Vocations Story With Sr. Albert Marie

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.

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Today is very special as we have one of our beautiful sisters with me, Sr. Albert Marie. Sister is one of our Canadian Sisters. She came to us from way up there someplace. Now, Sister, could you please explain a little bit about your background and your family and how your vocation was nourished growing up?

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Sr. Albert Marie:

I have to say it’s kind of funny. My American students say they can detect a Canadian accent, but when I go back to Canada my family says, ”’You sound like an American.” So it’s not as strong as it was a few years ago. I grew up in southern Ontario about three hours away from our Motherhouse. My father was a farmer, so I grew up out in the countryside. It’s a really beautiful and rich part of Canada, so it is fairly well populated. But, there is definitely a lot of farming there as well. 

My family’s Catholic. From the time when I was little, they were very strongly practicing Catholics. Growing up we went to church every Sunday. When I was around 10 or 12, we started praying the Rosary every day as a family. It was actually kind of funny when we first started. Our mother said, “I’ve got a good idea, you want to pray the Rosary?” We were like, ”Oh yes. Yes.” She said, ”It’s completely optional.” It was optional for the first two months, and then one of us kids pushed the limits and said, ”I don’t know if I really want to pray.” Then it became a mandatory family custom that we always did.  

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

That is funny. Where did you begin your education, and what education did you receive in that home?

Sr. Albert Marie:

I was homeschooled from about 7th grade through high school. This is partly because of some learning challenges with other members of my family that we were able to address better at home. But it is also partly because we were in a rural area. The quality of education wasn’t necessarily to the excellence that my parents wanted to give us, but there were no other options in the area.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

I was taught by sisters, so I have always wanted to ask a homeschooler this question: were there moments you just kind of skipped out on your school work and walked the farm and did other things here and there?

Sr. Albert Marie:

No. I was a very self-motivated student, which is one of the reasons why our parents knew it was possible. By the time my brother was in high school, he was a very crazy, outgoing type of personality. He actually went to a high school because he needed that with his personality. It was really based on what was best for us individually.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

That’s beautiful. That’s a very good lesson to be reminded of, that every child from the same parents is so different. No matter how many children, they all need different things. I would certainly say, and I think our community would agree with me, you really are an intellectual. You really do have a capacity to study and to learn. 

Sr. Albert Marie:

Agreed. I think my vocation really started as a vocation during this time. Some people have very dramatic stories, and my life is always very simple I think. But it was just one day after mass, I was 14 years old, and I received communion and continued to pray afterwards. I had such an incredible sense of God’s love for me and a recognition that my relationship with God was the most important thing in my life. That’s not a vocation yet, right. That’s true of every individual who God calls. But that sort of opened up my heart. Then, right after that I thought to myself, “You could be a sister.” 

Up until that part, I hadn’t met a lot of sisters. It was just that voice in my heart that realized, “Yes. Actually, I could do this.” Continuing to pray, I thought, “Actually, I think that’s what God would like me to do, and it sounds like a really good idea to me,” and that just stayed with me. It’s just a momentary experience, and you can’t base your life on the experience of one moment. But that desire stayed, so it was something real.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

So where did this go from here? You finish high school, and what happens?

Sr. Albert Marie:

When I finished high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a religious sister, but there were no options that appealed to me that I was aware of at that time in Canada. There were not very many orders of religious women in Canada at that time. My parents said, “Well, you are intelligent. If you don’t know, you should go to university or go somewhere where you could study theology and philosophy. Go to the United States because there are more communities there, and God will probably help you find it.”

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

What good parents.

