By Sara Kraft
Special to the Catholic Key
When Warrensburg Sacred Heart Parish native Beth Crandall first came to Missouri Western State University to study to become a nurse, religious life was not on her mind. She said, “I was far from God, but was excited to start anew.” She joined a Christian sorority, and also began attending the Missouri Western State University Newman Center, a Catholic “home” for college students at Missouri Western. Now, only a few short weeks after passing boards as a Registered Nurse, Beth, 22 years old, joined the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara on February 2, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus and Beth’s baptism anniversary.
Over Christmas break her freshman year, Beth joined several of her fellow Newmanites at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) National Conference. During this conference Beth “fell in love with my faith and the Catholic Church. I was surrounded by holy people.” It was during the FOCUS conference that Beth was first exposed to sisters. Beth realized it was a possibility for her to enter religious life, which was something she had never considered. As she spoke to the sisters, Beth realized that her desires for international nursing might be realized by entering a religious community.
Several months after the conference, Beth connected with the Little Sisters of the Poor and spent a weekend with their community while she was on spring break. During that weekend, Beth said, “I knew I was supposed to become a sister, but didn’t know what to do with this desire so I went on with my everyday life while pursuing missions with sisters.” That summer, Beth used her skills as a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Gallup, New Mexico as she learned more about religious life and grew in her faith. Beth continued to explore other orders, and spent spring break her sophomore year with the Sisters of Life in New York.
The summer following her sophomore year of college, Beth went to India on a FOCUS mission trip and worked with the Missionaries of Charity (founded by Mother Teresa). Beth said, “I went to India that summer to confirm my vocation. However, for the first time, I realized God could be calling me to a vocation of marriage.” Beth now sees how this experience allowed her to see the beauty in and truly discern marriage.
Months later, Beth attended her second FOCUS conference and learned about the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, a relatively new order. Their specific charism is to prolong the Incarnate Word and evangelize the culture. They seek to integrate the Gospel in the various cultures so that they can be redeemed. Healthcare, catechesis, and spiritual retreats are several of the many ways the Servants of the Lord witness in over thirty countries. As Beth learned more about the order, she learned they had a large Spanish influence. Because of an experience in middle school attempting to learn Spanish, Beth’s heart was hardened. However, she planned a mission with this community.
During spring break her senior year, Beth went to Pennsylvania to meet some of the sisters so she could go on a mission trip with them that summer. While she was there, Beth’s hesitancy to all things Spanish was lifted and she felt called to enter, while falling in love with the community and more deeply with Christ. She knew she was home. Beth credits this experience, her annunciation (yes to God) to, “the grace of discernment, paying attention to all the small things, and the courage to not be afraid.” Shortly afterwards, Beth applied to the order, was accepted, and a date was set for her entrance. Eleven months later after passing nursing state boards, Beth packed her bags and flew to Maryland to become a postulant.
Beth looked forward to her time as a postulant, which can be anywhere from days to years. After completing her time as a postulant, she will become a novice and receive her cross. In December of her novice year, she will receive a gray and blue habitat with a white veil along with her religious name. The Servants of the Lord’s vows include poverty, chastity, obedience, and a fourth Vow of Marian slavery according to the method of St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort, thus entrusting themselves entirely to the Blessed Virgin Mary. All of the sisters’ religious names are a litany to Mary. Following formation Beth will be missioned somewhere around the world to serve and nurse, God willing.
“God molded your heart for your specific vocation,” Beth explains. “I encourage those still discerning their vocation to be faithful. Open your heart, seek God, and follow up on the desires God has placed in your heart. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been seeking happiness. There’s a fulfillment in Christ and living out my vocation. If you have any interest in religious life or priesthood, start there.” She adds, “And don’t just pray about it. Try it.”
Beth says, “The Newman Center at Missouri Western State University is so awesome and such a blessing. I knew little of the applicability of my faith when I entered college. Our director, Leeds Haroldson, teaches us about the treasures of our faith and how to open up and enjoy these treasures – including the saints, Mary, Confession, Eucharist, and the priesthood.” Weekly “Theo” (Theological) Thursdays taught Beth and other students the basics of the faith. In addition, Sunday Mass is offered at 7 pm at the Newman Center where “the liturgy and reverence draws us to heaven at Newman every Sunday evening.”
Beth adds, “Newman has been my home – it’s so hard to leave. It’s been great to have fellowship with other good college students searching to share and grow in our faith, but I’m so excited that through God’s providence I have been put on a path to discovering my vocation. Now I know my home will always be with Christ.”