I am Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor, Michigan. You might have heard of our community because it has been in the news for many graces that God has given us. As the vocation director for our community since it was founded 21 years ago, I frequently receive questions from parents and interested young people. What kind of families produce religious vocations? What kind of families produce priestly vocations? How did you know you wanted to pursue this path? Where does your vocation come from?

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For the present, let’s start at the very beginning.

I come from a very rich Catholic stock on my father’s side. I was born in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee – in Oak Ridge actually, the Atomic City. My father was the first of our family born in America. His parents came over from Poland. Catholic to a T, my father is my hero. Always has been. He was a mystic. After the Second World War, he made the determination he wanted to serve America because his Polish father had said to him, “If America ever needs you, you be there for America because America was there when we needed them coming over from Poland.”

He took that to heart and volunteered for the U.S. Army. He was very intelligent, yet incredibly meek, humble, and child-like. Coming out of the war, he promised God that if He didn’t send the right woman to marry within a year, he was going to become a Trappist Monk at the monastery in Bardstown, Kentucky. So that was the plan. Then he met my mom working in one of the government plants in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. My parents’ first date was November 1, 1947.

When I asked my mom what it was like, she said, “Your father asked me out. We went to dinner, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘If this relationship is to go anywhere, honey, I want you to know that you have to become Catholic.’ Being a very strong Southern Baptist, I said to him, ‘What’s Catholic?’ He grabbed me and said, ‘I was hoping you’d ask that question.’ We went to see the priest immediately. So I didn’t even eat. And from then on, I began instructions.”

On February 12, 1948 my mom was received into the Catholic Church. She was baptized and went to confession. My father wanted all the sacraments he could get. Just three days later my parents were married, and my mom received her first Holy Communion at the wedding mass. We came along several years later. As my mom would always say, “You three (I have two siblings), are gifts to us because we were told we would never have children.”

My sister, who is now Sister Mary Theresa in the very same Dominican community as me, was born first. She was the perfect child. She obeyed well. She was calm. She was responsible from infancy on. Two years later, I came. I had a lot of energy and was very curious. I can remember a Dominican sister saying to me once, “Why are you always misbehaving?” My parents taught us morals early on. I was taught to say the truth, but this got us into trouble – especially with mom. “You speak the truth young lady,” she said once. So I looked at my sister and said, “You are boring.” Now, that didn’t go over real well.

My best memories of my father, besides just sitting in his lap as a little child, was how he always had the rosary in his hands. He prayed the rosary constantly. I would watch him pray, and I wanted that depth of prayer.

Then, in the summer of my seventh-grade year, we were invited to come to a convent and see young women, postulants in the Dominican community, receive the habit. With every piece of the habit, I knew that God was calling me. I kept saying, “This is going to be me someday.” Getting back in the car to go home, I made the big announcement to my family, “I’m going to be a Dominican sister.” My mom immediately turned around and said, “In which community?” I said, “Well, the Dominicans of course.” She said, “They’ll never take you. Remember how many problems you caused for them?”

I was terrorized. I had one of those instant conversions. I determined I was going to behave. I cut back on a lot of undisciplined behavior and began offering sacrifices for my vocation so I would know it and be ready as soon as God wanted.

I graduated from high school and entered the Dominican Sisters, the same community that my sister had entered two years before. My mother found this difficult, very difficult. She had become, probably, the best Catholic in so many ways, but this was a bit much for God to ask of her. To lose her two daughters, as she would say, in two years. Looking back now, I see my mother as a heroine for enduring that. But at that moment in time, I just knew I had a religious vocation. I’d been promising this to God for a long time, and I was going to do it because it was God’s will.

So I tell people, don’t deny the Holiness that God is asking of you. Go for it with everything you are. Every part of your life, just as every part of mine, is a preparation for the next step. And as we go back, we know these things don’t just happen, they’re Divine Providence. All along the way, someone is walking with us and someone is guiding us. So we thank our Lord, Jesus Christ, for His constant presence with us. We beg Mary for a continuation, a completion of the graces that we have as we echo her words, “Dear Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.”