Trust in God’s Plan. Episode 26. An Interview with Sr. Maria Veritas.

The article below is an excerpt taken from “And The Truth Shall Set You Free,” a weekly podcast series hosted by Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP. The producer of the series was GoLEDigital, a digital community created by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

For the Audio Presentation of this article, click here:

An answer to her parents’ prayers, Sister Maria Veritas shares her inspiring vocation story, from childhood to higher education and God’s calling to the religious life. Her faith in God and her complete trust in His plan for her life serve as a beautiful example to all of us discerning our vocations or seeking to live them out according to His plan.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Sister Maria Veritas comes from a very beautiful family. I feel very close to her parents. They did a good job with her, and I think there’s a beautiful lesson for our listeners in her story. Would you tell us about your parents?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

It was beautiful that God called me to be a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist because my family roots are here, in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area. My mother grew up in Hamtramck. My father met her at the University of Michigan. He’s from New York, and he likes to say that all the best things come from Michigan. They married and moved back to New York eventually. I’m an only child, but they made a lot of sacrifices for me so that I could have a good education and also a strong education in the faith.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

I know that it took a while for your parents to receive you. Would you tell us that story?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

It was a real gift because it shows me how much our Lady cares for each one of us. When my parents got married, they wanted to have whatever size family God wanted to send them. Years went by, and they didn’t have any children. They opened their hearts to people in other ways and tried to mentor people and be generous. They are both teachers, so they wanted to be generous with their students. I think that they were happy but, of course, they would have liked to have children. My father says that every once in a while he’d see a car with a little yellow “baby on board” sticker, and he’d have a little twinge of sadness. For their 25th wedding anniversary, they went to Portugal and visited Our Lady of Fatima’s shrine there. My father tells the story that he knelt in a basilica and prayed a little prayer to God. He speaks very familiarly to God. He said, “You know, if you still have a package up there for us, please send it on down. We’d love to have it.” I was born a year later. My mother was 45 years old. I was born in the month of May, Mary’s month, in the year 1988 which was the end of the Marian year that John Paul II had called. My parents named me after our Lady.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Thank you for sharing that. I think that’s a beautiful lesson to everyone. Never give up praying, and trying, and believing. If you need to, get to a Marian shrine and put your intentions there because the Blessed Mother is the best interceder before her son. Sister, we’re very grateful that that prayer was answered in such a beautiful manner as you. When did you first visit the convent here in Ann Arbor? I remember exactly meeting you at the door with your dad.

Sr. Maria Veritas:

I think it was 2000. Because my mother grew up here, my grandparents still lived in the area at the time. They had heard about this wonderful new Dominican community that had sprung up in Ann Arbor and everyone was talking about it. While we were here visiting my grandparents, we decided to go knock on the door and see what was going on here. I think the motherhouse was still in the early stages of being built, so it was either first or second phase. I remember coming and my grandfather was there, and my parents, and you came to the door, and I remember being very struck by the sisters’ joy, and their self-confidence in knowing who they were and, as we like to say, Whose we are. That struck a deep chord in my heart that I didn’t realize at the time, but obviously it did because I kept in touch with you for a long time after that.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

She was very faithful keeping in touch. Sister, you’re one of the easier ones in the sense that you began responding to the graces, and God very generously let you know that this was your vocation.

Sr. Maria Veritas:

He was good to me.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

After graduating from high school, I presumed that she was going to enter immediately because we’ve been talking about this for seven years at this point. Except you began asking to be accepted into Ivy League colleges. I realized that my sacrifice would be waiting, which is not my easiest virtue – patience. However, when God calls, His timing is also important. You believed you needed that as did your parents. I thought that you were quite mature as it was. We do have women that enter right out of high school. However, it was on Sister’s heart, and that was the Holy Spirit. Where were you accepted?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

I was accepted to Harvard. I remember being in the dining room, and we had been told that we would get the email. I had the volume on my humongous computer in my room turned all the way up. We were eating dinner, and I heard the email come in, and I ran into my room and checked and I had been accepted to Harvard. It was really exciting. My parents had made so many sacrifices in terms of my education, so it was a real confirmation from God that they had done the right thing to try to give me a good Catholic education rather than maybe the best secular education. 

