vocation stories | CHERISE
I was born… on February 10, 1993 in Yoakum, Texas but grew up in Hallettsville, Texas.
I graduated… from Texas A&M University in May 2015 with a BA in International Studies and two minors (Italian and History).
Growing up outside of a small Texas town, I developed a deep love for both my family and being a “home-body”. I am attracted to simplicity. On a “free day” one can find me writing in my blog, taking a walk in nature, crocheting a scarf, or baking kolaches – a trade I learned from the strong hands of my Grandma Klekar. Aside from before the Blessed Sacrament, I feel most myself in the often dry, sand rock pit behind my house surrounded by grazing pastures. Under the big Texas sky, without anything manmade in sight my breathing steadies and my heart smiles.
Although God was undoubtedly pursuing me from the very start, in hindsight it should have become quite obvious towards the end of my high school career. After discovering that daily mass existed and with much of His grace, I started to attend 7 am mass each morning. Mind you I was not a morning person at the time. This became a priority for me in my college search, and Texas A&M University happened to come as an added bonus to my choice to go to St. Mary’s Catholic Center. Upon arrival I immediately got plugged in at the center by attending the retreat for incoming freshmen.
This retreat provided many talks including one given by the Apostles on living a balanced life which meant setting aside time for prayer…outside of mass. It was also at this retreat that I signed up to start Spiritual Direction. Receiving an email from Sr. Michela we started to meet once every two weeks. She spoke to me about the importance of daily prayer and with her help I grew from ten minutes a day to a daily holy hour. The decision to come before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for sixty minutes each day came from a beautiful experience that I was granted in December of my sophomore year.
As many, I was still uncertain as to what to do with my life. Frustratingly I proceeded to comprise a list during my prayer time of all that I am, in hope of finding my identity. This list included things like “child of God”, “daughter”, “student”, etc…but nothing seemed to encompass all that I am. Giving up towards the end of my adoration hour, I decided to “kneel it out”. Falling to my knees and tauntingly giving the task of finding my identity to God I entered into the most cherished ten minutes of my life. It was like time stood still and overwhelmed with the strongest sense of reality I had ever experienced, I had the sensation that God was telling me: “Cherise, before all else, you are loved.” I am loved. That is my primary identity. I am loved by Love Himself. Nothing could remain the same after that experience. Beginning a daily holy hour a few weeks later I knew that I desired a life that allowed me to go to prayer in that way every day – that required it. Thus my discernment of religious life began. Having been taught that God works through life’s circumstances, I looked no further than the Apostles of the Interior Life. I wanted to do for others what their presence had done for me bringing me into a continuously life-changing encounter with my Lord – the Lover of my soul. Most of all my discernment was spurred on not by a desire to do but by a desire to be. Discovering His love more and more each day, I long only to be in His presence. From there – that place of encounter, of love – will come my doing.
I met the Apostles for the first time… at the St. Mary’s Catholic Center’s retreat for incoming freshman formerly called Welcome Weekend.
My first impression was… “I need to meet those Italian ladies!” – which I did later that day in the chapel during a scavenger hunt. Walking into the chapel with a small group of fellow freshmen, I saw them standing there. Out of my normal character, I immediately walked up confidently and offered both my hand and name while the rest of the freshmen lingered back in shyness. Later I learned that I left quite the impression as I happily listen to Sr. Cele recount the story even to this day.
I began the experience with the community… unofficially 5 years ago when, starting as a freshman, I attended every event they offered or were attending out of a combination of fascination and an, at that time, unacknowledged attraction to the consecrated life. My experience began officially in the Summer of 2015. After spending about two months with them in Italy I came back to move into the Texas House for my year of preformation. In June of 2016 I moved to Rome where I study Philosophy and Theology while being formed as an Apostle of the Interior Life.
My desire is simple. I just want to be His.