Flowers one of Nazareth’s newest SCNs
Sr. Marie Flowers described herself as a “church nerd” growing up.
“I had always been very involved in the church,” she said. “I sang in the choir for 20-something years” and could recall hymns on the spot.
Still, Flowers’ decision to become a Sister of Charity of Nazareth took even her by surprise.
“I had gotten my master’s degree, I had a house, I was social worker, professionally licensed and living the single life and enjoying it,” Flowers said. “But I kept feeling like something was missing.”
According to The Record, an Archdiocesan news publication, Flowers was initially exposed to the SCNs in the 1990s while serving at a shelter for runaway teens in Florida. But then was not the time for her to join.
Flowers went on to have a professional career as a social worker, which would later include working with the Court Appointed Special Advocates.
But Flowers said the SCN encounter continued to impact her, and the process that led her to become an SCN candidate in 2008 began with a retreat at the Nazareth campus.
“I was really holding that off,” Flowers said, afraid at first to admit her calling. “But when I came here, I knew I was supposed to be here,” she said.
Flowers was met with several signs, she said, during that retreat. She was asked to interview an older sister about her life and Flowers was assigned to Sr. Michael Leo.
“My brother and my father are both Michael Leo,” she said.
But it wasn’t just the name that struck her. The sister was also older when she took vows and did so after leading a professional life, much like Flowers.
For Flowers, it was a place she felt at home and she continued to visit and go on retreats.
After organizing her finances and selling her home in St. Louis, Mo., Flowers moved to Louisville to live on her own for a year as she became a candidate.
In her second year of candidacy, she moved in with Sr. Mary Ellen Doyle, which was an experience all its own.
During her time as a novice, Flowers was based at Nazareth, but would drive to St. Louis every other week for classes with other women and men studying to prepare for vows.
“We ranged in age from 23 to 59,” and came from eight different countries and several states, Flowers said. “It was really intercultural, intergenerational. It was really an amazing program.”
The classes, she said, covered everything from communication, living interculturally, ecology, and the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
“They helped us to understand them and explore,” she said. “And how does it help us really to live this religious life, each one of the three vows.”
By 2014, Flowers had professed first vows. Two years later, in June of 2016, at age 49, Flowers professed final vows.
Her decision to become an SCN was met with mixed emotions by her family and friends.
“Some of my friends said ‘Oh, yeah, I could definitely see that for you,’” she said. “Other friends were shocked. My siblings were very supportive, and my mom and dad initially were not. They have come along. I think they needed to see me here; that I was happy and to know that this was a true calling for me.”
During her new life as an SCN, Flowers said she has been exposed to an entirely new world with new opportunity.
“I really have had a lot of opportunity to meet different people around the country and even internationally with my time in Belize,” she said. “It’s been an exciting time.”
And even despite a stage four cancer diagnosis last year, which required chemotherapy treatments, Flowers said she truly feels at home in her new community.
“It is a great life,” she said.
An extended family
While Flowers chose to become a sister, there are many other ways to be involved with the SCNs, such as being an associate member.
“Those are women and men who are committed to the mission and the ministry that we do,” Flowers said. “They make a volunteer commitment” and serve in different ways but do not take any vows.
A second way to be involved is as a lay mission volunteer, she said.
“That is really for folks who want to do something hands-on,” such as build houses, educate children and work, often overseas.
For younger generations, Charity Alive is also an option. The group for 18-30-year-olds allows young people to connect with the SCNs and spread their mission.
The SCNs also have a disaster relief program, which encourages emergency response around the country.