Sister Georgina Severin’s Story

When I am asked to share my vocation story, it’s always quite the task to sum it up into something neat and tidy. Don’t many of us want that though – we want things boxed in to fit our own understanding? Or else we to try to keep things in an order that makes clear and simple sense? I know I have desired that often, and often I still do! In the case of discovering God’s will for my life, it was very true – I wanted clarity, certainty, definitive answers about how God wanted me to live a life of faithful love. In my mind, there was no way that I would be willing to make a choice for any vocation until I knew without a doubt what God’s plan was. I guess I wonder now how I could have ever thought myself capable of confining God’s work to my own understanding!

How, then, did I become a Daughter of Charity? God called me to it, and I think the deepest part of me knew it very early on. I don’t mean to say it was obvious because it wasn’t. I just knew that when Sister Sally (my grammar school teacher) spoke about her life consecrated to Jesus in community, something happened within me. I imagine it was very much like a child’s fascination with the wonders of space that draws out a desire to be an astronaut. For me, it was a curiosity about both God and Sister Sally’s life that drew out an eagerness to know more. 

I spent my adolescence, college years and young adult life looking for any hint of God, and my curiosity was insatiable. I didn’t want to miss any opportunity because I didn’t want to miss the chance of knowing God in that opportunity! I enjoyed helping and did service, I was hungry for justice and praying for peace. I traveled and I visited monasteries to learn how to pray. I tried to meet everyone; I tried to love everyone! I studied to learn everything I could, I read. I worked hard, and I put my heart and soul into my job. And all of it was wonderful! And in the midst of all that wonderful seeking, I think I failed to see that all that seeking was a way of grasping at some sort of certainty about God. I also failed to recognize that the One I was searching for, the Lord of my heart, was waiting right beside me and within me in the depth of my heart!

One day, I was praying with Matthew’s Gospel and was captivated by Jesus’ question to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” It wasn’t the first time I had heard it, of course, but it was one of those moments when something so familiar breathes something new into you. I heard that question in a new way, one that hit to the very heart of all my searching. My interior response was, “After all this time, I don’t know who you are yet! But I want to know!” And that was when the question of my vocation suddenly transformed. I realized that in all my early seeking, the quest was really about my place in the grand scheme of things. It was as if I was the one asking Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” That was a good starting point for the growing up part of my life, but now I believe maturity called me to more than that. As I grew to understand Jesus as my companion, understood little by little in the day-to-day of things (and through Scripture, Eucharist and prayer), I began to recognize that he always stands on the side of the poor.

To sum things up, the road to becoming a Daughter of Charity was long and winding (though for some, I hear it’s pretty straight-forward). It’s only now, in hindsight, that I find God used all of my wanderings to lead me to the place where I would be open and willing enough to recognize that the point of vocation is not necessarily to find oneself but to give of oneself. This might be obvious to some, but it took me a while to understand. Now, the only certainty I live by is faith that Jesus walks with me, among my sisters in community, and most especially in the person of the poor and suffering.

 Sister Georgina Severin is on mission with the Daughters of Charity as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles, California.