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From the Stage to the Altar
CANADA | MEMBERS | TESTIMONIES
How consecrated woman Siobhan O’Connor found her true calling in two simple words: “Marry Me.”

siobhan oconnor
Siobhan (pronounced Shi-vawn) O'Connor

By Siobhan O’Connor

Amid the frosty swirls of slush and ice, we hailed a cab at the hotel and climbed in.  The driver didn’t speak as he drove us at high speed though every major intersection.  I felt I was turning green although my mom seemed pretty calm.  After the long train ride from my hometown we were finally in Manhattan, and I was about to audition for the drama academy of my dreams. 

A handsome twenty-something with a booming voice emerged joyously from the audition room as I sat mentally reviewing my lines in the small corridor of the huge skyscraper.  Knowing it was only a matter of minutes before I would be called, I got up and paced slowly over to the closed door.  My eye caught the brochure for the Academy in London, England lying on a small desk.  I flipped it open, anxiously scanning the pages for some inspiring line that might make my stomach stop churning. I read about the founder and the famous actors who had attended in past years.  Then I saw the mission statement: At the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, we see acting as a vocation… Vocation.  The word in all its impact suddenly came crashing down on me.  The rest of your life.  Married to your profession.  Bound by its demands.  All of you.  Could I really do that?  Could I be totally dedicated to my career?  Before I could answer my own question, the white door opened. An older man’s voice with a crisp British accent sounded my name:  “Miss O’Connor?  Won’t you come in?”

In a daze, I entered the room and shut the door behind me.  My stomach was beyond churning now.  My mind was in a whirl as tried to perform my favorite comedic monologue.  But trying to be funny when you feel like screaming is hard.  Why did I feel like this?  Why did this whole experience taste like week-old bread when it was supposed to taste like champagne?  I had been waiting for thirteen years for this; years of acting lessons, breathing techniques, dance classes, drama festivals, four years of university, opening and closing nights, the thrill of making an audience laugh out loud or cry uncontrollably, all the efforts and sacrifices I had made, including the time I fought a  fever and kept up with a traveling show… all of it was losing flavor by the second.  After the comedic monologue came the dramatic piece from Macbeth.  Even though I loved it, I no longer felt passionate about it. 

At last, I was finished. The auditioner invited me to sit down before a long thin desk covered with papers and water bottles.  Clearing a space between us, he looked at me intently as he asked me questions about my plans, my interests and my goals if I were to enter the Academy in England that fall, only two short months away.  I stuttered and stammered my answers like I was 6 years old again.  Finally, the question came that I will never forget.

“Miss O’Connor, if you don’t get into the Academy this year, what will you do?”

Swallowing hard, I looked him in the eye. “I don’t know,” was all I could reply. 

I don’t know. There was something going on inside my heart that I needed to deal with.  Something that had started two years before when I experienced, for the first time in my life, the joy of being Catholic at World Youth Day in Denver, with Pope John Paul II, something that perhaps was more important than my acting career... was that possible?

A Deeper Call

Providentially, I did not make it into the acting school of my dreams.  Instead, God led me to pursue a Master’s degree in education at Franciscan University of Steubenville.  That something that had started at World Youth Day led me to break from a party lifestyle with a general confession of my whole life.  That something pursued me at every turn, through great friends, daily reception of the Eucharist, spiritual direction, and even a persistent roommate who somehow got me to join her at a discernment retreat.  It did not matter that I told her and anyone else who asked me if I was thinking of a vocation that I was not interested in religious life.  I wasn’t.

That all changed the night I heard a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi speak on campus.  I don’t even recall exactly what she said.  All I know is that from the moment she stood up in the crowded room, full of eager young women who were all thinking God was calling them to some kind of dedicated life, my life suddenly became charged with purpose.  I walked out of there thinking, Missionary work, helping people find deeper meaning in life, teaching the Catholic faith... that is something worth dedicating your life to.

I began to sense a deeper call.  What unsettled me during my acting audition now grew louder every time I went on a date, or to a party.  The only time I felt any real peace was in weekly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  One night, with so many thoughts of my future whirling through my mind, I decided to ask God what he wanted of me.  Nothing yet had clicked inside; I still did not feel strongly about any career, or any person.  Marry Me.  All of a sudden, I heard Jesus speaking clearly to me in my heart, asking me to be his bride.  Startled, I fled out of the adoration chapel, leaving him without an answer.

I graduated a few months after that experience.  I had decided that I was going to be a missionary for one year, and I was eager for adventure in some exotic land.  My mom and I drove down to Rhode Island for my month-long training program.  Plunging into an intense schedule of life, including a 6:00 am wake up call, daily prayers and Mass, talks, basketball games, and a host of other activities I had never done before, I felt strangely at home.  Three days into the program, I could avoid Christ’s gaze no longer.  He deserved an answer one way or another.  Marry Me.  Would I be his bride?  Gazing up at the crucifix that hung before me, I realized that I was made for this spirituality and this lifestyle even though it was demanding things of me I didn’t think I was capable of.  The moment I said yes, I felt peace flood my soul like never before. Twelve years later, I still feel his grace.

My acting teacher used to tell me, “You can’t give it if you don’t have it first,” meaning that if I did not visualize what I was portraying I would never convince an audience.  I was a cradle Catholic who never really knew what being Catholic was all about.  But when I finally had the courage to say yes to my vocation, I discovered the secret to help others discover real happiness, a deeper meaning to their lives, and God’s personal love for them: Jesus Christ.  And He is someone worth dedicating your whole life to.

Siobhan Marie O’Connor grew up in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.  She was consecrated on August 29, 1997.   She holds a B.A. in Dramatic Literature and a Masters of Science in Education.  She currently serves as principal at Immaculate Conception Academy in Wakefield RI.  She can be reached at soconnor@inteducators.org.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2010-07-06


 
 

Related links

Official web site of the Vatican.
Legionaries of Christ
For Your Vocation
Ancora
Mater Ecclesaie College


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