Song du Jour

Song du Jour

Benedictine Thoughts, Teachings, and Prayers

The Monastic Way of Life: The Door

November 19, 2012


We are faced everyday with the “doors’ in our lives. The doors lead us somewhere; to another time and space. There are doors that we physically open ourselves but what about the doors that require us to knock? The door that was awaiting me was a mystery; it remained unknown.

One day, while in my office at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, I was reading the church bulletin and something caught my eye. I happened to see a little paragraph placed in a bordered rectangle entitled: “Looking for a Few Good Women.” It went on to say that if you are seeking life with God, please call this number: 410-634-2497 and so I did. I called the number and asked for Sr. Mary Paul. When she got on the phone, she asked me if I thought that I was a good woman. I told her that I believed I was a good woman. She then asked me what my last name was and I told her that it was McLaughlin.  She tells me that her last name was also McLaughlin. She then asked if we were related and I told her that I didn’t think so…and this is how we began on the phone. Sr. Mary Paul wanted to meet me and wanted the sisters to meet me as well. She arranged for me to come on a Benedictine Feast Day: the Feast of St. Scholastica, February 10, 2006.

I was coming from the Jersey Shore to the rural farmland of Caroline County, Maryland. I didn’t see water anywhere and I said to myself, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I had never been on a farm before nor had I ever imagined tires the size of a house on farm equipment. But it was to be revealed to me. I was seeking God, but he was also seeking me in bringing me to a place other than what I had known my whole life. I had sand in my shoes ever since I was born and now I was going to be awakened to the smell of cows and horses. When it was time for my appointment with Sr. Mary Paul, I approached the Monastery door. I rang the bell and Sister welcomed me with a loving embrace as if she had known me all of her life. It immediately felt right.

I then went into the dining room and met the other sisters. Sr. Mary Paul and I talked about what I had to do in order to prepare for this new way of life if I really wanted it and if I did really have a vocation. She was like a physician giving me a prescription - before I left her office I was to secure a spiritual director for a year and then call her again when this period of time was over.

Just before I was about to come back, my mother passed away on December 26, 2006. Life had changed for me but I was still in pursuit of my vocation.

            In February 2007, I came back as a Live-In Volunteer under the direction of Prioress Sr. Catherine Higley, OSB and learned many different tasks which included getting acquainted with Sr. Patricia Gamgort, OSB who ran St. Martin’s Ministries.  My duties were as follows:


~ worked as a cashier at ‘The Barn”

~ weighed and bagged frozen vegetables for the marginalized

~ sorted clothes for the Barn Thrift Shop

~ drove some mothers to work who lived in our home for battered women

~ drove a truck to pick up food from the Maryland Food Bank for the Barn

~organized the furniture where beds, tables, and chairs are stored

~play the organ for Liturgy of the Hours and Mass

~play for the Children’s Mass of the Benedictine School

~ teach Music Therapy to children of ages 5 thru 21 in Benedictine School

~ do whatever else was asked of me wherever there was a need


            After living there, going home, and coming back; I didn’t want to go home anymore. I wanted to stay with the Sisters. I now had to make arrangements to empty my house in Absecon, NJ. You see, I was married, but I had gotten a divorced and had my marriage annulled. I also had four children - Matthew – 38; Natalie – 37; Emily – 34; and Andrew – 31. Matthew and Natalie are both married and have given me five grandchildren.

            I was supposed to enter the monastery in 2007 but the real estate market was at a halt and I was still emptying 35 yrs. of accumulation. It wasn’t just my things but the children’s memorabilia. It was now February 2008. Sr. Mary Paul called and asked if she could meet with me. So on February 28, 2008, I met her in Chestnut Hill, PA to discuss last minute preparations before I entered. I was then going to meet Sister at the monastery on March 4, 2008 to arrange my musical instruments but fate had other plans. A tragedy occurred on the day that I was supposed to meet Sr. Mary Paul…she was struck by a truck while crossing the street on her way to work with AIDS patients and she never survived. Instead of me meeting her for a friendly visit, I was now attending her funeral with my daughter, Natalie. The heavens poured rain everywhere, deluging the cemetery to overflowing that she was not able to be buried for three days. It was the saddest day for this community but also a sad day for me as I lost my spiritual guide for my new journey. It wasn’t until November 16, 2008 that I was to come and enter. I was becoming a postulant on the Feast Day of St. Gertrude of Helfta.

            Instead of ringing the door bell, I was now lined up with my children in a procession. I went first. I was to knock on the door. The Prioress answered the door and asked, “What do you seek?” I responded by saying, “I seek to enter the Benedictine Sisters of Ridgely, Maryland.

            On November 16, 2011, I became a novice and now on Friday, November 16th 2012, I became a Scholastic. What is most important in this process is to seek God always. When Sr. Colleen Quinlivan asked me: “What do you seek?” I responded by saying: “I seek God through the monastic way of life, relying on God’s grace, with the support of God and this community.”

            I am so elated to have persevered and reached this new level of monastic life. I made Triennial vows of stability, conversion, and obedience for three years. I look forward to the process of deepening my relationship with God in mind, body and soul.


Song du jour: Benedictine Mantra ~

‘Seek God in everyone and everything, everyday of your life.”


“That in all things God may be glorified.”


Sr. Jo-El McLaughlin, OSB


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