I was born and baptized a catholic as a baby, Theresa Kathleen Andre, thanks to the faith of my family. My mother especially influenced me, and my godmother, Doris Bueche, who was a woman of fearsome faith! I was blessed as a child to feel especially close to God, learning my catechism, making my first Holy Communion, being confirmed. As a young girl, I realized I had a vocation to the religious life.
Here I am, first communion at 7 yrs. old, and in eighth grade.
I wanted to enter a contemplative order (and this I dreamed at age 12-13), but Mama dreaded losing me to a cloister, so I was led to enter high school at St. Mary of the Pines run by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. As an "aspirant", I studied and prepared to enter that particular order, which was a teaching order.
I was fortunate to have caring, devoted, and faithful teachers there who helped me grow in faith and love for God. [ Me, my father, Roy, and my first cousin, Janice.]
I desperately desired to give myself completely to Christ. When I was 14, I wrote a "Contract with Jesus" on the back of a holy card [ this one], doing so. Since I couldn't yet vow myself to Him, I found a formal way to promise myself to Him forever.
After graduation, I entered the Postulancy, asking for acceptance into the order and beginning my studies at the University of Dallas, a fine Catholic university where lay people, a Dominican order, the Sisters of St. Mary of NaMur, and an order of Cistercian monks taught, along with several School Sisters of Notre Dame. Again, I found most ofmy teachers to be exemplary, devoted, Spirit-filled people. Father Gilbert, our chaplain, we considered to be a remarkable, holy man. We esteemed him greatly.
The next year I became a Novice, Sister Mary Bernadette, S.S.N.D., studying the rule of the order, practicing poverty, chastity, and obedience for the day when I would take temporary vows. During this special year of seclusion, I learned to pray the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, attended daily Mass (as I had been doing since 9th grade ), and took only theology courses, on the Psalms, the Old Testament, the New Testament, etc. I also had a course in moral theology.
In July 1966, I vowed to practice poverty, chastity, and obedience for three years, after which time I would have the option to renew for a couple of years more, or to leave the order, should I wish to do so.
I completed two more years in the Motherhouse, attending the university, and graduating with a degree in music. After my graduation, I was sent on mission to Morrilton, Arkansas to teach 5th grade and music. This was in response to my vow of obedience, and there I would live in a convent with about nine other sisters, also teaching at Sacred Heart School.
It was during this year that I began to feel stifled by the limited cultural environment and made the decision to leave the order and return home after my third year under vows had expired (July 1969). In truth, this was an agonizing decision for me, but I was following my conscience and my heart. I still felt close to God, but felt he was leading me out of religious life--to I knew not what.
I returned to the University on a scholarship to study English Literature, and from there to teach English at LSU in Louisiana for three years. I worked at Sears in management for 15 years, then returned to education, teaching at a public high school in Baton Rouge, Glen Oaks High School , for 18 years. I retired in 2006.
But my story is not in my work career, but in my faith journey. I remained in the church for years, struggling like everyone else to reconcile work and leisure time with prayer time, attending Mass at varied churches, including Christ the King chapel on LSU campus, getting intimately involved with the charismatic movement, making retreats, etc.
I began to have problems when I became involved with my husband in 1970. G. Washington Eames, Jr., George, is African-American. My parents violently objected--my father disowned me, and I felt that the church was full of racism and chauvinism. I remember sitting in Christ the King Chapel one Sunday evening, at Mass, and I began crying because I thought, "If these people knew who I was, they would move over and not want to sit by me." I walked out of church , and I think I did not return for some time.
I remember attending a Catholic church in my neighborhood, St. Charles Borromeo after my marriage in 1977, and after the adoption of our son, Wardell. But, my son being black, I wanted him to grow up in an African American Catholic church, so I investigated and located a little black Catholic church, St. Paul the Apostle , staffed by the Divine Word Missionaries. I wept again as I worshipped there, because I felt I had come home at last. We baptized our son there, I joined the choir, and I was thrilled to be again among many Spirit-filled christians.
After a few years, I can't remember how long, we began having serious problems with our son, and I found it extremely painful to answer questions about him at church as members inevitably asked about him. I decided to stop attending St Paul's. I went to Our Lady of Mercy where I was not known. I felt disconnected, and as time passed, I began to miss Mass on Sundays.
At that time I was investigating Native American spirituality, Taoism, Buddhism--the main types of spirituality--and felt I could no longer in faith be a Catholic. I eventually discovered the Unitarian-Universalist Church which respects and pays tribute to these and all other spiritual urges experienced by its membership. I felt so comfortable there until a couple of negative things happened which showed members to be narrow-minded and prejudiced. The minister was a warm and loving man who was above reproach, and I had good friends there, but I just could not stomach prejudice in the church itself and stopped attending.
