With the book of Deuteronomy in mind, Franciscan Sister Karen Suhr reflects on her call to be a Franciscan Sister.
If the Lord God set his heart on you and chose you it was not because you were the (greatest); you were the least. It was for love of you…” Book of Deut 7:7
As the youngest of six children of faith-filled parents Herman and Agnes Suhr, I received loving attention from my oldest sister, Virginia, tantalizing teasing from my oldest brother, Wayne, free time from my sister Doris (now Sr. Rita Mae) for she helped Mother while I played, guidance from my other brother Dan, and a delightful playmate in my sister, Rita, who was next to me in age.
Despite this happy childhood, I did not like being called the “baby”; and at times it made me feel like the least. But I was soon to find out that my services of helping outside on the farm were needed as my older brothers began leaving home. This gave me many chances to spend time with my dad (gaining his trust) to dream and to enjoy the beautiful Nebraska fresh air as we worked together in the fields. Walking out in the vast pasture to bring the cows home for milking gave me good exercise and precious alone time even as an elementary student. Being the youngest was not so bad after all.
I was thrilled to begin fourth grade in the Catholic School and to be taught by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. When I was in 5th grade, Sister Rita Mae became an aspirant at Holy Family Convent. Slowly, I began to realize how happy she was and began to wonder if one day in the very distant future I, too, would also become a Sister. However, life was too exciting to think too much about giving it all up just yet.
High school was lots of fun. My sister, Rita, and I enjoyed our two years driving to and from school together. Soon Rita went to nurses’ training, and my wise mother realized that I was now going to have even more freedom. So unbeknown to me, she signed me up to work for Sister Lucy Dorn in the dietary department of our West Point Memorial Hospital in my after school hours. I wasn’t upset for long as Sister Lucy was very kind to us and taught us many valuable skills—even to the point of being able to feed some of the patients after we had served the supper trays. One evening, an older man suddenly swallowed his last while I was assisting him. I rushed to the nurse’s station. The staff was quick to assure me that all was in God’s hands. I was quite relieved, but after that experience the idea of a possible religious vocation, again, began to haunt me.
Serious Discernment Time
After spending my freshman year at St. Mary College in Omaha (Mercy Sisters), I decided to give myself some peace and to ask for the necessary forms to apply for admittance to Holy Family Convent. I would soon find out if it was for me. If I didn’t like it, I could simply continue in teacher education in Omaha.
Although I had been at HFC a few times before for celebrations, I knew when I came into the college circle that sunny September postulant entrance day and was welcomed by the other members that were to be my companions that this was where I belonged! Even though we were not living at the Motherhouse, this was my home. I have never regretted having been given the grace to answer God’s call to this Community.
As Sisters in Formation, Sister Jolyce reminded us often: “Go sit at the Master’s feet.” We have been so blessed all along the way with many holy, wise mentors and leaders who have helped us to begin to experience the joys and challenges of what this means: to desire to allow Jesus to open our hearts to His desires.
What a privilege it has been to walk these 50 years with the Sisters who were professed with me as well as those who lived with me at the various missions! God’s mysterious ways have been shown to us as together our many gifts and loving hearts have been molded and shaped in His designs.
I am grateful to my parents, my family, the Community, and friends. Most of all, I praise and thank God who set his heart on me and chose me—not because I was the greatest but because He loved me. I invite you to discern your own unique vocation with us. Click here.