“Spirituality, simple living, social justice, community? Well, that pretty much sounds like what I am about – or, at least, what I am striving to be about.” I clearly remember thinking this as a college senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. A recruiter for the Jesuit Volunteers had come to the Newman Center to connect with students after the weekly Wednesday night Mass. When she described the four core values of the Jesuit Volunteers, something in me clicked.
My perspective had expanded through participating in short-term service-learning immersion experiences through the Newman Center – in Haiti, Appalachia, and Chicago. I wanted to build on those experiences and immerse myself in accompanying others and working for justice. Maybe this was a fit? Maybe this was the answer to my prayer for guidance? Nine months later, I was in San Jose de Cusmapa in northern Nicaragua serving with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation. My two years as a Jesuit Volunteer brought gifts, challenges, and growth of all kinds. They left me desiring to keep those core values at the forefront of my life.
Fast forward ten years after my return to the United States from serving as a Jesuit Volunteer. I had served in social justice ministry at a Catholic parish, gotten a master’s degree in ministry, completed training to become a spiritual director, gotten connected to a few different Catholic Worker communities and joined in their non-violent activism, and lived in L’Arche style community with people with disabilities.
“'Study, prayer, community, and ministry? Well, that pretty much sounds like what I am about – or, at least, what I am striving to be about,' I thought as I reflected on the material."
Sr Rhonda Miska, OP (Nicaragua 2002-2004)
Clearly, the values of spirituality, simple living, social justice, and community were still central. This wasn’t something I was going to “get out of my system” in my twenties. Rather, these values continued to shape my life and my choices well into my thirties. While most of my friends were moving in the direction of marriage, motherhood, funding their retirement plans and/or buying a home, I couldn’t seem to make my life fit into that mold.
This inner tug that life as a Catholic Sister might be a fit – which had been present ever since I was a kid – hadn’t gone away. In the greatest leap of faith thus far in my life, I turned down a promotion, quit my job, moved into the basement of a family from my parish, and patched together enough income from catering, language tutoring and freelance writing to support myself financially until I got my next steps figured out. I made discernment of God’s call the primary focus of my life, and within a few months left Central to move into a motherhouse with a community of Sisters.
I finally had summoned the courage to really discern a call to religious life, but the number of different communities out there were overwhelming. I hadn’t gone to Catholic schools and hadn’t grown up knowing Sisters. In looking through websites and vocation guide magazines, I could envision myself lots of places. I prayed for guidance and continued to meet with my spiritual director with my “discernment antennae” up. As I searched, the Dominicans (also known as the Order of Preachers) came on my radar screen. I contacted a Dominican vocation director who sent me some promotional materials. I remember reading about the four pillars of Dominican life.
“Study, prayer, community, and ministry? Well, that pretty much sounds like what I am about – or, at least, what I am striving to be about,” I thought as I reflected on the material.
Fast forward five more years: I have completed the initial stages of membership, including candidacy and novitiate with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. In July, I made my first profession of vows. Looking back, I can see a through line over the course of my life. Though I don’t know what the road ahead holds, these core values, and now the Dominican pillars and my vows as a consecrated Religious Sister have given shape and form to my life and continue to draw me towards conversion to Christ. For this I am deeply grateful.
Sr. Rhonda Miska was born and raised in Middleton, Wisconsin. After two years of Jesuit Volunteer service in Nicaragua, Rhonda spent ten years in Central Virginia – first serving as Social Justice Minister/Hispanic Minister at the Church of the Incarnation in Charlottesville, and then serving as community coordinator at Innisfree Village, a lifesharing community with adults with intellectual disabilities. Rhonda began discerning religious life seriously in my early 30s and was drawn the charism of preaching and being part of the global Dominican family. She lives in community in Chicago and ministers part time at Dominican University where she teaches and offers spiritual direction to students, and part time as a research assistant at Catholic Theological Union.