In 1992, our family adopted its newest member, Sister Martha Conrad…but she is not Sr. Martha to us; she is simply Grandma Marty.
How does a Roman Catholic Nun become a grandmother of nine living children and spiritual mother to their parents? By God’s great mercy and through His infinite love.
Sr. Marty (as she is affectionately known) had been a religious sister for many years. I will not share her fascinating story at present, it alone would make for compelling reading. Instead, I will share with you a few of her thoughts regarding her vocation and the unbelievable way that our Lord gave her a most beautiful reward for her years of faithful service.
Sr. Marty received the call to enter religious life when she was very young, and though she always felt she would have many children, she never repined her decision to enter a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. For many years she faithfully served our Lord in many capacities : teaching in earlier years and heading a very large and effective outreach ministry in southeastern Kentucky for the last couple of decades. During all this time, Sr. Marty watched her many friends marry and have children. She participated with great love and fervor in the lives of her many nieces and nephews, as well. She observed the joys and sorrows associated with raising a family and still never regretted her vocation.
Years went by and Sr. Marty now observed a change. Her friends had shifted roles from parents to grandparents. As she observed the sheer joy in the lives of her “grand parenting” friends, her heart was stirred by a longing she had never felt before. In longing, she spoke out loud “Lord, I don’t have any grandchildren…I want grandchildren!” Sr. Marty has stated that she spoke these words without awareness…they just came out. There was a real confidence within her that our Lord could truly make this happen, yet she put it out of her mind.
One beautiful spring morning in 1992, a sweet seven year-old girl saw a lovely lady across the crowded school gym where we spent our fellowship time after Mass. Elizabeth was drawn to the lovely lady and falling down on one knee while grasping both work-worn hands in her own she piped in her lovely, little voice: “You look like you would be a great grandmother…would you be my grandmother?” Sr. Marty was stunned! Had this precious child actually uttered these words? She had! Sr. Marty declared her emphatic “Yes!” with all her heart and asked Elizabeth to point out her parents.
A few days later, a very surprised mother received a call from this sweet soul. I was not the least surprised that Elizabeth had done this, her heart was so full of love and affection. From that point on Grandma Marty has been a part of our family, and in so many ways, became a spiritual mother to me. We have wept together, laughed together and shared so many of the precious joys that a biological mother and daughter would share. She has helped me to grow in my vocation, encouraged me in my faith and remains an example of beautiful womanhood. I can’t imagine not having her and it seems as if she has always been here. Baptisms, Confirmations, First Holy Communions…you name the sacrament; she has been there! Christmas, Easter, St. Valentine’s Day, birthdays…name the holiday; we’ve shared it with her in so many joyful ways.
Grandma Marty will tell you that our family has been the most perfect answer to her prayer, but, the truth is…she is the answer to OUR prayer. A prayer we had not yet uttered and yet God in His infinite wisdom answered in the most incredible way possible.
We have moved to another state and Grandma Marty is still in Kentucky, ministering to the poorest of the poor. We miss the impromptu visits, breakfast after Mass, coloring Easter eggs and just the simple knowledge that she was so close by. God be praised for His wisdom in putting us together as “family”…not even the miles can separate hearts joined in love!
A nun who had never married or had children became a grandmother, and by proxy my mother…”with God all things are possible.”