SISTER AUGUSTINE MARIE of the Holy Face of Jesus knows Mother Angelica well.
Having spent the first eight years of religious life at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery with Mother Angelica, she recently transferred to the new foundation of Poor Clares in Phoenix, Arizona (desertnuns.com).
A Poor Clare of Perpetual Adoration (PCPA), she entered the order in January 1999 at the age of 18. Since the founder of EWTN suffered a stroke, Sister Augustine Marie often cared for her at nights.
Sister Augustine Marie spoke recently with Register correspondent Barbara Middleton.
How did you become aware of your calling to the cloistered life?
I was born into a super Catholic family in the winter of 1980. My parents already had three girls, but I would not be the last. My parents converted to Catholicism about five years before I was born and thus were open to life, and God blessed them with three more girls and two boys.
Growing up with parents who were converts helped infuse the faith into me in a dynamic way.
Looking back on my life I would say I received the first signs of my vocation in 1993 when I was on a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal. I believe Our Lord used Our Blessed Mother to touch my heart with her motherly love. She showed me that a life given to Jesus is an incredible calling.
It wouldn’t be until years later, though, that the seeds planted in Fatima would sprout and yield my vocation.
What was the process of choosing your name, Sister Augustine Marie of the Holy Face of Jesus?
I had no part in choosing my new name. Mother Angelica began praying about my name sometime before my investment, which took place in February 2000. The Lord actually told her my new name was to be “Augustine.” Mother Angelica then chose the title of the Holy Face of Jesus.
It’s very exciting to be given a name from Our Lord. The sisters are allowed to submit name suggestions, but I chose not to submit any names.
What was your relationship like with Mother Angelica?
Mother has always been a loving and strong figure in my religious life. Before her stroke, she helped me understand the joy of a religious vocation.
Since her stroke, I had the privilege of helping care for her throughout the night. I learned many things through this opportunity, but her incredible patience in suffering stands out the most.
Even though Mother’s speech has been vastly limited due to her stroke, she continues to teach. Now she teaches the kind of lessons that don’t require words. They are lessons for the heart.
What are your duties as a cloistered contemplative nun?
My primary duty as a Poor Clare cloistered nun is adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Our life of contemplative and intercessory prayer in a spirit of reparative thanksgiving is the ultimate reason we are here. But that does not mean that we spend 24/7 in the chapel in formal prayer. We aspire to live St. Paul’s words — “To pray always” — even as we go about our daily tasks.
Over the nine years that I have been in religious life, I have had many different tasks to perform. Generally our jobs change at the beginning of the year.
To give you an idea of some of the things I have done over my years as a nun … I’ve been on kitchen duty. I have been the infirmarian (taking care of the sick sisters). I have worked on the newsletter and website. I’ve done vocation work. I’ve been in the canning room, canning and preserving the fruits of our gardens.
Many of my tasks have involved computers. And currently I am back on a computer job doing database work, recording and thanking for donations to our monastery.
Before you made your solemn profession what kind of discernment did you go through?
From the time I entered the PCPAs in 1999 till my solemn profession in 2007, I went through the process of formation and the stages as a postulant, novice and temporary professed. This formation provided all the necessities of discerning God’s will: prayer, spiritual reading, lessons and direction.
The community also prayed and discerned whether they felt God was calling me to their way of life.
After eight years of such formation, I was admitted to solemn profession on Feb. 2, 2007, the feast of the Presentation.
During the holy Mass of your solemn profession, what was the most memorable moment?
The entire solemn profession Mass was an incredible grace. I don’t think I could ever adequately express my feelings. But there were several places in the ceremony when I was acutely aware of his amazing love for me.
When I lay prostrate under the funeral pall during the chanting of the litany of the saints (representing my death to the world), when I received my profession ring (the sign and seal of my consecration) and at holy Communion (the consummation of our union) when I received the Lord for the first time as his bride for time and eternity.
Describe your call within a call? You are now a part of a new foundation in Arizona.
Only a couple months before my solemn profession, the Lord put a desire in my heart. In the beginning stages, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. But as it unfolded and time matured it, I recognized that this desire was indeed a call to our new foundation in Phoenix.
I asked my community in Hanceville for a time of discernment with our Phoenix sisters after my solemn vows. It was a difficult transition, leaving my home and religious family of eight years to venture out west.
But proving himself true to his word, the Lord gave me strength and grace to do his will. And I am now happy to be a part of this growing community in the desert.
Barbara Middleton is based in
Shelby Township, Michigan.