Sister Kathryn Burt's Vocation Story
I was born on January 15, 1970, in Sioux Falls, SD to Clinton and Joan Burt, the youngest of four children. There is about a nine-year span between me and the other children and myself. I attended Catholic schools in Sioux Falls, SD through high school: grade school at Saint Lambert’s, junior high at Saint Mary’s, and high school at O’Gorman. I believe that I had one of the best educations possible.
I believe that throughout my life I had a particular calling, but I wasn’t sure how to name this, or what it was. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be in the circus and fly on the trapeze or be a clown. I do know how to juggle three balls! I also wanted to be a professional basketball player. Because I loved school and had such great teachers, I decided I wanted to teach in the elementary grades, however, God had other plans. I first entered the Air National Guard in 1988 in Sioux Falls. In the spring semester of 1989 I began college at Mount Marty starting in elementary education. After a semester as an elementary education major, it became apparent that I did have a love of children, but I did not believe I had the necessary skills to be a teacher. Having had the opportunity to work in a nursing home and work as a nursing assistant, I found that I had a love for the elderly and helping them meet their needs. These discoveries led me to change my major to nursing in the fall of 1989.
At Mount Marty College I had the opportunity to meet the Sisters at Sacred Heart Monastery, and met some extraordinary women living ordinary lives, focused on Christ and a life of prayer. It was entering into this relationship with the Sisters that helped me discover a possible invitation to the vocation of religious. Another important event in my life that help shaped my vocation is the summer I spent with my grandmother, who was dying. This experience brought me closer to God. The summer after I lived with my grandmother, I entered more fully into my faith life, regularly attending daily Mass with the Sisters. During my senior year, I again felt drawn to the possibility of religious life. I met with a couple Sisters and asked questions from time to time. I decided to work as a nurse first, in order to better discern, if I was called to religious life or simply did not want to leave the environment at Mount Marty College. After graduating in 1993 with a BS in nursing, I moved to Rochester, MN.
Before I left Mount Marty to go to Rochester I participated in a monastic experience. I remember parking in the student (Corbey) parking lot and walking over so no one would see my car at the monastery; since I didn’t want anyone to know I was thinking about it!
Throughout the next year in Rochester I kept in contact with the Sisters in Yankton. Among them were S. Corinne Lemmer, my nursing instructor, and S. Marietta, the Vocation Director at the time. I came back every month. I did live near the Franciscan Community in Rochester, but I felt more called to the Benedictine life, even though I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time. In Rochester I established some wonderful friendships, had a great career, and yet there was something I desired and was seeking.
After some time discerning, I decided to become a Sister, to give it a try, and I discovered it was a process, becoming a Sister. I moved back to Yankton, in 1994, where I entered Sacred Heart Monastery as a postulant, and made my novitiate year in 1995. Several thoughts were competing in my mind (e.g., the Sisters wouldn’t accept me into the community). It wasn’t until the time right before I made final vows, when I was walking along the Sorrowful Way, that I had an overwhelming feeling of peace, and just knew 100% this was the right choice. I made my first profession in 1996 and my final profession in 1999.
Community life and prayer are a couple of my favorite parts of Benedictine life. I live in an atmosphere where prayer is encouraged on a regular basis and God is the center of all decision-making. This idea for me and the rest of the community calls us to be a better group of people to live out God’s will. I know this helped me as I continued to pursue further education in the healthcare field, completing my MSN in 2003, and PhD in 2006, from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. One of my favorite lines, in The Rule of Benedict states that we all go together to Christ. This means that we are responsible to help each other in this monastic call. When I’m with the whole community, I can’t imagine what it would be like not to live in community.
Another part of Benedictine life, is applying The Rule of Benedict to my everyday experience. I specifically like the beginning, which says “listen with the ear of your heart.” The most important thing I tell my students is to listen. It is the most healing thing we do throughout our day in healthcare. I see this every day through: God’s voice within, through the bible, through other people, through the environment. Another part of the Rule I really appreciate is where it says “we are to be the first to show respect.” To me that means no matter how I’ve been treated or no matter what’s happened to me, I need to make the first move toward respect for the other.
Prayer and love keep me committed to my vocation. I would say now my vocation is very strong, though a few years ago I went through periods where that was tested to such a degree as calling it a crisis, where I needed to re-ask myself some very important questions. Preserving in faith came through, when I rediscovered three needs: commitment, love, and prayer.
In general the most exciting thing about religious life is the call to do God’s service and work, whatever that might be. That seems to be changing right now in our world. What our world needs more than anything now is God. Despite some of the changes around us, the Sisters have been around forever are a strong foundation, and maybe there won’t be the same locations or names, but they are the people who continue the tradition of prayer, and today it takes great courage to live our Christian values. I think we are a part of building up Christ’s church and that is an awesome thought!
Entering a religious community opens you up to a vast number of possibilities that you never knew where possible. That is what community does: it calls one to be the best that you can be and to serve God in a multitude of ways, and be aware of God in a multitude of ways and experiences. Amen!
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