Sr. Albert Marie:

Yes, they were. They sent me right across to Michigan to Ave Maria College which, at that time, was in Ypsilanti, just half an hour from our Motherhouse. That was a prediction in a way because I decided I was going to the United States to go to college and to find a religious community, and then God put me within 30 minutes of our community in an amazing college. I loved my classes. I loved my classmates. I loved my professors. It was there that I discovered the Dominican part of my vocation. Before, I knew I wanted to give my life to Christ, but I wasn’t sure how. I thought, “Should I be a contemplative? Did I want to work in nursing? Do I want to be a teacher?” I didn’t know specifically, and the United States was just too big to visit every religious community. So, I started looking more specifically at Dominicans and teaching communities. I really didn’t have that building block in my vocation until I went to a Catholic college.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

I remember you would come to our vocation retreats while in college. How did this feed your vocation?

Sr. Albert Marie:

The first one I think I attended as a freshman. It was so good to see so many other young women at least open to the possibility of a vocation. I think that was what moved me most on the first one. Then, during another one in Adoration, just listening to the Lord and knowing more what I was looking for, I was able to see more of what the Sisters had. I had decided at Adoration the night before that this was the place I should be and that I was going to tell you that. However, you approached me first and made it easy for me, and I just said, “Yes, I was thinking the same thing. May I have my application?”

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

I almost passed out. God is good. So Sister, when you made your vows and when you got out of the Novitiate as a temporary Professed Sister, what did the community ask of you in Obedience?

Sr. Albert Marie:

The community asked me to go down to Ave Maria University, which had since moved to Florida from Michigan, and begin to work on a Master’s degree in systematic theology. Then I had the opportunity to apply to stay at Ave Maria and continue into their Ph.D. program. The school gave me a scholarship that made it possible for me to do that. So I stayed there for even more years, coming to love Florida even more and delving deeper into the tradition of the Church, particularly the Thomistic theology.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

You were able, at that point, to choose which specific fields you really wanted to delve into, correct?

Sr. Albert Marie:

Correct. I was able to take some more specific courses on medieval sacramental theology. For my dissertation, I did a translation of a work by my patron Saint Albert. I actually had been praying to him for inspiration because I knew that what I did my Ph.D. dissertation on, I would be spending years studying. So, I knew it needed to be something that was going to enrich my life. I ended up working on translating Saint Albert’s work on the body of the Lord, the Eucharist. This is exactly where the seeds of my vocation began. 

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

So did you learn German and Latin? 

Sr. Albert Marie:

He does have some sermons in German, but I was actually working with some of his Latin writings because that’s a language I’m more competent in. 

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

How beautiful. So sister, since receiving your doctorate, what has happened in your life?

Sr. Albert Marie:

I had the opportunity to teach for several years at Ave Maria University after graduating from there. It was a wonderful opportunity to continue working with the faculty who helped to form me intellectually and get that experience in teaching. You do some teaching while you’re doing your Ph.D., but it was nice to get experience afterwards. 

This last year, our community opened a mission in Houston, Texas. So I’ve been teaching at a Catholic University in Houston, the University of St. Thomas. The university has a department, and it’s connected to the seminary in Houston, St. Mary’s seminary. I’ve been able to teach a few classes for the seminary as well as several for the university.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Oh, Sister how beautiful – how Dominican. So I’m going to have to ask this question directly because I know how humble you are: where so far have you been published? 

Sr. Albert Marie:

I have an article on Symbolism in Sacramental Theology in the new Black Friar’s Journal. I have had an article published in Antiphonal, the liturgical journal on St. Albert’s understanding of the reception of the Eucharist and on lay people receiving the Eucharist and spiritual communion. I have also been published in Logos, a journal of Catholic thought and culture. I have an article on Mother Teresa and Catherine of Sienna and their spiritual experience, contrasting some elements of it using Aquinas to do the reconciliation.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Sister, you are a delight and a true gift not only to my community but to the Dominican order.  I’m sure your patron St. Albert The Great and St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine Sienna and all these great Dominicans are living inside you and expressing the truth. Sister, thank you, and God bless you. Keep reading, studying, publishing, and teaching.

Sr. Albert Marie

Thank you.

About:

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP is a Foundress and Vocations Director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her podcast “And The Truth Shall Set You Free” can be downloaded every Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST from iTunes. The podcast can be seen on YouTube at Go_LEDigital.


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