|I actually took this picture! It was at|
my behavioral assessment needed for
the prepostulancy application!
Usually, when I write about specific Sisters, the impact they've had on my life and their dedication to the charism of the Daughters of Charity, it's on Sister Denise's blog. Today is different...because today, I want to talk about the author of that blog - Sister Denise LaRock.
I first met Sister Denise in 2004, on my first discernment retreat. She was not then vocations director yet, just a Sister that accompanied us on the retreat. It was there, with her help, that I was shown the humanity of Sisters. And the hilarity of Sisters. Namely her, who has a dry sarcastic sense of humor that always makes me crack up.
We wouldn't meet again for another six years, when I decided to contact the Daughters of Charity again after living in Bolivia, and it would actually take a few months before we realized that we had met before! When I emailed her about my renewed interest, Sister Denise invited me to her house for prayers and dinner. I, although sort of admittedly scared, agreed. After that night, while the prayer life, down-to-earth-ness, and mission of the Daughters attracted me, what really struck me was something Sr. Denise did. Soon after I accepted the invitation to come over for prayers/dinner, she asked "I usually serve at a soup kitchen Thursday nights before dinner. Want to come?" So, I accepted that invitation too. In the basement of that church, we served the Baltimore homeless dinner and I watched as she did more than serve - she sat and talked with the homeless, asked them how their day was going, how the kids were doing in school, etc.
On the car ride back, she told me that that particular soup kitchen wasn't run by the Daughters and she added "I love being vocations director and it's an important job but, at the same time, it doesn't allow me a lot of service with the poor. So I go there when I can" That night began a great attraction to the Daughters for me and it was that simple comment and act that meant more than anything. I saw that Sister Denise didn't serve the poor out of pure obligation to the mission of her religious community but rather it was something she wanted to do. By her example, I saw how devoted the Daughters of Charity were to the poor. I had seen it before in Sr Mary Elko in Bolivia but it was Sister Denise who showed me that the Daughters of Charity was not an institution, but rather a group of individuals completely on fire with love for the poor.
I obviously continued in my interest in the Daughters of Charity. And Sister Denise was one of the best vocations director a person could ask for. She was so completely down-to-earth; I felt like I could ask her anything (and I mean anything) and she would give me a clear-cut answer. She would take time out of her schedule to set up visits or meet at McDonald's or Double T to talk or choose books for me to read. To my shock, she was completely okay with me emailing her a gazillion times in the day with questions or reflections or anything really that popped in my head. And I never felt pressured into anything, I never felt like I was being "recruited". When the time would come, Sr Denise would just say "Well, here's what we could do next. What do you think?"
It was true that I was scared to contact Sister Denise at first. Partially because I had been in another community before and I didn't know what the Daughters would think of that, partially because I was afraid to contact a vocations director (it's usually scary to share these private thoughts with someone you don't know!) I know this fear is an issue with most discerners - at least it was for me. I wrote this post to thank Sister Denise and show the world her awesomeness but also a message - if you're discerning, don't be afraid to contact the vocations director of whatever community you might be interested in. Even if you later find out it's not for you, you won't regret contacting them. Believe me.
And if you're thinking about the Daughters of Charity, don't be afraid to contact Sr Denise because...well, she's awesome.