Sunday, July 16, 2006 As a child in Wellesley, Katherine Twitchell knew she wanted to be a nun, but it was the 1960s and society was turning in other directions.
Even the family priest discouraged the idea.
So Twitchell, a deliberate woman who loves the elderly, instead chose a successful career as a nurse and nurse practitioner at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
She followed her priest’s advice and put away the idea of a religious life. It was easier after she witnessed how her aunt, a nun, had to reinvent her life after the Second Vatican Council removed many of the traditions of sisters, such as the habit.
"(Her aunt) had to find an apartment, clothes, a job. I thought, ‘Gee, that wasn’t appealing.’ I saw the difficulty she went through," Twitchell said.
"I thought, ‘Here I am: I’m single, I have an apartment, I have a better life and I’m doing God’s work (as a nurse).’"
Twitchell had friends. She dated. But during the past few years, she began spending more and more time praying in the Adoration Chapel at St. Patrick’s in Natick.
Hearing God’s call was scary at first.
"I was naturally questioning, doubting and certainly afraid of it because it is a bit counter-cultural," Twitchell said. "A lot of my friends are married. I thought I would get married, too."
But Jesus was more appealing than any man she met.
"I thought, ‘How can I love a man more than I love (Jesus)?’ That’s when I realized it was the love of God I’m after."
She was handed a copy of Visions Magazine, a catalog of sorts for would-be nuns, and an ad for the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm jumped out.
Twitchell spent a weekend with the sisters and has not looked back since.
"That is when I gave away all of my possessions, gave eight weeks notice, gave up my apartment. It was very freeing to do that," Twitchell, 49, said during a phone interview from St. Theresa’s Motherhouse in Germantown, N.Y.
"It was like jumping off a mountain. You’re jumping off the abyss of something you don’t even know. It’s letting go of everything in life and giving yourself over to God."
Last month, she was received into the order as a novice, donning her habit and embarking on years of training. The order of about 200 sisters is active, not cloistered, and its mission is to care for the elderly.
Twitchell said she realizes she will be one of only a few sisters supporting many older ones and hopes others will be inspired to vocation by her story.
"We don’t see people out there in habits. It was difficult to find spiritual directions," she said. "I do have hope. With Pope John Paul II, a new generation have been influenced by him."
Many in her local parish have told Twitchell that she renewed their faith in the Catholic church.
"When you finally find what it is you’re truly called to do, it’s joyful, you have a sense of peace. And people see that in you."