Thursday, October 31, 2013

Interview with the College Roommate of a Sister-in-Training

 Total writer's block over here.  I've tried to blog for the whole month of October.  I keep starting and stopping entries.  It seems that I'm still figuring out how to put the experience of Novitiate into words.  

Kaitlin and me before a UD basketball game, 2004
In the meantime, I interviewed my dear friend and former college roommate, Kaitlin (Moredock) DiNapoli, about what it's been like to have a peer and close friend become a Sister.  Kaitlin is a native of Springfield, IL, and a fellow graduate of the University of Dayton.  We met the summer before freshman year at an orientation and instantly clicked.  We lived on the same dorm floor the first year and then were immediate roommates for sophomore through senior years.  After college, she went to Notre Dame where she got her law degree and met a wonderful man named Jason.  They married in April in Philadelphia, where they currently reside and practice law.  And...they are expecting a little one in the spring!!!!  Despite the physical distance between us the last few years, we've remained an integral part of each other's lives.  I'm especially grateful for her support and enthusiasm for my chosen life path, and it's been a joy to watch hers unfold.  

So...what's it like to be 27 and have a nun-best-friend? :)  Kaitlin will tell you.  Read on:

Freshmen at UD
Tracy:  Alright, Kait, to start off, what would you like to say about how we met?
Kaitlin: I just like that we met even before freshman year of college, 9 years ago, and we knew automatically that we were going to be best friends.  (I laugh)  No, seriously, it was so easy!  We’re both so different now from who we were then, but it’s still just as easy.

Junior year  roommates: Christie, me, Kait, Clare
Julie, Rachel
T:  When you think about our time as roommates together at UD, what comes to mind for you?
K:  For me, it’s just happy; a time where we were trying to figure out what we would do and where our talents were best used, but we were always really involved, and busy…and happy.
T:  That’s exactly the word that came to mind for me too when I pictured our room!  Always lots of laughing.
Kait, Clare, and me after a
Christmas party, 2007
Our house at UD senior year
K:  Right, and it was just uncomplicated, but not unquestioning.   So, I pulled off…um…our mission statement (I laugh loudly.  Yes, Kaitlin and I actually wrote a mission statement and hung it in our bedroom senior year.  I know…).  Listen to it!  (I’m still giggling) Listen to it. 
T: Okay, okay.
K:  It still describes our UD experience so well to me.  Here it is:  “Kaitlin and Tracy pledge to live each day with laughter, light-heartedness, and a positive approach.  This shall be manifest in undying dedication to academic excellence and a passion for leading lives framed by intelligence and leadership, centered in a deep faith in God and in ourselves, lived out in a commitment of service to others.”
T: Wow.
K: Doesn’t that just say it?

Senior year roommates, clockwise from top L: Julie, me,
Kait, Christie, Clare
T: That makes me really proud of us actually, because I think sometimes it’s easy to focus on things about college life that I’m not so proud of.
K:   Of course.  It’s easy to think back on the scenes at Tim’s or Milano’s (favorite UD bars) where it’s 4 in the morning…wait a minute, never mind…it was never 4 in the morning for us.  (We both laugh)  It was 2 in the morning (laughs), and we’d be out all night, at several different parties…yea.  But that sense of mission has always been central to who we are.

T: When those 4 years were coming to a close, what did you think that my future might look like?
Kait and me on the El Paso/Juarez trip with Ali and
children from Anapra, Mexico, 2006
K: Well, I knew at the time you were going to Ecuador to serve for at least one year, and I thought was good for you and in line with your wanting to live a life of service.  But I thought that afterward, you would find a good non-profit to work for.  I still pictured you on the border [at El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico].  (Kaitlin and I went on an immersion trip there together as sophomores.  I did end up living for 3 years with the Sisters of Charity).   And…I thought you’d be married.  Not necessarily with one of the guys you dated in college…I’m not sure.  I don’t know about kids, ‘cause it was still too early for me to think about.  But, I pictured you with a husband.  I mean, that was the norm.  And you’d been in a lot of relationships; a lot of steady relationships. 
T:  Yea.  (We both laugh)  That’s similar to what I thought, too.  That I would end up married and working for a non-profit somewhere or in campus ministry.
K: Yea.  I didn’t see you going to law school even though you took the LSAT.  Just because it would’ve been too removed from “the people” for you.

