Africa, Asia, North America

Sister Rea McDonnell

Sister Rea McDonnell (left) at her 50th Jubilee celebration with Sister Marie Taylor, a dear mentor of hers from Canada.

A choice becomes a call

When two Maryknoll sisters came to speak to our fourth grade class in Chicago, I got a great desire to join such a group. I hoped to work as a physician, and I went to the open houses for eighth-grade girls sponsored by sisters who worked in hospitals. This was a good way, I thought, at age 13, to channel my great desires.

Sister Rea McDonnell on the day of her reception into the congregation.  

Then I started high school at the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s Academy of Our Lady in Chicago. I wasn’t there two weeks when I knew that this was the community for me. They were loving, challenging teachers. It was also obvious that they loved not only us but one another. I wanted to be with them and I would do whatever they said – medicine or teaching or foreign missions. I just wanted to be with them.

This was my choice. I experienced no “call.” I joined after graduation, professed vows at 19, all because I wanted to. I only “got a vocation” when I was 33. By that time I knew Jesus fairly well and loved him with all my energy. Now, instead of my choosing, I felt chosen, wanted, accepted just as I was. I fell in love with him.

Sister Rea McDonnell writes the daily liturgical reflections on our website. She also has authored or co-authored 15 books, including her most recent, The Passions of Mary.

Jesus, whose love is unconditional, was my leader, my love. “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) As he put flesh on God’s love, I was putting flesh on his love. Then I began a quest to know who was this God whom he loved so completely. I am 73, and I think/feel that I am beginning to know the God whom he called Father. This vocation, a call every day, to know God, love, praise and serve, continues.

- Sister Rea McDonnell, SSND


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