joAnnMarkBy Sister JoAnn Mark, ASC

Over my life as a Catholic sister, I’ve said “yes” to new opportunities and places to serve God with a fair amount of regularity. These decisions come slowly, though, after I’ve asked God, “What is it that you want me to do?”

That question has led me to say “yes” to teaching English to members of religious communities in Bucharest, Romania and to our sisters and candidates in Dodoma, Tanzania; and to refugees in Benito, Texas. It led me to say “yes” to a request to establish and staff the Office of Consecrated Life for the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb., and to be academic dean, then vice president at Brescia College in Owensboro, Ky., and to establish a four-year degree program in computer science at St. Clare College in Clinton, Iowa.

I know I am being asked to respond to God in a new or different way when I experience a certain inner restlessness.

As I pray with what God is asking of me, I trust that God will let me know when the next challenge arrives. This doesn’t induce anxiety. I simply trust in God and seek to be open.

In late 2014, I was asked to consider becoming executive director of the Partnership for Global Justice, which required moving from my home and work in Wichita, Kan., to New York City. I gave God all my excuses for not wanting to accept. I didn’t want to move to New York and the organization’s future seemed uncertain.

But then, I considered the Gospel readings that Advent, which reminded me that Mary and Joseph didn’t know what was coming, and yet, they said “yes” to bringing Jesus into the world. I knew then that I needed to say I was willing to be placed before PGJ’s board as a possible executive director.

When considering any change in position, I try to:

  • Discern whether I have the ability to meet the responsibilities. At times I think I do not have those abilities, but others see that I do and move my application forward. What carries me forward in those situations is my conviction that “All things work together unto good for those who love God,” (Romans 8) and my trust that if it is God’s work, it will be successful, but not necessarily in the way I expect. It has also been my experience that wherever I go, I find individuals who are friendly and helpful.
  • Remember that God has blessed me with gumption, a spirit that enjoys challenges, a mind that can learn, and an ability to adjust to new situations.
  • Be deeply grateful for the gifts that were given me by God and nourished by my parents and further shaped by my sister community. All of them have been part of my making decisions and of my living into the decisions I made.