T:  So, do you remember the first time I told you I was thinking about being a nun?
Kait and me at friends' wedding, after graduation
and before I left for Ecuador, 2008
K: It would’ve been the Fall of 2009, right?
T: Well, 2008.  It was the Fall after we graduated.  We were chatting online because I was in Ecuador.
K:  Right, right.  Okay.  Honestly, I remember being not too stunned by the news.  The way you explained it to me, it wasn’t like you were sure about it.  So my whole outlook on your life didn’t change instantly.  It felt like – okay, this is something we’ll think and pray about.  Oh, and the timing made sense.  You were in a place where you were doing so much reflection.  I remember being jealous of all the time you had to pray.  I had already thought, “Wow, look what she’s coming to!  I wonder what the future holds?”  So, it wasn’t difficult to understand.
T: I remember feeling support from you right away.  You were one of the first people I told, I think right after my Mom.   I knew it wouldn’t be totally off the wall for you because of our faith background.  But you were so very receptive, which was nice.  Because I think for me it felt like “coming out” in a certain way, like sharing a deep secret.
K:  Yes!  When I was reflecting, that was a comparison that came up for me.  It was kind of like you were “coming out.”  But I will say that still, it really wasn’t as surprising to me as maybe you thought it would be.

T:  So, from that day on you’ve been walking with me on this journey.  What’s it been like for you?
K:  Hmm…some parts have been very difficult.  The part that stands out to me is that very dark period you went into after you realized God was indeed calling you to the religious life, but it required so much sacrifice on your part.  You and your boyfriend broke up and you moved back from Boston.   So that Christmas season and all the way into February was so dark.  You were so down, and I couldn’t help you, except for saying things like, “You’re doing what you’re called to do!” 
Other things had been clearer, like when you described living in the Affiliate house as “dating the idea of becoming a nun.”  That was very relatable for me!  If you’re dating someone, you’re just seeing if it fits and if it’s where you’re called to be.  That was easy to understand and support.  But in this one, I couldn’t help you much, because it was a foreign experience.  That was very difficult. 
Visiting Kait in Ann Arbor, 2012
At the same time, other things have been uplifting and wonderful, like seeing you at the Motherhouse among all these Sisters who place so much hope and trust in you.  It made me so proud!  Trace, so much of your journey has led me to immense pride in you.  That’s why I tell everybody that my best friend is going to be a nun. Cause I’m really proud that you are!
T: Of course you know I’m crying right now.  (I laugh through my tears)  
Okay, moving on…is there anything you’ve learned that has surprised you about religious life?
K:  Yes!  I’ve learned a lot about different ideologies within the Catholic Church…well, particularly in the U.S.   As Catholics, we all adhere to the faith, but then there are these branches, like more liberal Catholicism that emphasizes Catholic Social Teaching and liberation theology.  It became evident in the tension around the Church’s investigation of the U.S. Catholic Sisters.  I paid so much more attention to that whole thing because I knew that you were joining the ranks.  And it’s driven me to have more conversations about things like that than I would otherwise. 
Oh!  I also learned in one of our recent conversations that Sisters and Brothers are considered part of the laity because they’re not ordained.  I never knew that before!

