|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.
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.
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.
couldn’t resist and went to the chapel. Kneeling in prayer,
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,
|Jackie had her senior pictures taken in one of her favorite places, the chapel at St. Hugo of the Hills in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.|
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,”
“God works in many different ways for everyone.”
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
“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
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
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
“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.|
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.”
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.”
discover the writings of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who received
the apparitions from Jesus regarding the devotion to the Sacred
“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.”
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
“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|
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.”
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.)
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?’”
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
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.
Jackie made me more in love with my faith, because
she is so into hers,” she 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 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
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
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.”
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.”
she was worried Jackie would not be going to college,
or getting any formal job training as a Poor Clare.
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
“I’m not throwing my life away or giving up
everything. I’m gaining everything. I’m gaining God.”
A Day in the
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
“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.”
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.”
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 behind her house.|
time with her. “It is confidential,” she said. “But I
will find out.”
What advice would Jackie give to someone who
“Remember God is love and perfection,” she said. “Just
keep repeating the phrase ‘Jesus I trust in you.’”
it’s hard, but it’s OK to be blind and unsure,
because Jesus is leading you by the hand.”