Andrea Bator of Grande Prairie reflects on her experiences discerning religious life

In this reflection written by 24-year-old Andrea Bator of Grande Prairie, she reflects upon her past year discerning religious life with the Queenship of Mary Community, based in Ottawa, Ontario. She is now preparing to continue her discernment with the Queenship of Mary, and will begin her canonical novitiate this August.

I have been filled with awe and gratitude at the power God has moved in my life this past year.

I only had a handful of encounters with religious sisters growing up in Grande Prairie, Alberta, and now here I am, living in community with sisters on our journey to the heavenly homeland.

At first, discerning the call to religious life was never a serious thought in my mind. I heard whispers of the call from the Lord during my time as a student at St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission (STIFM) in Saskatchewan. STIFM is a post-secondary Catholic Institute for faith formation to the Catholic Lay Apostolate.

At the institute, young adults gather for nine months to discover the gift of the Church and their personal mission within it. In my three years there, I learned about the infinitely beautiful mysteries of the Church, I discovered my true identity as a daughter of the King, and I found my desire to be a beacon of joy so that the world can encounter the Truth who lives in me: Jesus Christ.

Andrea Bator

In my third year, the sisters of the Queenship of Mary Community (QMC) visited. During their stay, a seed was planted. A chord was struck in my heart that echoed a longing to have the same joy as the sisters did. I grew in awe of consecrated life that week, but afterwards I discerned to continue my post-secondary education and leaned towards a life of marriage and family.

After my time at STIFM, I continued my elementary education degree in Grande Prairie with the University of Alberta. I had already completed half of the degree before attending St. Therese Institute, so I was excited to finish it.

In returning, I enjoyed my studies and began to dream about what I would do when I graduated. I considered another degree or work in faith formation for teachers. All of these dreams and more stirred in my heart and I knew that God would lead me to fulfill His will.

Before the last year of my education degree, I received the opportunity to visit the QMC. I knew it was the perfect occasion to experience the sisters’ life. However, I was still set on finishing my degree; I only had one more year after all. I even told my parents “Don’t worry, even if I was seriously considering religious life I wouldn’t join this September! That’s only 2 months away!”

Andrea with fellow postulant Hannan Timmons, a QMC sister and a statue of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

I arrived in Ottawa on a Thursday evening in July 2023 and I was very excited to see all the sisters, some of whom I met during their visit to STIFM and some who were STIFM alumnae. I loved the prayer life and sisterly fellowship I experienced there, but I was also reminded of the sacrificial reality of communal life and concluded it was not for me. I wanted to keep my freedom to go for a drive or buy a coffee whenever it pleased me.

Monday morning came and I had a meeting with Mother Mary Bernadette, the Founder and Superior of the QMC. I was prepared to present to her all the reasons I was not made for this life.

Ironically, I did not share my experience over the five day visit; she instead inquired about my life, my experiences, my education, and my desires. After encouraging me that the Lord is inviting me to take a leap of faith, she calmly told me, “I think you’re meant to join us in September.”

I was instantly filled with surprise, fear, tears and… a resounding “yes” in my heart.

Andrea out ice fishing as part of her postulant year with the Queenship of Mary Community in Ottawa.

I could not comprehend my confidence, but I knew that I could not say no to the Lord’s invitation. If I am truly meant to give my life to the Lord and surrender everything, as I had been learning to do throughout my faith journey, I simply had to say yes. I announced to the sisters that I was applying for the coming fall and I was blessed by their reciprocated excitement.

Looking back on my meeting with Mother Mary Bernadette, I see that my “yes” was a miracle. In that moment my heart was filled with the grace to surrender my whole self to the Lord. There is no way I could have given that “yes” on my own strength, not on my own weaknesses and littleness; the Lord truly filled me with His Spirit of openness.

I have returned to the memory of that “yes” – that gift of grace – countless times this year, especially in my preparation to leave my family, friends, and my life. The Lord has strengthened me to remain faithful to Him in my moments of grief. He wants me to surrender my life and He is giving me the grace to do it.

This is only an excerpt. Read the full story in the June 2024 edition of Northern Light