Now, I had nowhere to go. I depended on spiritual reading, relishing especially the wonderful mystical poems of a Muslim mystic, Hafiz, and the poetry of Rumi. However, I found a distaste for reading Holy Scriptures. On occasions I attended the Baptist Church with my husband, and I enjoyed the services, especially at Rev. Leo Cyrus' church, New Hope. He also was a faith-filled man, sincere and respectful of others. But although I was in attendance at their communion services, I was cognizant that this was not the Eucharist I knew and had believed in.
I had gone through so many doubts, struggled sincerely to know what was true, doubted in Jesus as the Son of God, yet here I was mentally challenging the Baptist Church because it did not have the real presence in the Eucharist! This is what was missing everywhere, the Body and Blood--the Eucharist. Everywhere I found pulpits, but no altar.
I wanted the Eucharist, but my faith was so weak, at times, nonexistent. And I still had so many doubts about God, Jesus as His Son, etc.
About a month ago, November 2009, I began researching prophecies about the last days on the computer. I had been reading and seeing TV shows about 12/21/2012. Now I watched the videos on Quiet Buck's website: Red Elk's great visions from the 1970's. All this speculation about the last days disturbed me and intrigued me. On Quiet Buck's website I found allusions to the native Americans perhaps being the "lost tribes" of Israel. I read the scriptures posted there about Yahweh and "Yahushua" (Jesus ?), the arguments that he had walked the North American continent (which the Mormons also teach), yet Quiet Bucks' contention that "Yahushus (Jesus) could not be God, because there was only one God. No concept of the Trinity there.
I started digging out my old bibles. In one of them I found a holy card of St. Bernadette. When I was in the convent, my religious name was Sister Mary Bernadette, S.S.N.D. (School Sister of Notre Dame).
This picture showed the incorruptible body of the saint in her crystal casket. I remembered that though St. Bernadette, the little girl who had visions of Mary at Lourdes, had died in the 1800's, her body has never decayed, but remains as beautiful as the day she died. That she died of very painful and corrosive bone cancer makes her incorruptibility even more miraculous.
So I started looking for videos or websites on the "incorruptibles" and located about 250 saints who, like St. Bernadette, died as much as 1600 years ago and whose bodies are still supple, intact. You can find this information on my page "INCORRUPTIBLES."
These findings were like a shot of super-adrenaline to my faith--how in the world else, except for God's power and Christ Jesus, could this be? I wept as my faith came back, stronger and stronger. I felt so humbled to be gifted after 25 years away from the sacraments. I felt an intense inpouring of the Mercy of God.
I remembered also an attraction I had years ago to a little prayer called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, so I looked that up on the computer as well and found wonderful sites, music, and the Notes of St. Faustina, to whom Christ appeared to tell her that he wanted her to spread this devotion (in the early 1900's), because the last days were approaching, and that He wanted as many people as possible to come to His Mercy. Man has a choice: His Mercy or His Judgement. I felt so graced be pulled back into living faith and His abounding mercy.
To further strengthen my faith, I found wonderful videos showing that Christ ordered St. Faustina to paint a picture showing the blood and water flowing from His Sacred Heart. Unable to paint, she went to her confessor, and her superiors were able to locate an artist who painted according to her guidelines of what Jesus looked like.
One of the videos which I found on the Holy Shroud of Turin (the burial cloth in which Jesus was laid in the tomb) which has been preserved nearly 2000 years , shows how her depiction of Christ fits the specifications of the image on the Shroud. This, again, thrilled me with growing faith.
I am so humbled to tell you that I returned to the sacraments in the beginning of November 2009, and I am going to return to St. Paul the Apostle church where I can still find some of my beautiful friends from 25 years ago.
Please realize that one of the reasons for this website is to share this witness with you, and to atone for so many years of being lost and away from Christ.
I am praying the Liturgy of the Hours which I learned in the convent, and which I will share with you. I am reading the Jerusalem Bible which I received from my parents years ago when I first professed my vows. I don't pray the Rosary everyday, but I do pray it at least a couple times a week. I am devoted to Mary. Jesus gave her to us as our Mother, and I need one now, especially since Mama died in 1992. I need her intercession and care.
I still love the Chaplet of Divine Mercy which you read about on this website. You can also find information about the Shroud of Turin.
When I was in the convent, I learned to read and sing Gregorian Chant. I still love this most contemplative song of the church, and I have some for you on this website as well. Be sure to visit the MUSIC VIDEOS page for seasonal religious music. I think there is something there for all tastes and needs.
My husband and I are growing closer in faith. He has been watching this process in me and is thrilled. We have even started having brief conversations about prayer.
In the last few days, I have revisited another favorite old practice of mine, the praying of The Jesus Prayer. I created a page for it, because it is a wonderful way to extend a prayerful practice of the presence of God throughout your whole day. I have included some discussions of the types of prayer on this same page.
Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, faith-filled or just looking or afraid to look, I can empathize with you. You are in my daily prayers.
REFLECTIONS -- Living in Mercy
Go to JOURNAL 2010 for further thoughts.
Visit my church parish website: http://www.stpaulbr.webs.com