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Lives full of joy Theresa, Virginia and Paul

I met Theresa Marshall in 1997, when I was a fresh-from-seminary parochial vicar at St. Thomas Parish in Ann Arbor. Theresa was one of the dedicated volunteer sacristans who helped make sure every Mass ran smoothly – who knew where to find the vestments, who placed all the markers in the sacramentary and who made sure the chalices were polished to a high gleam.

Before I met her, someone on the parish staff mentioned that Theresa was a member of one of the oldest and most venerable vocations in the church – she was a consecrated virgin. I didn’t know any other consecrated virgins, so I wasn’t sure what to expect – someone very serious and quiet, perhaps. Perhaps a “stick in the mud.”

Theresa shattered any stereotype I might have held about the vocation of consecrated virgins. She is a bundle of high energy, lively humor and has a joyous love of God. Her smile lights up a room even brighter than it lights up the cover of this month’s issue of FAITH. It is impossible not to respond.

Her special education students have experienced God’s love through Theresa – she overwhelms them with that love, as God himself overwhelmed her. They respond with joy and with stories of determination and success.

In a quieter way, the learners at the Adrian Rea Literacy Center also experience the transforming power of God’s love through the patient tutoring of teachers like Sister Virginia. As they develop literacy skills, they also grow in confidence. They can apply for jobs, read grocery labels and experience the word of God first-hand in the Scriptures.

Like all of us, these women spent time searching for the vocation to which God was calling them. Both said “yes” to the surprising path God had set before them.

In that, they are much like St. Paul, who is the subject of our special report this month, as we conclude the year dedicated to his life. Saul thought he was on the path that God had set before him, until a radical experience of the love of Jesus Christ transformed his journey, his life and even his identity. As Saul became Paul, we also need to become new creatures in Christ. We do this by being constantly open to the love of God being poured out on us.

As we begin to bask in the warmth of summer, let us also remember to bask in the warmth of God’s love – and to radiate that love to others. And so our journey in FAITH continues.