T:  Was there anything that you learned during your visit here to the Novitiate House and Mother House?
Kait and me with my parents during her recent visit
K:  Yes, that’s why I’m glad I visited.  I understand your life there much better now.  One thing I come away with is that you’re under more pressure than I was sensing.  When I was there, I felt pressure to get to know the many older Sisters and their stories – because they’re remarkable!  These women have done remarkable things for our Church and our world.  And within the next couple decades, many of them will be gone.  I see how you want to know these stories.  They inspire you and help you to know how to live out your...hmm…I think of it as a call within a call.  You know, there’s Sr. Kateri working with the veterans and doing amazing things on their behalf…and Sr. Flo, going to a remote village in Peru and being pretty much the only face of the official Church there.  There are many stories to hear, and big shoes to fill, and that can be daunting!
T:  Yes, it definitely can be, especially because this year could be the only time in the foreseeable future that I live so close to the Motherhouse.  So there is a certain sense of pressing desire to “get to know.”
K:   Yea, and I just imagine that might be stressful in a way.  I also see what a gift this year is for you.  You get to learn from everyone around you as well as really focus on your own spirituality and relationship with God.
T:  It is definitely a great gift! 
Speaking of gifts, let’s talk for a minute about our friendship.  Has my choosing this path brought any specific challenges or gifts to our relationship?
Jason and Kaitlin in 2011
K:  One great gift is that since we’re taking
different paths, we have to communicate our lives better to each other to maintain this level of understanding.  For example, when Jason and I found out that we were going to have a baby, we told our parents and our siblings first.  Then I talked with Jason and told him that I wanted to tell you before we told anybody else, because…I don’t know…it felt right to include you in that part of my life.  Because you’re called to be a Sister, I feel like I should be very open to you about my life and my marriage so we don’t drift apart. I have to tell you because you won’t be able to say, “Oh yea, my husband I went through that, too.”  And I think you’ve been doing the same thing with me.  That’s what I saw when I came to visit you.  There’s openness about your life and your calling and what you’re doing every day.
Roommates at Kait's wedding, April 2013
T:  Yes!  It’s enriching to both be fully embracing our different vocations and sharing about it.  I feel blessed to have such an understanding of what the beginnings of marriage and starting a family can be like through your eyes, since I’ll never have that experience personally.  I treasure that.
K:  I do, too.  And I also like that I’m able to share about you with other people.  It starts so many rewarding conversations, with friends that are Catholic, or Jewish, or any other faith, or those that don’t identify with any faith tradition.

T: One challenge to our friendship that I reflected on has been my absence at gatherings of friends in the last few years. I know I talked with you about this internal struggle last spring when you had your bachelorette party in Philly.  I just couldn’t be present for things as much as I’ve wanted to in the last few years.
 K:  Oh, yes! I’m so glad you brought that up.  Yea, you can’t and won’t be able to travel as much.  Some of that isn’t specific to your calling to be a Sister.  There are lots of other situations that keep people from traveling a ton to be with friends whenever they want, too.  But it’s different because as a Sister you’re living in community.  You can’t just decide to get in the car and leave and drive and crash at a friend’s house for a night on the fly.  You’re committed to that group of people in your home.
T:  Yes, definitely.  And I know that I’ll often have to make choices like that based on my commitment to community and ministry as well as due to our sharing of financial resources.  I know that these kinds of changes come with any sort of commitment.  I know that your dinner time with Jason is sacred.  You don’t spend your evenings on the phone because you want to be present with him.  And once you start a family, it’ll be more difficult for you to just go on a girls’ weekend or something.  I think maybe it just hit me the last few years because the twenties are often a time of relatively more freedom.  And I just couldn’t be there for all of the get-togethers and celebrations.
Exploring the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse grounds
K:  Your friends understand, though.  Everybody has been put in situations when they can’t be everywhere they want to be.  And, your friends know that you’re doing something really special and really different.  Nobody’s holding any grudges.

T:  Going along with that, do you have any words of wisdom for friends or family of someone discerning a religious vocation, or any life choice that might be considered unexpected or unique?
K: My words of wisdom are just to keep an open mind.  The person who is discerning is trying as hard as they can to figure out where they’re meant to be.  Saying things like, “Maybe you just haven’t met the right guy yet!” is not ever going to help (laughs).  It kind of breaks my heart when I hear people…well, normally it’s single men in their mid-twenties who think you’re very attractive (we laugh) and they’ll say to me things like, “She’s so beautiful, she’s so talented, she’s so funny…WHY is she doing this?  Maybe she just hasn’t met the right guy yet.”  But the thing is, it’s NOT a last resort.  I know the kind of heartache that you went through.  You were probably looking at every other possibility before you could give yourself to this path (we laugh again because it’s true).  Adding pressure won’t help.  Just try to be supportive and more open with your friend about your life, too.

T:  Beautiful.  Finally – considering the future, as we both live out our God-given vocations, what do you look forward to in our friendship?

K: I can’t wait.  I’m so excited!  I can’t help but smile.  First of all, our little babe having an Aunt Tracy who’s a nun (we giggle).  It’s going to be so special.  And then, thinking about…well, this is a perspective I have after going to the Novitiate House.  I see all the amazing things that these women have done, and I wonder:  what is it going to be for you?  How are you going to live this out?  How are you going to change the world?  The possibilities are ENDLESS.  It’s exciting, and it’s something that’s going evolve throughout our lives.  And, I get to be there!  I get to be your best friend still.  (laughs)  It just makes me happy, Trace.