Search      Language 
     

Fall JOY (Article)
The Idle Apostle? (Article)
Vows versus Promises (Article)
The Examen Prayer for Teens – Part 1 (Article)
The Vatican Cricket Team Begins “Light of Faith” Tour (Article)

Becoming a Bride of Christ
U. S. A. | WHO WE ARE | NEWS
Jackie Beltowski talks about her call to the cloistered religious life of the Poor Clares

Jackie Beltowski with her Beloved
Jackie Beltowski with her Beloved

At her senior high school homecoming dance, a young woman gets a marriage proposal from the love of her life, to which she gives a resounding “Yes!” Who could imagine a more romantic scenario?

This is at least part of the story of the call to religious life of Jacqueline Beltowski.

Seventeen-year-old Jackie, as her family and friends call her, will soon be entering the cloistered religious order of the Poor Clare Colettine Nuns in Cleveland, Ohio, www.poorclarecolettines-cleveland.org.

She credits several spiritual encounters during her life that led her to this decision, including the “marriage proposal” above.

Jackie’s mother, Sharon, remembers her daughter’s excitement getting ready for the dance at Everest Collegiate High School in the fall of 2013.  “Girls like to get dressed up and go to dances, even when they don’t have a date,” said Sharon.

“I’ve always felt a bit out of place at dances and school events,” Jackie admits. She was planning to attend the senior homecoming dance with some of her female friends, as many of the girls do.

The dance took place at the Everest Girls’ School. (Everest offers single gender education for boys and girls.) All the buildings on the Clarkston, Michigan, campus have a chapel inside. The dance took place in the school cafeteria next to the chapel, and Jackie said she was aware of the nearby presence of her Lord.  She felt called to make a visit, but she wondered what her friends would think.

Eventually, she couldn’t resist and went to the chapel. Kneeling in prayer,
Jackie Beltowski
Jackie had her senior pictures taken in one of her favorite places, the chapel at St. Hugo of the Hills in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
she talked to Jesus and felt an amazing amount of peace.  She describes it as beautiful encounter.  “I was caught by surprise,” she said. “I remember saying, ‘Jesus, if you are you asking me to marry you, then I say, Yes!’”

Later she would write a letter to the Poor Clares’ Mother Abbess at the monastery, with whom she had been in contact, telling her about this experience.  Jackie said she feared she might have been imagining things. “The Mother Abbess told me she had no doubt He was calling me,” said Jackie.

“God works in many different ways for everyone.”

Before she received this response from the Mother Abbess, Jackie had another “encounter.”  Everest Collegiate holds “Prayer and Praise” sessions in the high school during the academic year.

“That day the teachers asked us if anyone had any prayer intentions, and I said I wanted prayer for my vocation,” said Jackie. “They prayed over me, and one of the teachers said the Holy Spirit kept repeating ‘Be not afraid. Step up. I go before you.’”

“I never had a message from the Holy Spirit before,” she said. “I realized He went before me in everything.  So I began the process to become a nun.”  She submitted her application to the Poor Clares.

Sharon recalls watching her daughter talking on the phone to the nuns. “When she talks with them, she beams,” she said.

After visiting the monastery in December, 2013, Jackie knew. “I couldn’t stop smiling. I fell in love with them.”

The Poor Clares in Cleveland are the first permanent members of the order in the US.  Jackie said there is a branch of the order in Michigan, but they do not wear habits.

“I like the idea of wearing a habit.  That is what I think of a nun – it’s a sign. I like the look of a habit. It’s the more traditional way, through the centuries.  It’s the symbolism of being the bride of Christ.”

There is a lot of emphasis in the Poor Clares on being a bride of Christ.

“During the transition ceremony from postulant to novice, you wear a wedding gown,” Jackie said with a look of someone anticipating her own ceremony. “I can’t explain it well – spiritually, there is so much peace and joy from this decision.”

A Choice among Many

How did Jackie come to discover the Poor Clares? She said she can’t remember what first attracted her, but back in 7th grade she was reading a Catholic mystery novel by Dianne Ahern called “Break in at the Basilica.” The novel talked about St. Francis of Assisi, and one of his protégés, St. Clare, who would later come to found the Poor Clares.

