Dear God, What Am I Supposed to Do with My Life?

By God’s grace, I am what I am.  Rule of Benedict

Young Phyllis McMurray was still in grade school when she first thought about becoming a Catholic Sister. Her teachers were the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and she admired their kindness and their calm and quiet ways. Often, Phyllis stayed after school to talk and help out.

She started praying to God that she would know what she was supposed to do when she grew up.

By high school, though, Phyllis had other things on her mind. “I wanted to go out with friends, and date, and go to prom,” she remembers. “I didn’t think about religious life that much. I kept praying that prayer, though.”

She also stayed active in the church, participating in the Sodality of Mary and attending Mass daily. When her family moved to a new parish – Holy Family in Peoria – Phyllis got to know another religious order.

“The Benedictine Sisters taught at Holy Family,” she remembers. “I was already in high school, but I always saw them at Mass. I thought, I would never become a Benedictine. I love their habits but when some of them bow their heads, something sticks out in back.”

Meantime, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet – administrators and teachers at the Academy of Our Lady, where Phyllis attended high school – made another impression on her.

“Several of us went to their motherhouse in St. Louis for a visit,” she says. “We saw a long line of Sisters in the hallway. We asked what they were waiting for. They said they were waiting for their yearly visit with the Mother Superior. Their community was just too big for me. I remember once at the Academy asking about a Sister who was coming to visit. My teacher didn’t know her, even though she was from the same congregation. I didn’t like that.”

Phyllis continued to enjoy her high school social life, but also continued to listen for God’s answer. In her senior year, on a trip to the Benedictines’ monastery in Nauvoo, she began to discern her path.

“The Benedictine Sisters had invited me to go to Nauvoo with them for a day,” she says. “The closer we got, the more excited they became. They had such joy in seeing each other. They all pitched in after every meal to help clean up. They loved being together. It was a smaller community, where everyone knew each other. That was very impressive to me.”

Shortly after she returned home, Phyllis and her mom received an invitation to dessert at the Holy Family convent. They could hear laughter coming from the kitchen as several of the Sisters cleaned up after their own dinner.

“They were having such a good time,” Sr. Phyllis says. “When Mom and I got back out to the car after dinner, she said, ‘If you ever decide to enter the convent, I think you should consider this community because they know how to have fun.’”

A few weeks later, Phyllis’ childhood prayer was answered. “I was at Easter Mass when I suddenly had a gut feeling,” she says. “I knew what I was supposed to do.”

Six months later, Phyllis became a Benedictine postulant, and the rest is history.

“I wouldn’t trade this life for the world,” she says. “I’ve been very happy and enjoyed everything I’ve done. I love the family-like spirit here.”

And the thing that stuck out when the Sisters bowed their heads?

“I found out that only happened when they didn’t braid their coif (the white headpiece under the black veil),” Sr. Phyllis laughs. “I learned how to braid mine.”