I can’t remember a time that I didn’t love God. I was born December 7, 1961 to Paul and Kay Etienne in Tell City, Indiana. I was the fourth child of six children. However, I was the first daughter. Four brothers surrounded me. It was no wonder that I was a tomboy from day one! My younger sister didn’t come along for seven years more. Because I was born between the Feast of St. Nicholas and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, my parents named me Mary Nicolette. Everyone called me by my second name…most called me Nicol. Tell City is located on the Ohio River at the southern part of Indiana. Some would call Tell City a small river town. For me, Tell City is the place I discovered and fell in love with God. There is so much natural beauty and evidence of God’s loving presence everywhere you turn in Perry County.
I was blest with a family deeply rooted in the Catholic faith. I went to St. Paul Catholic Church and Grade School. I started first grade in 1968. St. Paul was blest to have Benedictine Sisters, as well as wonderful lay men and women teaching in their school. We had extraordinary priests in our parish that along with my grandparents, parents and teachers shaped and molded my faith and love for God.
As I continued to grow and mature, the idea of being a teacher never left my mind or heart. The only thing that really fluctuated was whether God wanted me to be a nun or a married person. God’s voice wasn’t as clear in that area as it was in the call to be a teacher. I dated every now and then in high school. I enjoyed hanging out with my friends. I worked in a jewelry store where I was surrounded by beautiful jewelry…especially diamond rings. I used to try the rings on and daydream about the type of ring my future husband would surprise me with. Most of the guys I dated in high school were really just good friends. However, at the end of my senior year in high school, I fell head over heels in love with a guy whom I thought would someday be my husband. We eventually ended up at the same college studying to become teachers. In my mind, it was the perfect scenario. We would both be teachers and raise our children in the Catholic faith. We dated my entire time at college. As graduation grew closer my desire to get married grew weaker. We soon grew apart and went our separate ways.
My first teaching job was at St. Anthony Catholic School in Clarksville, Indiana. Believe it or not, I landed a job as a 3rd grade teacher! The grade I was in when I first felt the call to be a teacher. My principal was a Benedictine Sister from Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Sr. Rachel Best, OSB. Sr. Karen Byerley, another Benedictine Sister taught in the same school. Soon, I was spending more and more time with the Sisters and less and less time looking for my future husband. I started attending vocation retreats at Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, Indiana. Two years later, July 31, 1986, I entered Our Lady of Grace Monastery. What a journey this life has been! My ministries have included being a teacher, principal and vocation director. I’ve never lost my love for teaching. In fact, thanks to the many Sisters in my community who are either teaching now or have taught for many years in the past, I’ve only deepened my love for teaching and my teaching skills.
We all have the vocation in life to love God and serve God’s people. If you take time to talk to God every single day, you will hear God’s voice telling you how you are to love and serve God. I can’t imagine loving anyone more deeply than the way I love my God. I’m thankful for my Benedictine Community who strives daily to seek the face of God through prayer, work and hospitality.
Just a little side note, some people believe my vocation as a Benedictine Sister is part of my family business. Three of my brothers are priests! This picture was taken at my brother, Zach’s, Ordination. In the picture from left to right is Fr. Bernie, Sr. Nicolette, Fr. Zach and Fr. Paul. It’s great to have siblings in the same line of work. We have a built in support group! Someday I’ll share the story of just how my parents decided to get married and what my mother prayed for when she visited Our Lady of Lourdes!