Sister Eileen Mary of the Heart of Jesus
I grew up in the Bronx, a borough of New York City and was taught by the Dominican Sisters. The sisters were kind but firm, joyful and generous and instilled in me a devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady. As I happily moved up in grade school, I began thinking about a religious vocation.
By the time I reached the seventh grade I thought I might become a teaching sister. On Fridays, before dismissal, my home room teacher would read to us “the Story of a Soul’ the autobiography of St. Therese. Soon after I felt the desire to go to daily Mass and became more conscious of the Lord within me.
I attended St. Cecilia High School which was staffed by the Sisters of Charity. The sisters were welcoming and generous with their time, always makings a special point of letting us know they were available for us. After experiencing them and learning their way of life and beautiful motivations I inquired about entering. My parents were aware, my parish priest knew, and of course my disbelieving friends knew of my choice. I worked for a year before entering in August of —-.
After thirty-five years as a sister of Charity, being a teacher and principal, I could feel the Lord beckoning to me. I was not certain what this was about. In the summertime my best friend and I visited her family in Quincy, Massachusetts. A sister that she knew in Boston Carmel asked if we would help them by cooking during an annual novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The third year of these cooking expeditions, the Prioress greeted me and we enjoyed a chat. She mentioned that one of the sisters had transferred to another Carmel. Laughingly, I said, “Oh, would you now have room for me?” She expressed surprise at my inquiry. Two days later, the prioress came to me as I was preparing lunch. She said, “Sr. Eileen, the Chapter has agreed to have you come for a live-in if you would like to do so.” At first, I was in shock. How did this happen? THEN…in the silence I could hear all the fireworks of the 4th of July. I laughed and cried and thanked the Lord for such an invitation.
The following summer I did my live-in upon which the Lord drew me close to Himself. His palpable presence in the quiet of the cloister and beauty of the garden and the support of the sisters, clinched the deal. On September 8th of the following year I entered Boston Carmel.
Well it is over 25 years since I came here and I don’t regret having said ‘yes’ to the greatest lover of all. In closing I’d like to quote the words of a song we sing which sums up my story:
I HAVE SEEN A CANDLE LIT.
I HAVE WATCHED THE SLOW CONSUMING OF THE STRENGTH OF IT
THAT A LIGHT MAY GLOW.
AND I HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT A MAID
THAT TO THE TEMPLE CAME
AND OFFERED ALL HERSELF TO BE WAX-
TO FEED A FLAME.