Novice's "call" was gradual
From The Catholic Advocate, Archdiocese of Newark, NJ, September 26, 2001
By Amy Petriello

Mariette Bernier has begun the process of becoming a Benedictine Sister at the Saint Walburga Monastery in Elizabeth.

Bernier, 34, grew up in Elizabeth and was familiar with the Benedictine Sisters through her parish. She had the Sisters as teachers in grade School.

For the past seven years, Bernier has been a school counselor with Catholic community services (CCS). In her last year with the Archdiocese she served five schools.

During the past several years, Bernier also began attending retreats, sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth, for "spiritual renewal." She described the retreats as "refreshing and re-energizing." The Benedictine sisters host several retreats a year for lay women, focusing on either spirituality or vocation discernment.

Bernier said her "call" to be a sister grew gradually. "It's just a feeling. The same way you have the feeling this is the man I want to marry...this is what's right for me."

Although Bernier felt some anxiety about coming to the monastery, she now feels "a real sense of peace in knowing I'm where I'm supposed to be."

She will now take a year off from her job as a counselor to become a novice. The novitiate year is "more intense," she said. Novices immerse themselves in studying the Rule of St. Benedict which leaves little time for other pursuits.

Once the novitiate year is over, Mariette can return to her job, which is now considered her ministry. The Benedictine Way is to seek God in community and to respond through prayer and ministry.

"Our main ministry is our prayer, our community; other ministries flow from that." Mariette explained.

The Sisters teach, work in hospitals, as school counselors, in rectories, or as administrators of the Saint Walburga Monastery. They earn salaries or stipends, which go to the community...

Community prayer is very important for the Benedictine sisters. It gives a focus to where their ministry is coming from, she points out.

"My ministry comes out of my call to serve God and God's people. My ministry is what I do, being a member of the community is who I am. It is a way of life instead of just a job."