“I was attracted to St. Clare and her lifestyle of giving up everything to live a life completely for Christ in every way,” she said.

After she finished the book, she said she told her mom she wanted to be a Poor Clare.

While she was still in middle school, her family stopped to visit the nuns in Cleveland on the
Jackie with her family on vacation.
Jackie with her family on vacation.
way to a vacation in South Carolina.

“I liked seeing the sisters. You can’t go into their private area -- you are in front of a grill. I talked with them for about two hours. They told us about their lifestyle and what a day is like.”

Jackie also entertained the sisters a bit, showing off some of the fruit of her years of Irish dancing lessons. “They enjoyed watching – they don’t get to see that very often.”

Afterwards, Jackie said she has researched countless religious orders on the Internet, including the famous Missionaries of Charity, started by St. Theresa of Calcutta.  She considered becoming a missionary for awhile.  She also looked at the Dominicans in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and the Carmelite Order in Clinton Township.

“But every time I would read the Poor Clare rule of life I would get so much peace and joy,” she said. “My heart was touched.”

During her junior year of high school, she said she forgot about the importance of the cloister.  “I thought I wouldn’t want to pray all day.”

“She considered college – we believed she was too young and should get a degree,” said Sharon. “But after awhile we changed our minds.  We just knew the Beloved was calling her. She had to go.”

Jackie would discover the writings of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who received the apparitions from Jesus regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

“She had such love for Christ,” said Jackie. “Such an intimate, deep love.  I remembered that intimacy with Christ is possible in the cloister, and returned to thinking about that.”

“They take four vows – poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure,” she said of the Poor Clares. “They dwell in the house of the Lord. Praise, worship and prayer. This is their whole life.”

“The service they are doing for mankind is by going apart and praying for the world,” said Sharon. “In our world, the power of prayer is not valued.  But they take prayer seriously.  And they have stories of answered prayers and miracles.”

The Support of Her Family

Jackie has great support in her vocational choice from her family, including her mother
Jackie and her sister Callie
Jackie and her sister Callie
and father and three sisters.

Her mother agreed to Jackie’s being interviewed for this article, admitting her daughter is a shy person. “But I told her that it may be her cross to let people know this life is a possibility. To plant the seed.”

Jackie’s three sisters (her twin Callie, 16-year-old Grace, and Rachel who will turn 13 in July) have always been aware that Jackie was called to a different path in life than most.

“We were always asking each other if she should do this,” said Callie. “I thought, ‘How do you not see it?’ I’ve noticed it ever since she mentioned it in the 4th grade.  She will be a great nun.”

They remember fondly, when Jackie was in fourth grade while attending public school, that she chose to come to career day dressed in a nun’s habit.

Later her sisters and she would attend different schools. Jackie would choose to attend Everest Collegiate, and Callie stayed at Lahser public high school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

“Jackie hated public school,” said Sharon. “She was miserable. I thought, at first, she should bloom where she was planted.  And I would ask myself, ‘How can we separate them?’ But they are all different kids.” 

When the Beltowski’s found Everest Collegiate, they considered moving all the girls there.  Everest offers education from preschool through 12th grade on its Clarkston, Michigan, campus. 
“But Callie loved her marching band at Lahser, and Grace had some really good friends at her Bloomfield middle school.”

The family did send young Rachel to Everest for a year and a half.  But Sharon said her youngest daughter wasn’t fond of the long half-hour drive from where they live, and she enjoyed the fine arts program available to her at East Hills middle school. (Everest’s drama program currently doesn’t start until high school.)

“I’m not saying Everest is perfect, but I did have a lot more ability to be nurtured in my vocation there,” said Jackie. “I was kind of nervous to tell people about it. I’ve really wanted to be a nun all my life.  Lots of my friends at Everest just knew.  They said, ‘Oh that’s cool.  You have the call?’”

At Everest, the girls receive spiritual guidance from the consecrated women of Regnum Christi who teach there.  Everest is also the place where the young women in the Immaculate Conception program who are discerning a possible vocation to RC consecrated life go to school.

Jackie said they never tried to “recruit her” to their religious order. “They encouraged my vocation.  I could relate to them, in some ways.  They are directing their lives toward God.  They understand religious life. It is hard to understand if you don’t have a call.”