Three times a year, the community gives a great gift to the church by inviting women to our motherhouse for 24 hours for a Dominican brevity retreat with Eucharistic adoration overnight. It’s such a beautiful experience. I had gone for the first time in my junior year in high school. That’s when I realized, with your help, that God has plans for people’s lives, and they might not be the ones that we have for our own lives. That was when I surrendered to God’s will for my life. When I received the acceptance from Harvard, it was an answer to what am I supposed to do next.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

These retreats are vocational discernment retreats. We have them three times a year. We get in an average of 150 young women from all over, including Canada and Europe and even India and Malaysia and other countries. That’s very important because as Sister mentioned, it was the first time she personally realized in all night Eucharistic adoration, “I’m sure that I have a calling by God’s design. It’s not ‘let me figure this out or pick out whatever I want, but I want to do your will.’”

Sr. Maria Veritas:

That’s really the beginning of a vocation because that’s what religious life is – striving ever more to do His will. Realizing that His will exists and trying to conform yourself to Him is the beginning of that lifelong process that happened so beautifully in religious life. 

I got accepted to Harvard, and I was really excited. I loved my time there. It’s a very Dominican place, I think. On an external level, the motto is Veritas, and the motto of the Dominican Order is Veritas. Saint Dominic instituted the order to contemplate the truth and then preach it to others, which is so beautiful and has always attracted me. People at Harvard strive for the truth, and they don’t always make it, but they are striving. There’s also a beautiful, supportive, intellectual community at Harvard. I felt supported by my classmates and my professors. One of them has supported me through my whole vocation in such a beautiful way despite her also hoping that maybe I would do other things with my life.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Sister graduated top in her class. I’m sure the world was trying to lure you into many graduate programs. Tell us about that and how you made your decision.

Dominican Sister of Mary and Harvard Graduate Sr. Maria Veritas demonstrates the faith in all aspects of her vocation and academic life.

Sr. Maria Veritas:

I had to revisit that moment in high school when I accepted God’s will. When I got accepted to Harvard, it was clear what the road was. Junior year of college is when you start to think about the next step. I had to return to that moment and realize once again that I needed to do God’s will and had started to ask people that I trusted in my life, “What do you think God is calling me to do?” I was a little bit surprised to hear, “You need to enter religious life, and you need to enter now. You need to not do other things that you might want to do, like graduate studies in English or Latin.” I would have been happy to go abroad for a year to Oxford or Cambridge and then come back to do graduate work in the United States. I came back one afternoon to the Catholic residence for university women where I was living. I walked into the chapel to pay a visit to Jesus, which is what we do in our community when we come home or leave the house. There’s only one door in the chapel, and it’s in the front. I opened the door and walked into a chapel full of people and the priest about to give benediction, and I was shocked. I didn’t know this was happening. It turned out to be a special feast day for the house. With great embarrassment, I slipped to the back of the chapel and knelt down, and as the priest was blessing us with the Eucharist, realized that Jesus was asking me to come and be His spouse and with all my heart, I said that I would and that I would do it right away.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Which thrilled me, Sister. How did your parents react to this?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

It was interesting because in the fervor of young love, you want to do everything right away. I was a junior, and I thought, “Right away is right away. I’m ready to leave college. I’m ready to leave everything because love is more important.” I called you up. You didn’t answer, but I left a message, and then I called my parents and they were less than thrilled about my leaving Harvard in junior year. I trusted you to follow what the Holy Spirit said. One of the things that I love about the truth and the Holy Spirit in general, but also Dominican life in particular, is that it’s very attuned to the Holy Spirit, which means that it’s not worldly prudence, but supernatural prudence, which doesn’t always seem wise or prudent in the eyes of the world. My favorite example of this is St. Dominic. When he had just a few brethren, he called them together and said, “All right. I’m sending you out, two by two. You’re going here to go study and preach.” St. Dominic’s advisors said, “You’re insane. You can’t do this. They haven’t been formed.” He said, “I know what I am about and also seed, when hoarded, rots, but when scattered, bears fruit.” He did know what he was doing, and 800 years later, here we are. In terms of worldly prudence, why would you leave Harvard, but in terms of the Spirit, I was ready to go but you said, “No. Finish your degree,” so I was obedient. 

