January 7, 2011

Religious Vocations Supplement

Woman gives up her computer career to serve the elderly poor

By Mary Ann Wyand

Love for God and the elderly led Amy Love to her religious vocation as a Little Sister of the Poor.

“When I was growing up, I had a sense that I had a vocation to religious life,” Sister Amy Marie of Jesus explained during a Dec. 8 interview at the St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis, her first mission assignment.

On the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, approximately 2,650 Little Sisters of the Poor renewed their profession of vows during Masses at their 199 homes for the elderly poor in 32 countries throughout the world.

The Little Sisters prepare for this feast day liturgy and their annual renewal of vows by spending Dec. 7 in prayer during spiritual retreats at many of their homes.

Sister Amy professed her temporary vows on July 17, 2010, at the congregation’s St. Ann Novitiate in Queens Village, N.Y.

She was in formation at the novitiate when St. Jeanne Jugan, the foundress of the international religious order for women, was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 11, 2009, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

“The novices and the community at the novitiate all got up in the middle of the night at about 2:30 a.m. to watch a presentation about her life on EWTN,” Sister Amy recalled. “We prayed the Office of Readings together then watched the [canonization] Mass on TV. Some of our novices and sisters got to go to Rome so we were united with them in prayer.”

Learning about St. Jeanne Jugan’s ministry to the elderly poor in France from 1839 until her death in 1879 confirmed Sister Amy’s decision to join the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“St. Jeanne Jugan was older when she discovered what God wanted for her,” Sister Amy said. “It took some time. She said, ‘God wants me for himself,’ and I think that’s how I felt about my own call to religious life. I liked the advice that she would always give to the novices. She would say, ‘Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel.’ ”

The fifth of seven children, she grew up in Oklahoma City, attended Catholic schools and thought she would become a teacher.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, she decided to continue her studies and complete a master’s degree program in computing information systems.

“Soon after I graduated,” she said, “I got a job working with computers as a server administrator at Boeing.”

But her heart continued to feel restless while she worked at the aerospace company’s facilities near Oklahoma City for seven years.

“I felt a sense of holy restlessness,” she said. “I was working for Boeing when I found out about the Little Sisters while doing research [about religious vocations] online and read about their vow of hospitality. I was 34 when I entered the congregation.”

Sister Amy attributes her religious vocation to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, as well as Pope John Paul II.

A few months after her paternal grandmother’s death, she also mourned the deaths of Pope John Paul on April 2, 2005, and Terri Schindler Schiavo, a 41-year-old woman with profound brain damage who was legally denied nutrition and hydration for several weeks before she died on March 31, 2005, in Florida.

Providentially, on the first anniversary of the pope’s death, she participated in a vocations retreat at the Jeanne Jugan Center, the Little Sisters’ home for the elderly poor in Kansas City, Mo., and felt God’s call to join the congregation.

“I was so impressed with the home,” Sister Amy recalled. “The sisters were happy, the residents were happy and the employees were happy. By the atmosphere and cleanliness at the home, you could see that they take very good care of the residents. After that, I spent some time with the Little Sisters at the St. Joseph Home in Palatine, Ill. While I was there for another retreat over my Christmas vacation in 2006, I asked to enter the congregation.”

During her postulancy at the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Washington, D.C., she met then-President

George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush, who visited the Little Sisters and residents on Dec. 18, 2007.

It is a special gift to know what God wants you to do with your life, Sister Amy said, and it is a joy to serve God as a Little Sister by caring for the elderly poor.

“The Little Sisters see Christ in those whom we serve,” Sister Amy said. “We see Christ in the poor. We try so hard to provide the best quality of care for them and to give them their dignity because we believe that Christ is present in every person. … We count on the help of our benefactors and volunteers. We’re very grateful for all the good that people do for us and for our residents.”

(For more information about the Little Sisters of the Poor, log on to www.littlesistersofthepoor.org. For more information about the Little Sisters’ ministry at the St. Augustine Home for the Aged, log on to their new website at www.littlesistersofthepoorindianapolis.org.)

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