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  My Witness

Vol. 1, No. 1, January, 1996

The Lord turned Me Around
Sr. Jan Nattermann, S.N.C.

Sister Jan The Lord has done great things for me and holy is His name, although I didn't recognize Him or His action in my life until I was 24. Before that time, I did not know the Lord Jesus in an alive, personal way. I just expected great things to be done for me. I often wonder why I did not know Him in that way. Hind-sight says, maybe because I didn't have any serious problems in my life and gratitude was lacking. Oh, the normal growing-up problems did not escape me, but severe trials and suffering were absent. Things came easy, except for school. "My way" was what I grew up having! The Lord gave me two loving parents, a good family life, a beautiful sister and brother, nice clothes, great jobs (and easy to get), sports cars, boy friends, free summers with many opportunities to travel and "do my own thing" (so I thought).

Carefree and easy is the way life was meant to be. Life owed me, God owed me, my parents owed me. Little did I recognize that I deserved nothing and that every breath I drew was a free gift from God. I really knew no need in life. I was in control and everything worked out for my ease and comfort.

The first turning point in my life came through my brother, Bill. While away at college he met a new Friend, Jesus. At home during break he talked to me about how his life was changing. Jesus was very close to Him. I could tell by the way he talked. He was now reading the Bible, too. My curiosity was aroused. I knew he wasn't out in "left-field" because I knew Bill to be a very level-headed person. In all of this, there had to be some truth. He gave me several invitations "to come and taste the goodness of the Lord." Finally, I ran out of excuses and let go. I said yes to him and yes to the Lord. I experienced Jesus as REAL and I wanted to start living for Him. For the first time in my life I knew what it meant to be grateful and I knew Who to thank. All the years of love I had known through my family, friends and yes, even "the easy life," were gifts from God. He deserved more than my thanks-He deserved my life to do with as He wished. Even my sins led me to gratitude. After all, it was only in being given the grace to recognize my own sinfulness, that I was able to see the need I had of Someone who was willing to take it all away and give me new life. Jesus Christ did this for me! For everyone! So I prayed, "Take my life and change it. Make me yours Lord Jesus."

The Light of Christ

He took me at my word! My life changed but not without struggle, failure and success. Soon after this new relationship with the Lord began a strong desire to seek Him and to help other people know Him grew in me. I started to do what Jesus never did: force Himself on to people. My parents suffered the brunt of this selfrighteous attitude. I also became very critical of the Catholic Church. This Church was no longer for me. It didn't give me what I wanted. Sometimes I skipped mass on Sundays, or went where I would be "entertained."

As I continued this search for my place, I found myself at a Notre Dame International Charismatic Conference. When I saw some bishops and hundreds of priests process into the stadium for the closing mass, I knew at that moment I had found where I belonged to the Catholic Church. I was able to see Church as the People of God, saints and sinners, seeking and finding the same Lord who had touched my life in a new way. At this weekend I saw more clearly the meaning of Ephesians 5:25: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." True love is sacrificial. I had been missing the boat. It was now time to get back in and start giving rather than expecting to always receive. Little did I know how this would be carried out.

I had a college degree, a great teaching job and good friends. I was in my sixth year of teaching when a gnawing thought pursued me: BECOME A SISTER. For two years I ignored, fled and fought such thoughts. One day I decided to surrender my will again. I had to discover the truth about whether or not I was being called to the religious life for that truth would set me free. Easier said than done.

I signed up for a weekend retreat with the intent of finding out if I was being called to the religious life. If so, I needed the grace to want it and to embrace it. Well, this retreat progressed nicely and was uneventful. It closed with no startling revelation that I was to "get thee to a nunnery." I breathed a sigh of relief. Then it happened. The sign I had asked for. An older lady friend who had known me for some years asked me as I was walking out the door, "Jan, have you ever thought of becoming a nun?!" Shocked! I felt such a mixture of emotions. TERRIFIED-I had asked; He answered; now I must act; ANGRY-How could He do this to me?; DISBELIEF-What now?

Although I was educated by Sisters I never really knew them, nor did I want to. They seemed so "other worldly" and so "set apart." But the Lord places the right people in our lives at the right time. A few years prior, I had met two Franciscan Sisters whom I thought had it all together: so human, so real and warm, so in love with the Lord and His people, so willing to serve, so committed to Community. Their witness gave me hope and strength to pursue my call. I shared with one of them my thoughts of needing to do something with my life and still finding religious life bitter-tasting. I was not completely submitted to this truth. As I met with her, I received another grace that I had prayed for on the weekend retreat. Not a clear-cut "yes, come" or "no, don't," but a growing desire in my heart for religious life. A few days after this sharing, doors opened and an invitation was given: "Do you want to come and see?" The moment of decision had come. "Yes," I said. A peace came over me that I hadn't had for two years. The truth did set me free and I thanked God for it. At that moment the bitter became sweet, as it did with St. Francis when he kissed the leper.

St. Francis

In September, 1976, a few months later, I was accepted into their Franciscan religious Community. I spent almost three years with them, when I came to another time of decision. These two Franciscan Sisters I mentioned earlier, were called by the Lord to begin a new religious Community. Evangelization was to be their mission. When I asked if I could join them, they tried to discourage me, saying it would be very difficult. What did I know about difficulties and hardship? One thing I did know: it was the Lord's will for me to go.

I came to Colorado with Sr. Angeline and Sr. Brigid and the Lord Jesus continues to love me and lead me. My life here has brought me to a new dependency on the Lord. I call it a "trust walk," the risk of faith. Although the road is rocky at times, the action of the Father, Son and Spirit in the events of my past, the love of my Sisters in Community, the faithfulness of my parents, a daily prayer life and Scriptural reflection and meditation, a growing gratitude that all is gift, and the promise that I can do all things in Him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13), cause me to live in joyful hope, knowing that I have a Father who loves me and cares for my every need.

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