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

I was obedient too, to the Holy Spirit. It was a hard one for both of us. We both know what that next year held, which was important. When you graduated, did you give an address?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

I did in Latin. Every year, at Harvard and at other universities, there’s an address given in Latin, and you apply to give this address. If you’re selected, you go through this very long and beautiful preparation process. I worked with this one particular classics professor, and then graduation day comes and you stand up in front of all these people in the middle of Harvard’s campus with the crimson everywhere and give your memorized address. I went everywhere saying the oration in my head usually, biking along the Charles River. People asked if I was nervous. By the time I got to that day, I wasn’t nervous at all, which is shocking.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

What have the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist done about your postgraduate work in your life?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

I’m very grateful because when you enter, you really give everything, and you have to give everything or else you’re not giving yourself. God promised a hundredfold to those who leave everything, and He’s giving that back to me in many areas of my life. One of them would be the intellectual life because the community has gifted me with higher studies that I never expected in a field I never would have picked, theology. I’ve been blessed to get a master’s degree in theology and now to study for a Ph.D. in theology. I never considered studying theology. In my studies, I realized that what I learned through the study of literature as an English major and through the study of Latin and Greek as a Classics major, is taken up into something greater in the study of theology because the study of theology is the greatest study. It’s the study of God and immersing oneself in His mystery and trying to come to know it better. The study of languages and the study of texts are both part of that, but they’re elevated in the study of God. It’s made me a better teacher. I could never have taught high school theology without having studied Him more. I know that that’s what this doctoral degree will also serve.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

You’re pursuing a doctoral degree at the Catholic University of America. Is it exciting to be in the nation’s capital at the Catholic University campus?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

It is. It’s a beautiful environment and wonderful to work with the students and to be in the capital and attend patriotic events right there.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Do you have your thesis figured out?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

I definitely have a start. Ideas evolve, but I’m interested in working on the dogmatic topic of Biblical inspiration. There you go with the texts and languages, but also I’m really excited to see how it can serve our sisters in the Apostolate as high school teachers because many of them have come to me asking about how to teach the Bible in a way that’s faithful both to the reverence we owe it as the Word of God and also as a text and to the methods that the Church has embraced in studying it as a text.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

The other morning I passed you, and you were meditating out of a Bible. I glanced, and it certainly was not English. What language are you presently using to meditate with?

Sr. Maria Veritas:

The Bible that I’m using is the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament. It’s really neat because Hebrew reads from right to left, so all Hebrew books open opposite to the way that you’d open an English book. I meditate on the Gospels for the day in Greek.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Sister, that’s beautiful. You will bring great things to the Universal Church through your study and through the gifts God has given you, and your own good, hard work, and your dedication. In summary, Sister’s story has many examples from which we can learn. First of all, the power of good faithful parents and never giving up and always trusting and believing in miracles, and going the extra mile to Fatima in this particular case to beg for that miracle. Why don’t we do that more often? If we’re serious about our prayer life and we really know we would appreciate this particular grace, or we believe entirely that we need it, sometimes God’s like, “You give me a little more of yourself, and I have an abundance you would never begin to imagine.” I don’t think your parents could have imagined your vocation. You also, as an individual, Sister, the beautiful person that you are and your own talents and abilities [are an example]. I wouldn’t be saying this if Sister weren’t humble. That gives me the freedom to be able to go on and on. I love to do that. I know you’re sitting here embarrassed. You have your intention, and you’re offering this for it. Sister, thank you for visiting us today. Keep doing what you’re doing. Your writings are out there being published, including our book And Mary’s Yes Continues. You’ll be hearing more from Sister Maria Veritas as time goes on. The main thing is save your soul and save every soul that you ever get a chance to, including an infinite number that you will never know this side of eternity. God will use your beautiful dedication. The truth will set you free. God bless.


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