a few weeks of Nashville winter. As a native Michigander, I didn’t mind the cold.

I did mind that Sister Anna had deemed it too cold to exercise outside. Sometimes I could squeeze in a walk during my free time, but often I could not.

My back suffered dearly on the days with limited exercise. Cooped up in the Motherhouse, with long hours of sitting and few breaks, my back deteriorated.

At first, I tried offering up my pain to the Lord. But in my heart, I knew this wasn't one of those “built-in” convent penances. I’d struggled with back pain for 12 years. If it didn’t get better soon, I feared I couldn’t stay in the convent much longer. I didn't think they would send me home, just because I had back problems. But what if I was wrong?

I have to do something about this, I decided one afternoon in mid-January. I have to tell Sister Anna, or go home.

Call for Help

That afternoon, I stopped by Sister Anna’s office on the way to study hall.

“Hello?” I whispered timidly, as I crouched over in the doorframe. Gorgeous rays of afternoon sun poured through the window in the hall behind me. But I didn’t feel the sun’s warmth. My back pain had overwhelmed every other sensation, any other thought.

“Please Sister,” I asked her. “I need help.”

Sister Anna looked up in surprise. “Please, come on in.” She gestured to the chair in front of her desk.

I entered, took the chair slowly, careful not to wince as the action put more pressure on my lower back.

“How can I help you, Sr. Mary Joan?”

I told her how I’d experienced back pain since I was 14 years old, and how convent life had made it even worse.

As Sister listened, her expression turned thoughtful and compassionate.

“Let’s schedule a doctor appointment for you,” she said. “And then let me see what else I can do.”

Jesus Smiling

At first, nothing about my situation changed. The days passed the same as they had all month: long periods of sitting still, followed by short bursts of relief for postulant duties, meal-serving, and transitions between prayer times.

Luckily I had other things to think about, like the story illustrations I was making for Sister Lucia’s niece. We pored over the pictures together one evening during recreation.

“Thank you so much, Sister!” said Sister Lucia. “My niece is going to love these, I think.”

“She’s going to love that you put this together for her,” I said encouragingly, sensing my friend’s doubts. “It will mean a lot to your niece, and your sister, too.”

Her expression brightened. Then she changed the subject.

“I saw you out walking this afternoon,” she nodded towards the Rosary path outside. “And…I could just see Jesus smiling!”

I smiled myself, with surprise. I always felt a little embarrassed about my need to go out for walks, but Sr. Lucia saw it as something good.

When I go out into the cold to be with You, I asked the Lord, are You really smiling?

An Act of Kindness

A few days later, after evening study hall, Sister Anna waved me to her side.

“I found a wooden board in one of the extra dorm rooms,” she explained. “I thought we could try putting it under your mattress, to give your back more support.”

I nodded, feeling humbled by the novice mistress’s personal attention. I was one of 70 sisters in the novitiate, and yet she'd sought out help just for me. Together, we went upstairs, where Sister Anna helped me carry the big board across the dorms. After we’d placed it under the mattress, Sr. Anna picked up my sheets and helped me make my bed.

“Thank you so much, Sister,” I whispered.

Her simple act of service reached inside of me in a way words could not have done. Sister Anna was on my side; she wanted me to succeed. She didn’t want me to go home, just because my back was bad. And she cared about me, enough to personally attend to my needs.

Maybe I can do this, I thought, as I finished my evening exercises and slid into my nice, hard bed. Maybe I can get better. Maybe I can be healed.


Thank you so, so much for reading today!

***Next week I am taking a break from the blog to build my author website!!! :) Please say a prayer for me, that I will persevere in the task and create a beautiful, useful site for my readers. (That means all of you!) Thank you and God bless!***

About the Author:

Mary Rose Kreger lives in the metro Detroit area with her family, where she writes fantasy for teens, and blogs about her spiritual journey: before, during, and after the convent. Mary also shares faith and fantasy quotes on her Instagram account,@faithandfantasy1.

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