Megan Luttinen, one of the Everest students who graduated with Jackie in the 2014 class, was Jackie’s roommate when the seniors took their annual trip to the Holy Land during Holy Week 2014.

“Rooming with Jackie made me more in love with my faith, because she is so into hers,” she said.
Megan said the night before the students were to go to the Holy Sepulchre (where the sites of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection are reportedly preserved) the chaperones told them it was going to be an early morning.

“They said we were going to have to get up and be out of the
Jackie on a camel in the Holy Land
Jackie and Megan on a camel in the Holy Land.
hotel by 6 am.  Almost everyone in our group groaned. And I remember Jackie setting her alarm and being so ready to get up at 4:45 am. She woke me up and was literally dancing around the room, she was so excited to go to the Holy Sepulchre.”

Jackie’s sisters remember how she reacted during a recent annual youth conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville, an event they estimate draws about 2,000 young people.

“At the end of the final Mass, the priest asked all the young people to stand who were now receptive to a religious vocation, and a lot of people stood up, including Jackie,” said Callie. “It was interesting to see.”

Grace remembers during Eucharistic Adoration, everyone “experienced the Holy Spirit in a different way.  Jackie was so joyful, so happy to be with God,” she said.

Callie said, “The rest of us were sobbing, and Jackie was laughing.”

The Positive and Negative

Jackie’s siblings have witnessed both positive and negative reactions from others about Jackie’s vocation to religious life.

“The positive comments outweigh the negative,” said Callie. “My friends found it intriguing.”
Sharon said that when her friends, and even some family members, found out Jackie was considering becoming a nun, some would say, “You have to talk her out of that.”

Sharon admits she was worried Jackie would not be going to college, or getting any formal job training as a Poor Clare.

“We made her apply to colleges,” she said. “But Jackie said it didn’t feel right.”

Sharon said that after Jackie enters the cloister next year, she may still discern this is not for her. She will spend a year as a postulant, and then two years as a novice, and three years with temporary vows before taking her final vows.

“This is where He has led me so far,” said Jackie. “God calls when He wants.  We are not the judge.”

Responding to a common comment she gets, Jackie said, “In our world we rely so much on material things.  But you get so much joy and peace and clarity when you give up these things.

“I’m not throwing my life away or giving up everything.  I’m gaining everything.  I’m gaining God.”

A Day in the Life

Jackie said a Poor Clare’s day starts at midnight, with the office of readings and silent prayer.  Then they go back to bed.  Their day revolves around intervals of prayers, including perpetual Eucharistic adoration.

The sisters live totally off the alms and charity of the community in which they live, which also worried Sharon at first.

“They do sell rosaries in a small gift shop, and they used to make Eucharistic hosts, but it took away from their prayers, so they sold that business.”

“Their life is hard sometimes. As a mother, I am worried about that.  I worry about her health, what if she gets sick, needs to go to the dentist.”

“But the Poor Clares have a large number of donors. They are well taken care of.”

Family members also worry if Jackie will ever have any fun in her life. “Her dad’s sisters -- the girls’ aunts -- came with us on the visit we made in December of 2013,” said Sharon. “One of them, April, asked the sisters, ‘Do you guys ever order pizza?’”

“They said a local vendor often offers them pizza, which they accept,” said Sharon. “Their local community takes good care of them.”

Sharon remembers thinking, “Boy, do those ladies smile. And they all have beautiful skin.”

Sharon clarifies that it’s not fair to think all cloistered nuns are “strict.”

“They are happy. They joke and laugh.”

Jackie doesn’t know if any other young women will be joining the order at the same
Jackie in her prayer garden
Jackie in her prayer garden behind her house.
time with her.  “It is confidential,” she said. “But I will find out.”

What advice would Jackie give to someone who is discerning?

“Remember God is love and perfection,” she said. “Just keep repeating the phrase ‘Jesus I trust in you.’”

“Know that it’s hard, but it’s OK to be blind and unsure, because Jesus is leading you by the hand.”


PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-06-23


 
 


Follow us on:   
Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.


Do you wish to addBecoming a Bride of Christ to your favorites?
Yes   -    No