Discernment is a long road, as the two newest fully professed Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration know well. Sister M. Mercy Briola, OSF, and Sister Mary Augustine Warrell, OSF, joined the ranks of the Franciscan sisters on Aug. 2 at the Our Lady of the Angels Convent in Mishawaka. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the Mass for their final profession of vows.
Both sisters began discerning their vocations in college. Sister Mercy Briola is from Pittsburgh, and attended a Catholic college in Ohio, Walsh University. Through studying the Bible and joining a prayer group, “I really got to know the Lord there,” she said.
A Dominican priest at the college invited anyone who was interested to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, so Sister Mercy began going. “After about a month there, he told me that when sees me praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, he could see me in a religious habit,” she shared.
This shook her, as she had never seen sisters in religious garb before, and she began praying about her life’s vocation until the Holy Spirit “tugged on my heart and mind,” leading her to religious life. She took several discernment retreats, eventually discovering the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and was drawn to them for two reasons: the perpetual adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament – where she first heard her calling – and for their foundress, Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel, who centered her life in prayer.
With degrees in mathematics and mathematical education, Sister Mercy has been serving at Marian High School in Mishawaka as a math teacher. She graduated in May with a Master’s in Secondary Math from Ball State University and will return to ministry at Marian after her profession of vows.
Prior to the Aug. 2 date, she said she felt “very peaceful.”
“Not everyone is blessed with an eight-year engagement,” she remarked. Having lived the life of a religious sister for the past several years, she saw this day as merely an “extension of forever.”
“I’m more excited for the lifelong commitment to the Lord and serving His people,” she continued.
Sister Mary Augustine Warrell took a long time discerning her call. A native of South Bend, she grew up knowing about the Franciscan sisters’ convent in Mishawaka and even attended a “Come and See” retreat in high school, but by the time she graduated from Indiana University South Bend, she figured she had “given God a chance and went on my merry way.”
It was not so merry, however, as she began to experience a restlessness in her soul during her second year of graduate school at Michigan State. She planned to get a Doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, find a Catholic husband, and have a family, but instead she discovered Jesus Christ as the “perfect husband.”
She approached her boss at the time, saying that she was not running away from something, but running toward something better. He advised her to complete her master’s degree in a nine-month program before entering the convent on Sept. 1, 2013.
Facing her final profession of vows, Sister Mary Augustine felt very excited. “It’s been a long journey,” she stated, including an additional year that she had requested for “more interior healing.” During those years, she learned that her vows are “a gift from the Lord” and has “experienced God’s faithfulness, especially in the valleys” of life.
Her next assignment with the Sisters will take her to Dyer, Illinois, and mission work in healthcare.
“I’m just so grateful to make this step – it’s just the beginning” of her new life, in an intimate relationship with the Lord.
“I get to live eternity now,” she said joyfully.
In his homily for the day, Bishop Rhoades spoke of the love of God. “Sister Mary Augustine and Sister Mercy, you have both experienced deeply the gracious and merciful love of God. You have come to know and to believe in the love God has for you. That is why today you will stand before us to profess the evangelical counsels. You do so under the impulse of love which the Holy Spirit has poured into your hearts. It is this love which has moved you to follow Jesus in this beautiful vocation in which you give your whole life to God and are resolved to live more and more for Jesus and for His Body, the Church.”
He then focused on the order’s foundress, Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel, who so inspired Sister Mercy in her vocation. Blessed Maria Theresia had a great love for the Old Testament book Song of Songs, which provided the day’s first reading. Bishop Rhoades said, “There have been many interpretations of these love songs, including that of the love between spouses as well as God’s love for His people. Consecrated men and women also have seen in this book a reflection of God’s personal love for them, revealing a God who desires us and seeks after us.”
“Sister Mary Augustine and Sister Mercy, the lover will hear your voice today as you profess your love to Him in the vows you make to Him.”
He concluded by calling their vocation “a vocation to love” and encouraged them to be a “living testament” to the Eucharist during the three-year revival; to aid in revealing God’s love through their charism – adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – “the sacrament of His love unto the end.”
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