This past Monday – October 20, Solemnity of St. Paul of the Cross – Sr. Mary Andrea celebrated her first anniversary of being wed to the King of kings and Lord of lords. We have been really busy here with Sr. Mary Bernadette’s passing into eternal life, funeral arrangements, the great Solemnity of St. Paul of the Cross and the list goes on. In the midst of all of this I have been wanting to share with you an article that our dear friend Larena Lawson wrote for the Western Kentucky Catholic last year for this festive occasion. Please pray for many more vocations to Passionist life!
WHITESVILLE,Ky. – The day had finally come. Their daughter would soon become a bride. They had already experienced the weddings of some of their other children, as was evidence in seeing all the little grandchildren that were there with them for this very special day. But this one was to be different. This daughter had been chosen for a religious vocation. She was to become a bride of Christ. They had always tried to teach their children about God and how to follow Him in their lives and now they would witness how one of their daughters had decided to follow God’s call to the consecrated life of a Passionist Nun.
Dave and Carol Niehaus, of Newburgh, Indiana, are caring parents, who strive to do their best to carry out what Pope Benedict XVI encouraged for all married couples at the World Day of Prayer for Vocations in 2006,
Let us not forget Christian marriage is a vocation to holiness in the full sense of the word, and that the example of holy parents is the first condition favorable for the flowering of priestly and religious vocations.
Their daughter, Sister Mary Andrea, would be the first to tell you that her parents were very instrumental in fostering her vocation.
Without the support and encouragement of my parents and siblings, I don’t think I would be a Passionist today. My family taught me the values of working together and being obedient to Mom and Dad and to my other siblings, as well as the importance of attending Mass on Sundays, of putting my faith into practice, as well as relying on God and His direction in daily life. In general, there was no one big thing that my family did to foster my vocation, except that they were faithful to their own calling as Catholics, passing on the faith through family and private prayer times, attending Mass on Sundays, Holy Days, Holidays, and on numerous other occasions, and teaching us the faith through word and example.
It was easy to see how the love of this Niehaus family continues to grow as they all gathered for the Mass of Profession for Sister Mary Andrea Niehaus, at St. Joseph Monastery in Whitesville, Kentucky, on Saturday, October 20. Everywhere you looked there were smiling faces and little children all around who made it a day of celebration for their family, as well as for the family of the community of Passionists in which Sister Mary Andrea also belongs.
Growing up in a large family of 10 children, Sister Mary Andrea continues to hold being a part of a loving family as something that she doesn’t want to give up and even in being in a cloistered community, she doesn’t have to, because she’s feeling right at home living in the monastery.
I like the family atmosphere and the fact that when help is needed, all are willing to help, even if they are not able. The way things are done here (in the community) is very similar to the way my family taught me. I also enjoy the variety of personality types and the way these are viewed as gifts from God, complimenting one another. I could go on for quite a while about the things I like about the community, but one last thing I would like to mention is that we are where we are; meaning, when it is time to pray, we pray, when it is time to work, we work; when it is time to play, we play.
In the midst of this First Profession celebration, it was a time to play…at least, for the little children. The nieces and nephews of Sister Mary Andrea could be seen playing between the couches, crawling down the hall, and filling the parlor with laughter and cheer. What a joy to see the beauty in a family filled with love! Sister came together with them for family pictures and several of the little ones wanted her to hold them, one crying to be picked up. Getting them all situated for the photo was a “Kodak moment” opportunity, as they wiggled and squealed and blurted out “Cheeeeeez” at a screeching decibel! They were the center of attention and they captured everyone’s hearts.
We couldn’t fail to notice the females of the family too. After the family photos were taken, all the sisters of Sister Mary Andrea could be seen holding each other’s hands in a close-knit circle with her. There has to be time for some “girl talk.” They looked to be comparing their shoes, just like they surely did many times growing up together and getting all dressed up and ready to go somewhere special.
What about the rest of the family? Sister Mary Andrea comes from a family of builders. In addition to building a family bond of love between them in their home, some are also builders of homes for others. Sister fits right into that building family in the way she likes to compare the image she finds most helpful as a contemplative within the Church, to the image of building the Kingdom of God.
The type of work my family normally does is framing houses. There are times when their work is visible, but when the house is finished, what they have worked so hard to accomplish is all covered up! Nevertheless, without the frame, the house would collapse, if it even stood at all. In the same way, what I do as a contemplative is often unseen, but I know that without it, the Church cannot stand. Just as the building of a house requires many different skills and types of work, so also the Church requires many different people to meet the various needs of souls in order to bring all to know Christ in an intimate and personal way without neglecting our own need to know Him. As a cloistered religious, I am called to do some of the hidden tasks of building the Kingdom, following the direction and guidance of the Divine Contractor, our Heavenly Father, through listening to the voice of His Word.
In essence, Sister Mary Andrea is carrying on the family tradition of being a builder and works for the Master Builder.
As the Niehaus family continues to build the Kingdom of God by their example of love to one another and the sharing of their gifts with the whole Church community, let us recall what the late Pope John Paul II said in 1979 at the World Day of Prayer for Vocations,
Never stop praying for…vocations, and for perseverance in the commitment of consecration to the Lord and to souls. Above all, create in your families an atmosphere suitable for the flourishing of vocations. And you parents, be generous in responding to God’s plans for you children.
And also let’s consider what he spoke about on the Consecrated Life,
It is to be considered a great honor that the Lord should look upon a family and choose to invite one of its members to set out on the path of the evangelical counsels! Cherish the desire to give the Lord one of your children so that God’s love can spread in the world.
We can give thanks to God for calling newly professed Passionist Nun, Sister Mary Andrea Niehaus to serve Him in the consecrated life, and to her, for her willingness to say yes to her vocation. We can also be thankful for the loving Niehaus family who have nurtured her in her vocation and continue to support her. They are witnesses to us of the rich beauty of wholesome, Christian family life.