Friday, December 14, 2012

Interview with the Mom-of-a-Sister-in-Training

This past Wednesday, besides being 12-12-12, was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a very important and beautiful day in the Mexican Catholic culture.  I attended Mass at Sacred Heart that night, and the Church was just overflowing with people.  During the homily, Fr. Eddie reflected on how the image of Mary that showed up on Juan Diego’s cloak during the apparition shows Mary with child.  I began to reflect on that and try to enter into all that Mary must have felt in her journey of being Jesus’ mother.  When she carried Him in the womb, she could never have known all that she would watch her son live.  Then I thought about my own mother.  God knitted me in her womb, and she has walked with me through every moment of my life.  And she, like Mary with Jesus, has seen my life take a path that she most likely didn’t expect.  Throughout my process of becoming a Sister, my mom has gracefully supported, loved, encouraged, and listened to me, even when she doesn’t understand fully.  I am so blessed to call her “Mom.”  Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen: my Mom, Patty Kemme! 

Interview with the Mom-of-a-Sister-in-Training 

Tracy: How would you describe your relationship with me? 
Patty: I think that we have a pretty good adult mom/daughter/friend relationship.  I feel like you can talk to me about anything and vice versa. I sometimes don’t have the answers but I am always there to listen.  I feel like we “get” each other. 

T: What was I like growing up? What did you think I would be when I got older/what did you think I would do with my life?
Mom and I in 2011

P: You were imaginative, happy, smart, creative, and a perfectionist.  Until you went to college, I guess I thought you might be a writer.  You were always writing stories.  But in college you majored in Psychology and Spanish, and I wasn’t quite sure what path you would follow.  Then you volunteered to do Rostro and go to Ecuador; after that I figured you would find something to do with helping the less fortunate, possibly in conjunction with the Latino culture that you love. 

T: Before I told you, did you ever expect that I might choose to become a Sister? Why or why not? 
P:  No, it didn’t even cross my radar.  I guess I didn’t because it is just not heard of too much in this day and age.  You never talked about it, and you were dating. I guess I figured at some point you would get married.

T: When was the first time I told you that I was thinking about becoming a Sister? What did you think/feel initially? 
P: You told me when you were in Ecuador after your experience at the beach while on retreat.  I think you were at an internet cafĂ© and we were Instant Messaging.  I guess I was shocked.  It was a foreign thought to me.  I don’t think most parents think that their children will grow up to join the religious life.   I probably thought that it would pass.  Also, I thought that most sisters were older and there would be no one your age and that might be hard.

T: How has your perception changed? How do you feel about it now? How do you think this life suits me? 
P: I guess I’m used to it now and have accepted it.  My main concern is that you are happy.  And I can tell that you are.  And I know that this hasn’t been an easy decision and that you have given it a lot of thought.  I’m still not sure if it is the choice I would have picked for you, but it isn’t my call.  I guess I’ve thought that you could do the same kind of work and not have to become a sister.  But the quote in your one blog has helped me to understand a little better.  “For those who are called, no explanation is necessary. For those who are not called, no explanation is possible.”

I think that you are very well suited to be a Sister.  You are very caring and concerned with others.  You will touch a lot of lives and your influence on people will have positive results because you are so positive.  And I’ll always support you no matter what.

T: What was it like for you watching the process of me making this choice? What has been difficult? Confusing? What has surprised you? 
P: It was hard because I know that it was very hard for you.  I didn’t feel like I helped you much.  I was just able to listen (which I hoped helped you).  Nothing really confusing or surprising.

Something else that has been a little difficult for me is talking to other people about your choice because the response isn’t always great.  When people knew Nathan [your brother] was getting married or got married, they would come up and say, “Congratulations!” They didn’t say, “Now why would he do that?”  With your choice, I feel like I have to explain it to people.  It doesn’t make sense, because it is your life choice, just like getting married is.  I know that it’s definitely a less-taken path, and people just don’t know many Sisters.  But it is just uncomfortable for me; like, why do I have to defend it?  Nathan chose to get married; you chose to become a Sister.

Although, even when people don’t really say anything in response, I still feel like I have to explain why you’re doing this.  Maybe deep down I’m still not totally comfortable with the idea myself, and that’s why I feel like I have to justify it, too.  I don’t know.

T: What about me becoming a Sister makes you happy? What about it makes you sad? 
P: I’m happy because I know it makes you happy.  I know that sisters do a lot of good in the world.  The sisters that I’ve met since you have joined are wonderful, inspiring people.  I was thinking about how it’s like now you have another family.  I know you’ve shared that for some Sisters’ families, it’s been hard for them to accept that.  But again, it’s just like when Nathan got married, or when anyone gets married. Now he’s got another family, and that’s wonderful.  We just get to make that new family a part of our family, and it’s the same with the Sisters.  Of course, it’d be great if you could live with me (laughs), but you wouldn’t do that in whatever path you take.  And I wouldn’t want you to live with me forever; I want you to do what you need to do.  I get to spend quality time with you when you’re here, and that’s good.  We just have to make the best of the time we have together (she sniffles, and me too).  But it’s good to know that when you’re not here, you’re still with family.

Mom and I at Nathan and Jenni''s wedding
As far as what makes me sad, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I thought you’d get married and have kids.  I have more in common with that path and would be able to help you more since I’ve experienced it.  Also, it’s possible that you might have lived closer.  But the main thing is that I want you to be happy.

