Sister Mary Beth Kozlowski, SDSH

God Will Not Be Outdone in Generosity

A Gift from the Year of Faith

The Call

While traveling through Europe as a college student in the summer of 1981, I happened to be in Paris on the Feast of the Assumption, so I attended Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. It was on that occasion that, after Mass, I spent some quiet time praying at a side altar, dedicated to Mary and gave my consent to a religious vocation.

The summer before I met the Sacred Heart Sisters; I was a volunteer counselor at their Sacred Heart Girls’ Camp and worked with the Sisters and fellow counselors caring for 120 girls from ages 8-16 years old. It was a great summer of faith and fun. In my heart I knew then that God was calling me to enter this Community of Sisters; but, it took another year to get used to the idea and let go of other plans that I had for my life.

The Response

And yet, here in Notre Dame Cathedral, in the magnificent sanctuary built in honor of our Heavenly Mother, and inspired by the numerous saints who had passed between these sacred pillars before I joined my yes to hers and theirs. From that moment onward, I was not the same. I responded to God’s invitation, His plan changed me. There was deep peace in my heart and I never again doubted or waivered in my desire to become a consecrated religious. After graduating from college the following year, I entered the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I became a Sacred Heart Sister.

In 1991 I was sent to our Mission in Taipei, Taiwan, learned the Mandarin language and since then have been teaching catechesis on the Island and in neighboring Asian countries, as Indonesia, Malaysia.

A Missed Opportunity

I was privileged to lead a group of young people from Taiwan for the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris. I was very eager to visit Notre Dame again with special hope of finding that “side altar” and offer prayers of gratitude to our Blessed Mother for the gift of my vocation as a Sacred Heart Sister devoted to her Son. However, the crowds were so vast during those days that we were ushered through the Cathedral at a rapid pace, there was opportunity to stop for any length of time inside. I remember looking in vain for the place where I had knelt to pray some sixteen years before, hoping just to catch a glimpse. It was disappointing to have missed this opportunity, my previous visit to Notre Dame being such a blessed event in my own sacred history.

Yet my spirits were not dampened, with the delegation of youth from Taiwan, we attended the Prayer Vigil and Closing Mass with our Holy Father, now Blessed John Paul II, his own Marian motto, Totus Tuus, resonated in my heart.

My first visit to Paris in 1981 planted the seed of vocation firmly in my heart. During this second visit sixteen years later, I was shown how this seed had been brought to flower through the love and care of our Lord in ways far beyond my imagining. This grace was more than enough, and I bid a thankful farewell to Paris, never expecting to return.

The Gift

“God cannot be outdone in generosity”, words our foundress, Sister Ida, would say so often to us. And it is so true. Last October 7, 2012, the Feast of our Lady of the Rosary, and the anniversary of the foundation of our Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, our Superior General, Sister Jane, announced that during the Year of Faith, some friends, a couple who also have a deep love and devotion to our Blessed Mother, wanted to sponsor our entire community to make a pilgrimage to some of the sacred Marian shrines in Europe. This was their offering to Our Lord for the Year of Faith. How gracious and generous! And, I later learned, Paris would be included in the itinerary. Tremendous joy filled my heart at that moment, hopefully I would have the opportunity to find that side altar and spend time to thank our Blessed Mother for the countless graces which I have received
through her intercession and by the merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus her Son, during the past thirty years of my life as a Sacred Heart Sister.

The Visit: Thirty-two years later

We did make a pilgrimage visit to Notre Dame Cathedral; it so happened to be her 850th anniversary year, and the Vigil of the Queenship of Mary. In our Lord’s own generous way of arranging things, we entered while Mass was taking place at the main altar. I did find the side altar, dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and was able to offer my gift of gratitude and praise at last. It was a very special moment with Mary and Jesus which I will treasure always.

Spend Time with Mary

For any young person reading this, recognizing a call, an invitation from God to enter the seminary or a consecrated religious life, my advice to you is to visit a Marian Church in your area. Spend some quiet time there in the company of Mary and Jesus, and listen with your whole heart. You will know what God wants you to do. Don’t be afraid to take that first and necessary step, as Mary did through her “Yes” to God; after all, it is due to her initial “Yes”, her Fiat, that we each have the possibility to participate in making Christ’s presence more visible in our world today. Do not be afraid to give yourself to God, remember, God will not be outdone in generosity.