I first met the Daughters of Charity when I was in the eighth grade. My family moved to Lynchburg, Virginia and my siblings and I began attending Holy Cross School--a small co-ed school run by the Daughters. As I moved through high school, I got to know the Sisters very well both in the classroom and through extracurriculars. I loved them. They were gifted teachers and fun to be with. What impressed me most of all was their joy – with us and with one another. They seemed so happy in the life of service that they had chosen.
God began to call me in my senior year of high school, but I resisted and decided I could serve in another way. Possibly through the Foreign Service or the Peace Corps. I decided to go to college, but I did not run very far away from vocation, since the college I chose was also run by the Daughters of Charity. St. Joseph’s College was in Emmitsburg, Maryland and so I found myself in the valley, right where Mother Seton had founded her Community!
The call from God continued and I responded, entering the Community after my freshman year of college. I treasured my time in initial formation as I learned the stories of Saints Vincent, Louise, and Elizabeth Ann and their commitment to the poor and vulnerable. The Sisters who helped form us loved their vocation and wanted to pass on that love to each of us.
I completed my undergraduate studies and went on to serve in the education ministry as a math teacher in a small rural co-ed high school and then administrator in an urban all-girls high school. Those were happy years as I worked with lively, fun-filled teenagers, learning as much as I was teaching.
My next ministry was in initial formation, working with our seminary Sisters from all parts of the United States. It was very enriching for me to live and work with women from various walks of life and diverse ethnic backgrounds. Many of them already had a professional career and were seeking to give more of themselves to God in service to those who are poor. I was called to deepen my own vocation in order to share our life of prayer, community, and service.
Another opportunity I had was to work at an outreach program serving mothers and children. I loved that direct service to those in need. I was also asked to serve in leadership in my province and then in the finance office. Following that, I happily returned to the math classroom at Elizabeth Seton High School and then service in the Advancement Department.
As I look back over my years as a Daughter of Charity, one special gift I treasure is living with outstanding women who were role models and mentors in growing in love of God through a life of service in Community. Their wonderful spirit was “caught not taught.” I am so grateful for God’s call and feel specially blessed to be a member of the Vincentian Family and the Daughters of Charity.
- Sister Mary Frances Hildenberger, D.C.