From Convert to Convent
Sister Mary Bethany
(Sister Katherine Zeitler)
normal! Really! I was just like any other fifteen-year old girl!
Except for one thing…. I wrote love letters to God!
One day when I was in high school, my dearest friend popped
the infamous question, “You’re not going to become a NUN,
are you!?” What a silly question that was! And I had an equally
silly answer,“That’s impossible!
I’m not even Catholic!”
Apparently I had yet to read, “With
God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26)
After high school, I went off to Goucher College determined
to become Roman Catholic. My
freshman year, during the Easter Vigil 2000, I received the Triple
Threat -- Grand Slam selection of Catholic Sacraments J
Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion!
Suddenly the “I’m not even Catholic” part of my answer
became even sillier…
I realized then, and I know now, that
the most important thing for me to do in life is to become a saint.
To do so I need to grow in holiness and achieve sanctity by
uniting my will to Christ and living the life He has called me to,
be it a married, single, or religious vocation.
Somehow even back then
I had an inkling I was being called to be a Sister.
At first it was easy to reject these perpetually recurring,
and sometimes downright annoying, thoughts.
I came up with great excuses! “I’m not worthy!” was one
of my faves. These excuses only last so long…. Eventually I began
to realize that no one is ever truly worthy of Christ and all He has
done. And hiding from Him doesn’t make us any more worthy!
During my sophomore year, the Holy Spirit infused in me
enough guts to share these thoughts with a priest, who later became
my spiritual director. Through
his counsel and a lot of internet “research,” I found a number
of religious orders that seemed to fit my desires and interests.
I also determined some criteria to aid me in my search for
the “perfect fit.” I
desired most of all a Community in which:
truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, is the source and summit
of the life.
devotion to Our Lady is central.
to the teachings of the Holy Father and Church teaching are a
habit is worn, as a witness to the world of consecration to
The first community I
fell in love with was a teaching order from Nashville, TN: the
Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia.
I was greatly impressed with the Nashville Dominican website. Wow, Sisters in full-length, white
habits, and 15 decade Rosaries! They definitely seemed happy!
While I loved this
community, at the recommendation of my spiritual director, I knew it
would be best to at least look into other communities as well, to
get a sense of different spiritualities.
My junior year in college I visited the Dominican Sisters of
Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
This 48-hour high-powered vocation discernment weekend convinced me
I was being called to religious life.
The religious life, if lived authentically, can be radical
and awesome, I remember thinking at the time.
If these young women can do it, so can I!!!
following semester I studied abroad in Italy and met some wonderful
teaching Sisters at a small community of Religious of the Sacred
Heart, in Florence. Two
of these Sisters are graduates of Steubenville and a postulant who
just entered is from the University of Dallas.
For my four months abroad I would make my way across the Arno
River almost every evening to attend to evening prayer with these
beautiful Sisters and during my spring break, I spent a week living
and praying them. I
loved my time with these Sisters and their convent in the hills of
Piazza Michelangelo was impressive, to say the least. But I knew it wasn’t where I belonged. I also felt that Morning and Evening prayer just wasn’t
enough to satisfy me. I
wanted more. Could God
want me to be a cloistered nun?!?!
This was definitely a scary thought for me…
A week after returning from Italy, I packed my bags for a
weeklong discernment retreat with the Nashville Dominicans.
I did not, surprisingly, go with great anticipations. I was confused enough already in terms of where He wanted me
so I decided to just enjoy myself and to use the experience to help
me grow closer to Him, regardless of whether or not that was where I
was meant to spend the rest of my life. Between talks given by the
Sisters, reflections with an awesome Dominican priest, Adoration and
prayer with the Sisters as well as recreation time outside playing
sports, “postulant panels,” and sharing my life with the other
young women discerning, I was truly in awe of the week.
I knew something had happened.
I was just too much in love.
Everything was just too much fun.
I think deep down I realized I could spend the rest of my
earthly life with these Sisters living the religious life.
But that was deep down… on the surface I wasn’t ready to
admit it to myself. I
think I was too scared to imagine what this meant. Keeping my options open and convent shopping for a little
longer seemed less permanent! Looking
back I realize how this was an incredible, life-changing experience,
although at the time I didn’t know because the impact didn’t hit
After this experience
I really wanted to know if He could be calling me to the cloister
and I decided I would be open to that, if it were where He wanted me
(in spite of the fact that I have a BIG MOUTH, as I am sure many
will attest to) J
My friend Theresa and I visited was a small group of Poor
Clare Perpetual Adoration nuns in Washington D.C. and this was a
wonderful experience. I
loved that these Sisters’ lives revolved around Jesus in the most
Blessed Sacrament. They
offer their lives in Thanksgiving for this gift. But as much as I
loved the prayer, and the Sisters, I did not feel an incredible
sense of peace.
Then, a week before our pilgrimage to Toronto for World Youth
Day, Theresa and I once again headed off for a “VB” (vocation
buddy) visit. This time we stayed with the Dominican Nuns of Summit,
NJ. Wow. This is
when I finally felt some peace.
Something about the Dominican charism just clicked.
