I heard the call from God, the gift of a religious vocation

by Sister Marlyss Dionne, SMP


Sister Marlyss Dionne, SMP

“Did you really call me, Lord? I am still quite young, but then I guess you call women to Religious Life at any age! Yes, I do want to follow you in Religious Life.”

I remember when the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation, SMP were teaching summer religion classes at my parish in Thorne, N.D. I was so impressed by them and eager to learn more about God through these sisters. I remember that my parents invited the sisters to our home for a meal and I thought that was wonderful. The seed of vocation was planted.

Later, I wanted to go to high school at Notre Dame Academy in Willow City. The teachers there were the same group of sisters who taught me during summer religion classes, and I know my parents made sacrifices to send me so far from home. How grateful I am for that special privilege to go to the Academy! I lived with friends of mine at the home of a family in Willow City for the first year of high school. The second year I lived at the Academy. I enjoyed having a variety of sisters as my teachers.

As my call to religious life deepened, I spoke to my mother, wondering if it was okay with her if I joined these sisters. She said yes, so I asked her to ask Dad for me, but she encouraged me to talk to my dad myself. I was so pleased with my dad’s response. “We want you to be happy. If being a sister will make you happy, then go for it!” Wow!

During the summer, after completing my sophomore year, I went with another sister by train to Spring Valley, Ill. where the formation house, or novitiate, was located. The years of study in preparation for becoming a sister were about to begin!

There were six other young women in my group, besides 14 other young women already in various stages of preparation. Those were happy times as a community – studying, praying, eating, and recreating together. During these years, I was also able to finish high school and one year of college at St. Bede College.

After three years of study and preparation, the great day of my religious profession came! There were seven of us to profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, dedicating our lives to Christ and to the ministry of the Church. How wonderful it was to become a real sister!

In September of that year, I was asked to teach 6th grade at St. Catherine School in Valley City. I enjoyed being a teacher of all subjects, but I especially loved to teach Religion, which is taught daily in Catholic schools. There were 25 students in my class. It was a wonderful first year of teaching! The next year I was assigned to teach at St. Joseph School in Wild Rice. I would be teaching three grades in one room - grades 3, 4, and 5. It was a challenge to handle three grades, but I was able to combine grades for certain subjects so it all worked out well.

It was also an honor to teach at the first school our sisters had started in the United States in 1903 when they came over from France. I enjoyed living community life with the other six sisters with whom I lived and worked at St. Joseph School. We supported and encouraged one another at our daily meals and recreations together. It was a delight to play softball outdoors with the children at recess times! Every summer of those early years of teaching I went to college to complete my education and higher certification for teaching. After about 30 years of teaching in Catholic schools in Valley City, Wild Rice, Oakwood, Lisbon, and in Princeton, Ill., I was chosen to serve on the leadership team for our province of sisters for a number of years. These were enriching times.

Presently I reside at Maryvale, Valley City, and serve as Director of Hospitality, Local Leader for the sisters living here, and I serve on our SMP Health Care Ministry’s Boards of Directors at St. Aloisius Medical Center, Harvey; St. Andrew Health Center, Bottineau; Presentation Medical Center, Rolla; and the SMP Long Term Care Board.

God has blessed me in wondrous ways! I believe one of his greatest gifts to me has been the gift of a religious vocation as a Sister of Mary of the Presentation.