It makes me sad, too, just knowing that…well, you know how you wrote in that one blog about Nathan’s wedding how it’s hard for you to always go to things alone and stuff (starts crying a bit). It’s hard to watch you deal with that.  But I know that you have a lot of friends, Trace, and a lot of people who care about you and support you.  I know you’ll never be lonely.  It’s just something to get used to, I guess.

T:  Is there anything you feel like you’ll be missing out on since I’m not getting married or having kids?  Like sometimes I see my friends planning their weddings with their moms (I start to cry), or you know…when they have babies and their moms get to be a part of that special experience…(crying) it makes me sad that I won’t get to live that with you.  Does that bother you at all? 
P: Well, I mean, it just would have been a different life.  Yes, that would have been nice, and grandkids are nice, too.  But they’re not everything.  When I was raising my kids, it never crossed my mind that I was doing it so that I could have grandkids.  I’ve just always wanted you to grow up and be happy.  I’m happy that I’ll probably get to experience being a Grandma with Nathan and Jenni’s kids.  But nothing is certain:  You could have gotten married and taken a job somewhere else and still lived far away.  You could have married and then not been able to have kids.  So the most important thing is that you follow your heart.

T: What are any fears/concerns you have in regards to my future? 
P: I guess I have some monetary concerns, since you give up everything and don’t really make any money.  But the sisters that I have met seem to be okay, just don’t know about the future because most sisters are older and I’m not sure how much money will be coming in, seems like more will be spent on taking care of the aging sisters.  Also, safety concerns depending on what path you follow after you become a sister.  Sometimes, I’m not sure that the Church and people in general appreciate and respect women religious the way they should.

T: What are your hopes for my future? 
P: I hope you are happy and that you achieve everything that you want to.  Just the same as anyone would want for their child no matter what path they choose.

T: What new things have you learned or experienced as a result of me taking this path? 
P: I guess mainly I’m thinking about all of the people I’ve met as a result of you making this choice – the people in your house, and at the Motherhouse, and in Mexico.  I’ve learned a lot more about what Sisters do, especially what the Sisters of Charity have done and do in Cincinnati.  Like this summer when we went with you and Tracey to that walk [to raise money for Sr. Sarah’s ministries in Guatemala] at Winton Woods [a park 10 minutes from our house.]  We found out there that Sr. Sarah’s sister worked at your grade school, and some of your other grade school teachers were at the walk.  Those connections are interesting.

I’ve also learned a lot about the process of becoming a Sister, something that many people don’t know.  I still don’t know everything; like I’m not sure what will happen after you spend your year in Cincinnati next year, where you’ll end up or whatever.  But I do think that it’s good that it’s a long process.  It gives people time to really be sure they’re making the right choice.

Oh, and I also learned that the Mount (the Motherhouse) has a swimming pool! (laughs)  All those years growing up right down the street, and I never had a clue.  (My mom grew up in Delhi just 5 minutes from the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse).
I’ve learned that the Sisters of Charity are a great group of people, especially your community in New Mexico.

T: What was it like to visit me here at the border and see me in my house and my ministry? 
P: It was just great to get to spend time with your housemates and get to know them better.  As far as visiting Mexico and seeing your work, I had a pretty good idea of what it would be like.  From seeing your pictures and hearing your stories from Ecuador, I sort of knew the kind of poverty you all were dealing with – what the neighborhoods look like, the houses and everything.  But it is always good to see where you are and have that picture in my mind.

T: As my Mom, what do you feel your role has been in helping me make this decision? 
P: I imagine that your upbringing had an influence: Catholic schools, going to Church, prayers, church choir, being a server.  My role recently has been and continues to be just to listen and be supportive.  Ultimately it is your life and your choice.

T: What was it like for you to attend my Affiliation Ceremony this summer in June?
Family at my June Affiliation Ceremony
P:  Hmmm…I’m not sure.  It was a really nice ceremony. (She’s quiet for a minute) I had been to an ordination of a priest before, so it wasn’t a totally foreign experience.  I think it made it finally sink in.  Dad and I had Skyped into your Pre-entrance ceremony in the Spring, but that was just the initial step.  This ceremony made it more real, like, wow, this is really going to happen.  I don’t think I was necessarily excited…I’m not sure how I was feeling.  I think I was more concerned about the behavior of other family members present who clearly were not too happy that you are doing this.  It was a really nice ceremony, though, and it was so good to see all of the people happy there.  All of the Sisters were so excited to welcome you into their community. That was nice.

T: I was just wondering, because it’s hard for me that the family doesn’t necessarily get excited about these steps, but if it was my wedding, for example, it would be a happy thing, with people congratulating me. 
P: Yea, I understand that. I think maybe it’s just because there’s still a few more steps in this path.  I think that maybe when you make your final vows we’ll feel more of that excitement.  More time will have passed; we'll understand it even more.  It will be a joyous day, a time for celebration.

T: What words of wisdom do you have for other parents of young women or men discerning the religious life? 
P: Just listen and be supportive.  You might not understand, you just have to have faith that it is the right thing for them. 

T: Is there anything else you’d like to add? 
P: Just to reiterate again how much as a mom I want you to be happy.  You know, if I had my druthers, you would get married and have kids and move in down the street from me.  Then we’d probably drive each other crazy. (Chuckles) And I just know you’re going to do a lot of good for a lot of people, Trace.  (She starts crying, harder this time.  Of course, I do too).  I do, Trace, I just know it.  You’re already doing it, just by being present and being who you are.

Seriously, how lucky am I to have this woman as my mother?  Mom, thank you, and I love you.