January 13, 2012

Religious Vocations Supplement

Benedictine sister enjoys daily rhythm of monastic life

Benedictine Sister Marie Racine, the music teacher and choir director at St. Malachy School in Brownsburg, works with fourth-graders, from left, Joey Wynne, Sydney Arnes and Ben Zimmerman as they play recorders and a xylophone. Sister Marie is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Benedictine Sister Marie Racine, the music teacher and choir director at St. Malachy School in Brownsburg, works with fourth-graders, from left, Joey Wynne, Sydney Arnes and Ben Zimmerman as they play recorders and a xylophone. Sister Marie is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

BROWNSBURG—Like the rhythm of music, the rhythm of monastic life provides harmony for Benedictine Sister Marie Racine.

Sister Marie is a member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, and ministers as the music teacher and choir director at St. Malachy School in Brownsburg.

“Christ has a way of capturing your heart,” Sister Marie said. “During my discernment, I was falling in love with Christ, and I think that has to happen in order to be able to make a commitment to religious life.

“My former life seems so long ago now,” she said. “This is where I feel called to be, … to find union with Christ. I wanted a lifestyle that would bring me closest to Christ, closest to my true self, to become the person that I was created to be. For me, that needs to be done in community. … Fidelity to the monastic way of life is one of our vows. It’s a commitment to ongoing conversion. It’s learning how to love more and more like Christ.”

The native of New Bedford, Mass., grew up in a musical family with five siblings.

As a sixth-grader, she sang in a children’s choir. During middle school and high school, she sang in a folk group for Masses at two parishes and entertained patients at local nursing homes.

Folk music was “in style” in the 1970s, and she also learned to play the violin.

Looking back, Sister Marie said, she has been singing for the Lord since childhood.

She first thought about religious life in the fifth grade then considered it again more seriously in high school, but decided to study mathematics, education and computer science at Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Mass.

“I went to college to be a teacher,” Sister Marie said, “but also got a minor in computer science. Before entering the [Our Lady of Grace] community in 2000, I was a software engineer for 17 years. I never taught at a school.”

But God had other plans for her.

She started discerning a call to religious life again as a young adult then discovered the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove online at www.benedictine.com while researching other women’s religious communities.

Now she serves God as a woman of prayer and teaches music to 400 Catholic school students in kindergarten through the eighth-grade.

“Our family was encouraged to pray for vocations,” Sister Marie recalled. “After my first year in college, I stopped thinking about it. The thought did not come back to me until I was 38 when I was invited by a sister in my parish to think about being a religious sister.”

She found herself wanting a lifestyle that would bring her closer to Christ.

“I was looking for a community that was committed to daily prayer and living together in community,” she said. “That’s what I felt called to—that rhythm of prayer and community life. … Liturgy is one of the things I love.”

Benedictines focus on music and liturgy in their daily lives, she said, and living in a community dedicated to prayer appealed to her.

“It’s a good fit for me,” Sister Marie said. “That’s part of the rhythm of my life. I want to live that with integrity.”

After she joined the Beech Grove Benedictines in 2000 with four other women, she began taking piano and organ lessons from another sister at the monastery.

A few years later, her community asked her to return to college to study music, music education and organ.

“We are really encouraged to use our gifts,” Sister Marie said. “I spent one year as a postulant, two years as a novice and was first professed for four years. That’s when I went to school at the University of Indianapolis to study music. It was a privilege to have that opportunity. I made my perpetual monastic profession in 2007.”

Living in community means “letting go and letting God” shape her future, Sister Marie said. “To be able to continue our musical tradition in our community, we need trained musicians. It was beneficial for my own ministry life and also good to be able to contribute in this way to my community.”

After Sister Marie earned her certification to teach music, the principal at St. Malachy School at that time contacted her to come for an interview.

“I try to be a role model as a Benedictine sister and teacher,” she said. “I talk about my community life in the classroom, and I bring the fourth-graders to the monastery for a visit in the spring every year. I enjoy educating children about music and faith and religious life. They have a lot of questions about my life.”

Her goal is to teach students how to experience the joy of music.

“I know that I have done my job if I see joy in their eyes,” Sister Marie said. “I am often surprised by how much they can learn to do.”

She reminds her choir students that they are using the gift of their voices to give glory and praise to God.

The process of surrendering your life to God results in many joyful surprises in community life and daily life experiences, she said, as well as a deep sense of peace.

“There are many ways to serve in community,” Sister Marie said, “but the most important thing is to do it cheerfully, to be joyful together. There are blessings and challenges in living in community. I’ve always believed that it’s a mystery how all these particular people are together in one community. We’re all there because of the mystery of God’s plan for us.

“People sometimes ask me, ‘How did you know?’ ” Sister Marie said about answering God’s call to religious life.

“I always say, ‘When it happens, you know,’ ” she explained with a smile. “When you feel that call in the depths of your heart, then you can make no other choice.” †

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