family came from Sicily and finally settled in a quaint
Italian district of St. Louis, Missouri called “The Hill”
over 100 years ago. My brother, sister and I lived
in a two-story brick building built by my grandfather to
be a place of business on the bottom floor and a place of
residence on the top.
remember waking in the morning to the wonderful smell of
Italian bread wafting up from the bakery downstairs and
hearing the gossiping sounds of people in the deli next
door to it. I also remember not having very much money;
but there was always lots of food and lots of company, lots
of laughter and everyone talking louder than everybody else.
The place that I lived was the center of my mother’s whole
family for two reasons: first, my grandmother lived with
us, and second, we lived right across the street from the
Roman Catholic Church we attended. We were a very religious
family and our lives were completely wrapped up in whatever
feast day, celebration, or excitement was happening there.
Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!
I probably went to church every day of the school year,
and on Saturdays and Sundays, too. I remember sitting in
Sister Concepta’s 6th grade class and listening to her talk
about the wonderful stories of Jesus. It so impacted my
life that He died for me…she made it all so real. I found
myself pondering the story and praying a lot more that I
did before. Sister Concepta planted a seed in my heart.
As I grew older I had wonderful dreams of becoming a famous
ballerina and musician. I worked very hard at both these
quests. I also loved art and dabbled in painting and drawing.
I was very sensitive as a child. Sometimes when a person
is overly sensitive, life becomes difficult. Everything
is taken to heart. Since I was the oldest daughter and Mom
was quite a strict mama, I was held responsible for much
of the problems around the house. She didn’t know it at
the time, but she had what seemed like an abusive way of
speaking to me in a scolding tone of voice, constantly embarrassing
me in front of family and friends. I found myself becoming
more and more neurotic and filled with complexes. “I guess
I just can’t do anything right in her eyes,” I would say
But things started to change. In my senior year of high
school, I was so impressed by the love and goodness that
I saw in the nuns who taught me. I wanted to emulate them
to the fullest. There was only one way I could. I’ll never
forget the look of irritation on my mother’s face when I
told her I wanted to become a nun. “You want to do what?”
she said. “I want to enter the convent,” I told her, filled
with intimidation as I asserted myself for probably the
first time in my life. At first, she said, “No” and so did
my dad. But then, the day before the signed permission was
due to the convent, she reluctantly penned her name and
told me, “You’ll probably be back in six months anyway…you’ve
always failed in everything you’ve tried to accomplish.”
In spite of what she said, I was overjoyed at the prospect
of becoming a nun!
My joy at becoming a nun quickly turned sour when reality
set in. It seemed as though I went from the frying pan into
the fire! Instead of having one mom like I had at home,
I had many moms, (Mother Provincial, Mother Mistress, Mother
Superior), who tried to change me and mold me into becoming
the model nun! And what a schedule! There was morning prayer
at 5:30 am, then Mass, then breakfast, then chores. Then
class, then prayer, then lunch and the list goes on and
Hardest of all,
as postulants (new sisters), we weren’t allowed to talk
to anyone except Mother Mistress if we had a need. Neither
could I call my family or friends except on special days.
We were free from our vow of silence for one hour a day
which was our community time. There were some wonderful
times here when I could take out my guitar and the nuns
and I would sing in 3 and 4-part harmony. But for the most
part, my training to be a nun at the Mother House was very
difficult and lonely for me. There were times I felt as
if I would have a nervous breakdown. I’m so glad to say
that God’s grace was there, even then, to show me the way
out of troubled times.
In the midst of my training, I was sent out from the Mother
House to a convent in Lower East Side, New York. There in
Chinatown I taught Chinese children who hardly knew English.
What a challenge! I used my artistic capability to draw
pictures for words and, with the help of an interpreter,
found the children to be brilliant and quite easy to teach.
From there I was transferred to a private school in Bronx,
NY where I taught Music and Art to elementary children.
After three years, I was transferred to Pittsburgh, PA.
I found myself at a non-graded school with a wonderful group
of sisters, all very well trained and professional. Coupled
with Monsignor Shanahan and the priests in residence there,
we made a great family. There are so many things that happened
in Pittsburgh! But I’ll tell you the one story that
dramatically changed my life.
I remember standing in the kitchen of our homey convent
when I heard a voice coming from our downstairs receptionist
office. A non-Catholic lady named Oleen Eagle had come to
visit one of the other sisters. They were planning a very
special Bible Study and prayer meeting to be started in
the Fall. As I heard them laughing and talking, I wished
that I could be a part of it - even though I didn’t understand
the full impact of what I was wishing for.
Not very long afterwards, the sister working with Oleen
was transferred to another city. So the plans changed.
