Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sr. Helen Ann Vermeulen's Vocation Story

I grew up in Connersville, a small town in Southeastern Indiana. I was the only child of Dorothy and Henry Vermeulen. Both of my parents were very faith filled people. Their love of God was instilled in me.

I received eight years of catholic education at St. Gabriel School (Connersville), which was staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg, Indiana. I believe the sisters planted the seed of my future vocation to religious life.

My childhood and teenage years were happy times. I enjoyed dancing, hanging out with my friends and doing normal everyday teenage things. In my early adulthood I dated and was even engaged to be married. I thought I was being called to be a wife and mother. However, God had other dreams in mind for me.

I really never considered religious life until my late twenties, after I had completed my nursing training. During that period of my life I became more involved in my church…as my spiritual journey was awakened within me. Several of my friends were considering religious life. We had a support group that consisted of laywomen who supported religious vocations, a newly ordained priest, Fr. Glenn O’Connor, a Franciscan, Sister Marlene Kochert, and some people who were considering religious life and the priesthood. Discovering that Fr. Glenn and Sr. Marlene were happy, healthy people gifted me with the idea that religious life was a viable lifestyle for me.

As I explored this new lifestyle concept I realized the Franciscan Sisters were the only community I was familiar with. So, I attend many programs and retreats at Oldenburg and even became an affiliate with the Sisters of St. Francis. Since I was a nurse I felt I should explore some nursing communities, but it didn’t feel right to me.

One day, when I was talking to my pastor, Fr. Harold Knueven, about my desire to enter religious life, he handed me a brochure about the Sisters of St. Benedict in Beech Grove, Indiana. I thought to myself; “What’s one more brochure in my collection of religious communities.”

As I thought about what I was looking for in a religious community I knew it was important that I find a community that was small with a core value of prayer and yet allowed me to continue my ministry of nursing. As I read through the brochure Fr. Harold gave me, it occurred to me that just maybe the Sisters of St. Benedict offered what I was looking for in a religious community.

I scheduled an appointment with the vocation director and she suggested I come for a visit. In need of moral support I coerced two close friends to come with me. The day finally arrived for the big visit. As we drove closer to the monastery I told my friends I didn’t want to go in. In unison they said to me, “We brought you this far, you are going in!” I remember looking back at them in the car as I was walking towards the front door. As I knock on the door I was silently praying that no one would be home. To my surprise, Sr. Eugenia, opened the door with a huge smile and a welcoming heart. I visited with the vocation director, had a tour of the Monastery and ate lunch with the sisters…at the same time my friends were still sitting in the car in the parking lot as I said it would only be an hour!

When I walked into the dining room at the Monastery I smelled fresh chocolate chip cookies. I was hoping for a sign that this might be the place for me. Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite…mmmmm…this could be a sign from God.

Two or three hours later I went back to my friends…still waiting for me in the car…they saw the signs that this was the place for me…even though I was still fighting.

I took a leap of faith and became an affiliate with the Sisters of St. Benedict. I entered the Monastery, September 13, 1982. Over the years I have had many joys and sorrows, but vocation has always pulled me through. Commitment is important to me. The seed planted by the Franciscans so many years ago has been watered and nurtured in this Benedictine garden. This spiritual journey has brought me to where I am today.

Next year, on May 9, 2009, I will celebrate my Silver Jubilee. We are serving Chocolate Chip Cookies!


Anonymous said...

This is a great story!

Sr. Charles Francis

Anonymous said...

I love reading the sisters journey to religious life. Sr. Helen you ROCK!