Skip to comments.A leaf of Faith (Catholic convert enters religious life)
Posted on 06/29/2006 6:37:16 AM PDT by NYer
|Photo Courtesy of Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Kathleen Clare Lahl, a Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration, stands before the altar of the Adoration Chapel and offers herself to God during the suscipe* portion of her rite of final monastic profession.|
For The Daily Forum
CLYDE — Kathleen Clare Lahl was happy with her life.
She loved her career as a Catholic school teacher in Chicago. She adored her students and was active in her local parish. So who would have guessed a small group of monks moving into her neighborhood would have changed her life forever?
“I started attending Vespers and Mass with them and was very taken with their life,” she said. “There was a sense of peace, of deep faith and of commitment. If I were a man, I’d have been knocking on their door asking to become a member of their community.”
In June, Lahl made her final monastic profession as a Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration. Full incorporation into the community she loves is just another step on a spiritual journey that has taken her decades to make.
Originally from Milwaukee, she was raised in a Protestant family. She attended church and prayed, Lahl recalled, but something was missing.
“When I got to college I realized that particular faith wasn’t feeding me,” she said. “The world was opening up to me. After I attended a Catholic prayer service with a school friend, my heart said there’s something here.”
She began attending services, sitting quietly in the back of the church. She was drawn to the Catholic faith but fought against it. Too many years of anti-Catholic rhetoric were at war with her new feelings.
“Then one day, at the consecration when the priest elevated the bread, there was a knowing inside me that was so powerful," she said. "It was a revelation. I experienced the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that day.”
And she became a Catholic. Later, her mother and sister both converted. Then her father (who had been baptized Catholic) and her mother had their marriage blessed in the Church.
“I began sharing my faith after I became a Catholic, and my family responded to that. They asked a lot of questions and were very interested. It was really a beautiful thing.”
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate began teaching at a public school in a small town outside Milwaukee but moved to Chicago just a few years later to take a job with the archdiocesan school, which later became Bridgeport Catholic Academy.
She stayed for more than 20 years, teaching a variety of subjects to elementary and junior high school students.
“I enjoyed teaching there so much because I could share my faith with the students,” she said.
Life was great. Then the monks moved in, practically right next door.
Soon, attending Vespers and Mass weren’t enough for her. She showed up for Lauds (morning prayers) and Compline (night prayers) too.
The monks noticed her dedication, along with other women who attended their services. So the men invited them to a retreat — including a two-week stay at the monks’ founding community in Paris — to learn more about religious life. The brothers had hopes of establishing a women’s religious group near them in Chicago.
“I thought, ‘I’m already happy but this could change my entire life. Where is this leading?” Lahl said.
During her stay in Paris she lived with sisters, experienced the rhythm of community life and fell in love with the beauty of chanting the divine office.
“It fit, like Cinderella in her slipper,” she said. “It was unmistakably a call from God.”
After they returned from Paris, she and several other women lived at an empty convent connected to her parish school. While the order eventually declined to found a women’s religious group in Chicago, Sister Kathleen Clare didn’t give up on answering God’s call. That’s when the Benedictine Sisters arrived in her life.
They offered to establish a small novitiate at their motherhouse in Clyde for the monks as a training for women interested in religious life.
“In less than a year I was the only woman remaining,” Lahl said, “and since the monks said I couldn’t return to become a community of one, I stayed on at Clyde as a volunteer while discerning where God was leading me.”
As she lived with the Benedictine Sisters, she began to treasure their tremendous sense of hospitality, love and dedication to the Eucharist. She realized she was right at home with them.
“There’s a beautiful balance of monastic life here enabling the inner silence for mindfulness of God’s presence,” she said. “This is where I was meant to be. God was leading me here all along.”
And after she took her final vows on a beautiful summer morning, standing by an altar bathed in sunlight streaming from tall stain-glassed windows, she turned to blow a kiss and give a wave to the witnesses in the chapel.
The smile on her face showed it all — the journey was long but the trip was worth it. She had finally found her home.
When God calls, He often calls the other members of the family :-]
Very nice and moving story. Thank you.
Wonderfufl story. Thanks.
Been there too, Sister. Nice story NYer, thanks for posting.
I'm puzzled by the title.
Probalbly leaP of faith???
Oh brother! (eyes rolling)
Ditto. I simply transcribed the original, but I believe It's me is on the right track.
That would be my guess. Maybe it was scanned; F and P aren't near one another on the keyboard, but they're very similar in shape.
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