Vocations of women religious
God 'walked into my life in a beautiful and demanding way,' says Sister Maria Theótókos Adams
Oct 31, 2019
When she was growing up, Sister Maria Theótókos Adams, a member of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, said she did not have a complete catechetical experience.
“There were years of turbulence when my faith was very uninformed,” she said.
Things began to change in high school, while dating a “catechized atheist,” she said, someone who was knowledgeable about the faith but not a believer himself. He asked questions she had not worked out, forcing her to think deeply. Set to go to an Ivy League college upon graduation of high school, Sister Theótókos remembers being concerned about becoming an atheist in college.
“I didn’t want to be an atheist,” she said. “I believed through poetry and art that we have a transcendental nature to us.”
Rather than running to a university after high school, she traveled to France to spend time staying in monasteries with women religious, a “spiritual spa” she called it.
“To my surprise, there were all young sisters, singing Gregorian chant...with the clear identity of being countercultural,” Sister Theótókos said.
She saw religious sisters who lived on God’s initiative, “out of step with this world...and they weren’t ashamed of that,” she said.
Sister Theótókos spent her days in France attending daily Mass, diving deep into prayer, work, reading, and praying.
From there, her “desire gradually and organically” expanded to “be more His somehow,” she said.
Her year in France was transformative, ultimately revealing to her a call to religious life.
“My intellectual concerns were answered in the context of liturgy, prayer and confraternity with the sisters,” Sister Theótókos said. “They were answered in a wordless way.
“At the end of that year, I was convinced that I had a vocation. The One I had found couldn’t compare to anything else. I didn’t expect it to be so personal with Him. So real, and so full of life. He walked into my life in a beautiful and demanding way.”
After heading back to Columbia University in New York, Sister Theótókos prayed, “Show me how and where I’m supposed to do this.” And from there, she ran into many Servants sisters: while visiting the relics of St. Therese at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, studying abroad in Jerusalem, and traveling in Rome and Bethlehem.
“I had been begging with great confidence that God would clarify,” she said.
In the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matar, Sister Theótókos saw “their poverty and their joy and the simple confidence that Jesus is worthy of the greatest risks and acts of love that we can offer Him,” she said.
Sister Theótókos entered the order in 2001 and took her final vows in 2008.
“It’s a beautiful adventure,” she said. “He is true to His word, each day is more and not less.”
Her ministry roles have included teaching new members of their order, and accompanying them throughout their formation period.
“It’s beautiful mission territory accompanying a new life into our community,” she said.
The order of sisters, part of the religious family of the Incarnate Word, works throughout the world, and in the Archdiocese of Washington in various mission ministries, from parish work to works of mercy.
“We are foundationally missionary and also Marian,” Sister Theótókos said.
In 2017, Sister Theótókos received her master’s degree in early Medieval Church history and she is currently working on her doctorate in Church history.
“The intellectual life is itself a mission field to the individual who studies,” she said. “I love being part of the commitment to truth...that it can be found and it will prevail.”
Speaking about her religious vocation, Sister Theótókos encouraged Catholic women to ask God, “How do you want me to become a saint?”
“Every vocation is a miracle because no one deserves to be called,” she said.
Sister Theótókos added that the gift of a religious vocation is an “authentically, shockingly beautiful life, but not without the cross.”
“All of the future that has been painted and prepared...by education, by their family…starts to shake and the pearl of great price is all you want, even at the cost of selling all you have,” she said. “How good God is -- how much He is the author and greatest poet and the one who will make of our lives a beautiful song if we love and trust more.”
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