I found myself in the “Padre’s” office - Monsignor Shanahan,
that is. He was so animated and excited as he appointed
me to work with Oleen Eagle on the music for the prayer
meeting she was to lead. But then he put me on a solemn
mission. “Angelina”, he said, (that’s long for Sister Angela),
“You’re going to have to listen real hard to make sure Oleen
stays within the confines of Catholic teaching and beliefs.
So, while you’re playing that guitar of yours, pay very
close attention to what she says and come back and report
to me.” I felt like the Padre and I had entered into a secret
The responsibility of listening to Oleen’s Protestant theology
felt pretty heavy to me. First of all, I just didn’t feel
qualified, spiritually or physically. I felt my mind and
my heart drifting from the most important things in my life.
The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience had become a
struggle. Where was God in all this? Ritual, upon ritual,
upon ritual. It all felt dry and fruitless.
The exhaustion of working so hard to prove to everyone that
I was a success was overwhelming! I continually felt failure
nipping at my toes as if I was in a race with myself to
be the successful person my mom promised I would never be.
Outwardly I was the perfect little nun, but inwardly I was
dying. There had to be more to life than this, I thought.
But I promised the Padre that I would listen intently to
Oleen’s Bible teaching, and so I did.
As the weeks progressed I could feel something happening
to me; something I had never experienced of this magnitude
before. It seemed that I couldn’t wait for Tuesday to roll
around so that I could hear what Oleen had to say about
God’s Word, the Bible. I had studied every precept and principle
of the church’s teaching in my twelve years of schooling;
but this was a first for me. It’s hard to explain the explosion
of new life I was beginning to experience! When Oleen would
read the words of Jesus and explain them to our prayer group
my heart started to burn to know more. I couldn’t hold back
When I had a private moment with her I asked, “Oleen, what
do I have to do to know the Bible like you do? It seems
like the more I hear, the more my heart burns to know Jesus
more.” She explained to me that Jesus was drawing me to
Himself. But there was something I had to do. I couldn’t
imagine what that could be, because I was working very hard
to be a good nun and a great teacher. She talked to me about
giving my life over to Jesus Christ; putting Him in the
driver’s seat of my life and letting Him have total control.
I was aghast! I said, “Oleen, I’ve been a nun all these
nine years. I’ve been teaching His children, praying three
times a day, and making all kinds of sacrifices! And you’re
telling me I need to give my life over to Him and be “born-again”?
What did that mean, anyway? Was this another “religion”?
Oleen explained that it had nothing at all to do with religion,
church denominations, or traditions of belief. This had
to do with a very special relationship with Jesus, the Son
of God, Who died for my sin and took all the punishment
for it by His death on the cross. She told me that the Bible
said Jesus died for me personally, something that just boggled
my mind, and that He wanted to save me from eternal punishment.
Now I was beginning to understand: my salvation rested upon
what Jesus did for me, not the work I was trying to do to
It all made sense! I took Oleen’s hand and she led me in
a prayer of repentance. For the first time in my life, I
put my faith and trust in what Jesus Christ did for me on
the cross, and received Him as my Lord and Savior. An inexplicable
thing happened to me that day. Suddenly, I began to see
Jesus' love for me. Immediately I felt a peace like I had
never experienced before.
I somehow felt relieved of the burdens and questions I had
been carrying for so long. I felt new all over and I had
this wonderful feeling that I wasn’t alone anymore. The
love of Jesus seemed to fill every inch of my heart! Think
of it! Jesus was waiting my entire life for me to
come to the realization of this moment. And I could have
missed Him as I went about my busy daily routines trying
to find Him by my own religious actions and merit! I discovered
that I didn't know God even though I was trying to serve
Him In the convent.
Once this realization hit me it was like an explosion took
place in my mind and my spirit! My walk with Jesus was now
based on a meaningful daily relationship rather than on
empty daily rituals. I started to reach out to people in
love and intense care for their needs. The talents
that God gave me of music, art and the dance blossomed into
full expression. I took on a men’s choir; wrote cantatas
for the children to sing and dance to; produced stage productions
and designed all the scenery; painted pictures of Bible
stories for our church and on and on. It wasn’t long after
my born-again experience that I received the Baptism in
the Holy Spirit. This opened the window to even more of
the Holy Spirit’s power! My life would never be the same.
This is the story of how I discovered true love —God's
love —while in the convent. My relationship with Jesus
is the greatest treasure I have ever found!
If you can't ever remember a time in your life when
you personally invited Jesus to come into your heart,
then you probably never have. This could be your day
to personally meet Him and to experience true love like
you have never known before.
me and let me help you make this wonderful discovery
as I did!
can I find that
here to read more.