By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — “I’m finished, but I am just starting,” Sister M. Anthony Worrell said of taking her final vows with Franciscan Sisters of Christ the Divine Teacher. She was referring to her seven-year journey from postulancy to final vows.
“It has gone so fast, said Sr. Anthony, who took her finals vows Aug. 2 at St. Alphonsus Church on the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels. She walked in the procession wearing her traditional black habit and a crown of white flowers. She said the crown represents being a bride of Christ. Typically, the crown is made of white roses with thorns. The thorns are usually left on, she said, to represent the pain of Christ’s sacrifice. But because the Franciscan order is poor, less expensive white flowers were chosen. Her parents, John and Connie, walked in with Sr. Anthony and sat with her during Mass.
Following the homily and in front of the congregation, Mother Susan Rueve asked Sr. Anthony several questions of examination. Sr. Anthony responded with resounding “yeses,” after which the Litany of Supplication was sung by her parents.
As Mother Rueve sat in the sanctuary, Sr. Anthony knelt before her to profess vows and to sign her vows document. Father Paul Appel, celebrant of the Mass, blessed Sr. Anthony’s ring. Mother Rueve said, “Dearest daughter, receive the ring that marks you as the bride of Christ. Keep unstained your fidelity to your bridegroom, that you may one day be admitted to the wedding feast of everlasting joy.”
Following the Mass, and with tears in her eyes, Sr. Anthony reflected on her journey to religious life.
She grew up as a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport. She attended John F. Kennedy Catholic School through sixth grade, then attended Wood Junior High and Davenport North High School. She went on to St. Ambrose University where she studied physics. She enrolled in graduate school, but things changed.
“I was in my late 20s and had been away from the church for many years when I made the decision to come back to Mass, the sacraments and the Eucharist. At the time I had no, and I mean no, thought of religious life.” Her calling, she said, was like that of St. Paul. “Jesus had to kind of knock him upside the head to get his attention. Well that’s kind of how it happened for me.”
When she realized that God was calling her to be a religious sister, she approached one of the priests at her parish, Father Scott Lemaster. He asked her calmly what she wanted for her life. “In my blubbering I think I said, ‘I want to become a religious sister.’” Fr. Lemaster handed her a slip of paper with the phone number of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the Divine Teacher. “That’s it. I did not look at any other order. God made it very easy and very clear for me to see where he wanted me to go to fulfill my vocation.”
Connie Worrell said she never dreamed her daughter would be a religious sister. “This all came about after the death of my father. She was ready to go to school in Minnesota. But she found something better and we are all so happy.” John Worrell said the celebration of his daughter’s final vows was “marvelous.”
Mother Rueve said it is “always a joy” to have a woman take this final vow. Referring to Fr. Lemaster’s homily, she said, “Father said it best, ‘I have found something better’” in responding to the call to Christ. “Sr. Anthony is so happy. So is her family. This is a like a wedding. To lay people, the vows are until death do us part. Our vows are in death we unite (with Christ).”
On Aug. 11, 2009, Sr. Anthony entered postulancy. On Aug. 2, 2010, she entered the novitiate, followed by first vows in 2012, renewed profession of vows for three years, and final vows in 2016. “We have the best son-in-law by having Christ in our family,” Connie said.