Sr. Vivian Patenaude

It’s that deep and abiding presence one is in touch with – it’s often nameless, faceless – but it’s there – gazing in the depths of our being – begging us to pay attention and refocus. It’s what our Constitutions of the Religious of Jesus and Mary identify as, “our One Necessity,” God!

I know that I didn’t wake up one morning and decided that “God” would become my “One Necessity”! I already had a one necessity and his name was Paul. We had already discussed our future together – to be married in the Church, to have five children (three boys and two girls – as though that was within our control), to have a small white house which we called our own and to be a family involved in our Church. What better outlook on the future can any 18 year old couple have!!! And, what better confirmation can a young woman have than the confirmation of her parents and the opinion of her best “Religious Nun Friend” that Paul and Vivian had made good choices in choosing one another.

What happened less than one month following that confirmation and approval that ended up veering me in a totally opposite direction? It was my Nun-Friend’s question: “Vivian, our Provincial Superior is coming to visit with us in a few weeks and is asking us to set up a list of names of the young women interested in entering our Religious Community. Do you mind if I put your name on the list?”

“WHATTTTTTTT ????” I thought you approved of Paul, and now you are putting my name on a list of girls who want to enter Religious Life? What is going on here?” “Forget it” she said softly. “Make believe I never asked you this.”

But I couldn’t forget it! My 18 year old reflections were centered on the following thoughts:

  • What if I marry Paul and God really wants me to be a Religious Sister?
    Paul won’t be happy and neither will I.
  • If Paul and I get married, his “Yes” and my “Yes” – lasting about one second each –
    make us a unity for life – not matter what!
  • If I enter Religious Life, I have six months of postulancy, two years of novitiate and
    five years of temporary vows before making a final commitment.

After speaking with my Spiritual Director, a Parish Priest, I accepted his suggestion to take a three month break from Paul so as to reflect more objectively. After the first month, I knew I wasn’t going to last through three months of his absence. After the second month, other matters started occupying my mind to a greater degree. After the third month, I realized that I could live without Paul. That did it! I cannot marry someone that I can live without.

My 18 year old reflections are not “behind me”, they are still “within me”. They have taken on different shapes and colors throughout life’s experiences. Being consecrated by God for mission among God’s people is an awesome call! The day by day response, no matter its highs or lows, no matter its strengths or weaknesses, no matter its certainties or doubts – always rests in the conviction that God IS my “One Necessity.”  Saint Claudine Thevenet, our foundress, still captures my loving attention and draws me ever so deeply into her spirit of pardon and forgiveness and I can’t imagine being ME without being a Religious of Jesus and Mary.

After 42 years in Education in the U.S.A., God called me to serve the poor in Haiti, where I have been blessed by their challenging presence for the past 13 ½ years. God is still my “One Necessity” and what I am finding out more and more is that God is also  the poor’s “One Necessity.”  We share a deep conviction and life-calling. I am at home!

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