I wanted more than anything else, to follow Christ through
the footsteps of St. Dominic. It
was also here, at this cloistered order, that it became clear to me
that the Holy Spirit had put it on my heart to become an active
religious. I really
felt the desire to have the sustaining prayer life, and yet I wanted
to be in the front line teaching and evangelizing.
“To contemplate and give to others the fruits of my
contemplation,” is the Sisters’ motto. I knew my heart was in Nashville as Dominican Sister of
St. Cecilia. After this
realization some of my fears subsided, especially after I said it
confidently for the first time.
Since that weekend nearly seven months ago, God has continued
to amaze me. I
asked Him to make it clear to me because I want only to do His will.
And He has answered with incredible amount of confirmation!
And the desire continues to escalate!
Theresa, Lisa, Jennie, Sarah, and I planned a mega “VB”-
trip down to “sweet T, Tennessee” in August to see the Novice
Sisters take their First Vows.
Wow. It was so
moving to be present for the marriages of 14 young, joy-filled
souls! In less
than 48 hours, after meeting with Sr. Catherine Marie (vocation
directress for the Nashville Dominicans) and Sr. Mary Angela (novice
directress), and conversing with many of the Sisters in formation as
well as the professed, I knew it was only a matter of time J
One obstacle for me in my vocation has been my family. I am up against a lot of parental opposition.
A vocation to the religious life is extremely hard to
understand if you are not called to it.
“Him who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”
(Matt 19:12) It is even
harder to understand if you don’t believe in God.
I am so proud of my parents for being as loving as they have
been and I trust that God will soften their hearts and help them to
understand more fully the great gift of Christ.
I ask for your prayers too.
God has a plan for me and for my family and I know that I
need only have faith and keep my eyes focused on the prize.
The reward is just too great to turn away! I want to
receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life! (Matt. 19:29)
Besides, if I am not following Christ, what else is there?
“Lord to whom shall we go?!” (John 6:68)
On the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary 2002, I was officially
accepted into the postulancy of the Nashville Dominicans and given
the entrance date of August 14th, 2003. However, this is
contingent upon my being debt free.
This is another obstacle I am currently facing, especially
because of the fact that my parents are opposing this decision.
I will owe approximately $20,000 in educational loan debt to
Goucher College by the time I graduate in May.
I am not worried though because I know that “all things
work together for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)
I have taken some
pro-active steps towards meeting my goal.
Foundation, relying entirely on the generosity of
benefactors, has been established to help those with education loans
who desire to enter religious life and they have created a personal
account for me! Since this organization is a public charity, all donations
May I ask you to
prayerfully consider if there isn’t some small amount you might be
able to give? Checks made payable to the Laboure Foundation (to the
account for Katherine Zeitler) can be sent to the following address:
Cy D. Laurent – Chairman of the Board
18164 Cattail Court
Eden Prarie, MN 55346**
**please don’t forget to specify my name, Katherine Zeitler.
If you are interested, through the kindness of my friend Richard who
has created this site, we have added a “Sister2B Wish-list” of
various crucial items that I must purchase before August.
If you are interested in “adopting a Sister” please
consider me J
I appreciate anything you can do to help!
Finally, I beg for your prayers that I may become His bride as a
Dominican Sister of Saint Cecilia if it is His most precious will!!
And please be assured of my prayers for all my benefactors
and those in discernment!!!
In Christ and our Lady,
PS. Wow! So much has happened since I wrote this profile! Let me
update you! Thanks be to God my loans have been taken care of and I
am entering the Dominicans Sisters of St. Cecilia on August 14th,
the feast of St. Max Kolbe and the Vigil of the Assumption of Our
no word to describe how I feel. I am entirely in awe of our God and
of the 11th hour and Our Lady's beautiful intercession in my life.
54 day prior to the Fest of St. Dominic I began praying a rosary
novena to Mary. One of the Sisters in our Congregation suggested
this prayer to Our Lady of the Rosary (very Dominican J).
And on the Vigil of the Feast of St. Dominic, August 7th, 2003,
through the grace of God, and the generosity of so many, my student
loans ($34,000 worth) were completely taken care of! Thank you
everyone for your prayers and generous hearts.
I am extremely excited and my heart is exploding with joy to being
this official period of discernment. I beg your prayers for me, for
my ten fellow postulants (especially Sr. Aubrey Hargadon - my
Baltimore buddy J),
and for the entire St. Cecilia Congregation. May we follow
gracefully in the footsteps of St. Dominic. Please pray for my
family as well as this is an extremely hard time for them.
Pray for their peace, joy, and faith to increase.
I would like to close with a beautiful selection I received from
Sister Catherine Marie (the vocations director) regarding what will
happen to the 10 of us tomorrow.
"That leave-taking is every nun's dearest figt to God -- and every
family's. Nothing, not all the little casual family jokes and
gallantries can soften it. It is the proof of love. And somewhere,
before or after the goodbye, there is the journey -- ten minutes,
perhaps in a car; overnight in a train; across the content in a
plane. Whatever the distance, it is the journey out of the world
into another. It is the longest journey this side of death, which
any soul can take. The longest but the dearest, because it is the
journey to God."