Adrienne Rolwes is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi from the St Louis area, currently serving as national vocation director. She recently sat down and answered some questions about her vocation.
Can you give us a little background on your family in St Louis and how you were involved in the Movement and the School?
We have an extensive family. My grandparents have 15 children and most of their children have large families. I’m the oldest of 10 children. My dad builds homes and my mom stayed home to take care of us, but she re-entered the work force now that we’re grown up. We have 112 first cousins and I’ve lost track of the next generation, but I think there’s over 90. My grandparents have over 200 direct descendants.
My grandfather met the Legion in 1991. When he heard about their schools, he was struck by them and wanted to bring them to St Louis for his grandchildren and for many other families. He founded the Gateway Academy when I was in 6th grade with a group of other laymen, so I went there until I graduated. During that time I met a lot of Legionaries, Consecrated Women and RC missionaries, and Regnum Christi became my family.
Did you join the consecrated women right out of High School or did you go to college first?
I didn’t join right after high school. I spent my freshman year at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and while I was there I got even more involved in the Regnum Christi because I was surrounded by many wonderful young women who had been RC missionaries, or had gone to the Pre-candidacy at Immaculate Conception Academy. My girlfriends were all in the movement. Following their advice, I decided to give a year as an RC missionary. I went to Rhode Island for that year, and I stayed there to become consecrated. I never even went to my missionary destination.
So you went there for the RC missionary summer training and instead realized your vocation to the consecrated life?
Yes, that’s correct.
What helped you find your vocation during that summer?
Through Gateway Academy I met Jesus, especially Jesus in the Eucharist, and developed a personal relationship with him as I was growing up. I had been at Franciscan for a year and immersed in the Franciscan Spirituality so when I got the consecrated women’s formation center, I had a sense of coming home, of encountering the Regnum Christi spirituality which I’d grown up with all around me once more. It was also a moment to rediscover my relationship with Christ: from when I was in 6th grade I’d decided to give my life to him but as I got older and discovered boys, that went on a back burner. I think I’d been running away from my true self for a long time. So, when I got there, I re-encountered Christ. I realized I’d always been in love with him and there couldn’t be anyone else for me.
Was there a specific moment or more of a process of falling back in love?
There were a few moments where it was pretty obvious he was trying to bring up the question again, certain stories or experiences revealed things that only God could know would touch me. But I guess the most specific moment was on our 8-day spiritual exercises as missionaries at the end of our summer course, which we did with all the consecrated women and the candidates for consecrated life. On that 8-day retreat it became so obvious to me. I really don’t need anyone else, I’m so happy with Jesus. That was the opportunity the Holy Spirit took to shed light on my whole life. I realized I had been running away from what I most wanted.
Did you give up anything to join the consecrated women, beyond your degree at Steubenville?
At Steubenville the Eucharist is everywhere. Especially during Lent that year I’d resolved that every time I walked by the dormitory chapel I’d stop and make a visit: I ended up making 5 or 6 visits a day. Through that contact with the Eucharist, I think the Holy Spirit was making me restless vocationally. When I started to get restless, I started bargaining with God. “I’m pretty sure you don’t want my life, you just want a year so I’ll give the missionary year and that will satisfy this restlessness.” I always wanted to have lots of children. I would also bargain with him that I was going to grow up and have 12 kids – 6 Legionaries and 6 consecrated. Now I have far more spiritual children than that.
I told God, “If you open all the doors, I will give a missionary year.” I talked to Franciscan and they said they’d hold my scholarship. My mom, who had been against it a year before, gave me permission. The doors flew open.
The only thing that bothered me was that I had a really serious boyfriend. We really wanted to get married right after college, and this would put that back a year or two. When I did feel called, leaving my boyfriend was probably the most difficult part. Leaving that relationship was tough because he had a place in my heart, even though I knew I was called and was happy to join the consecrated women. It was very, very difficult to lose him.
Were there any other key moments in discerning your vocation?
That one moment on the retreat when I saw that I really wanted God above all else was such a before and after moment. It was kind of like my whole life flashed before my eyes and I saw all the things pointing me this way, showing me that this is what I was made for. I don’t think this is normally how God works, but for me it was.
After that, I couldn’t see anything else the same way, and I knew I’d be lying to myself if I ever tried to go back. I found a lot of peace, joy and happiness in that, even with the grief of leaving my boyfriend and my family.