What is it like to be the mother of a sister?

When someone learns that our daughter is a Sister, he or she typically responds in one of two ways.  Most people, especially other moms, relate to the difficulty of being separated from their daughter.  They say something like, “Wow!  That must be so hard.  I don’t know if I could do that!”  The second response, which I hear less often, goes something like this, “Wow!  That must be such a blessing for your family!”

To be honest, it is both of those:  incredibly painful and difficult at times, but always, even in that loss, an indescribable blessing.   And as such, I have often pondered how my life as the mother of a Sister might draw me closer to the heart of Mother Mary, and how my life might even reflect hers in some ways, if by the grace of God, I can do this well. 

I begin by thinking about the Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38). Our Lady’s life was completely changed with her fiat when her life as the Mother of her Savior and ours began.  She was already holy, full of grace.  That was not quite true of me, but I was hungering for God in my own way. Newly married and fairly new to the Church, my life truly began with the conception and birth of our first child, Sarah.  I began to fall in love with God as I beheld our tiny child.  As she loved me unconditionally, I felt God’s love as never before.  As I loved and nurtured her, God healed me of many wounds, and I grew in awe of Him.  With her birth came the true birth of my faith.  Wanting to be the best mom I could be, I wanted her to know, love and serve the Lord.  Thus, I grew in the knowledge of my faith as I began to teach her.  God continued to bless us with six more beautiful children, and the journey continued. 

Now to focus on the Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52):  I relate to this story as well.  When Jesus was twelve years old, his parents had lost him on the way back from Jerusalem.  They found him after three days.  He was in the temple teaching, and everyone was amazed by his words.  But he went back to Nazareth, and was obedient to his parents.    Perhaps Jesus was already very capable of beginning his work.  But it wasn’t time.    How difficult it must have been for him to wait to begin his public ministry. And from this time, Mary held all this in her heart. 

Like Jesus, my daughter had to be in her Father’s house.  She loved the Lord from a very young age and began serving him in many ways.  By the time she was eleven, I knew in my heart that our Lord was calling her to a religious vocation.  As soon as she visited the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. for a young girls’ day, she knew.  She said she felt like she was “home.”  I, like Mother Mary, had to hold all this in my heart.  She didn’t talk about it often, and didn’t tell people outside the family, but she knew.  And as her mother, I knew as well.  Occasionally I thought about what this might mean to me personally, the losses I would have to suffer.  But mostly I was filled with awe that God was calling one of our daughters to this very special and important vocation. I know it was hard for Sarah to wait.  She prayed about when she should apply, and if she should attend Franciscan University for all four years.  After much prayer, she was obedient to what she believed the Father wanted. And as difficult as it was at times, she waited until after her college graduation. 

At the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2: 1 -11), we see our Blessed Mother’s influence on the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. From my own perspective as a mother, I see this as a mother’s little nudge. To me, it is as if she was saying to him, “It’s time.  I believe in you. You can do this.”  Jesus knows all and didn’t really need that nudge, but perhaps Mother Mary needed to give it.  Perhaps it was a gift from God to Mary to help prepare her heart for what was to come. She had to begin to let go of that life they had been living together, the quiet life of the Holy Family.  It was the beginning of a different way of life for both of them. So it was for us.  Mary told them to do whatever Jesus asks of them.  She tells us the same thing.  Do whatever Jesus asks.  The application process, the appointments, the packing, everything that had to be done in preparation for entering candidacy:  we were preparing our hearts for everything to change.  We were preparing for our daughter to do whatever God was asking of her. 

Like Jesus, our daughter had lived at home.  She had commuted to Franciscan.  This was not always easy for her, but she did it for us because we could not afford for her to live away.  And although she had studied abroad in Austria, and had been away for mission trips and summer work, she had been part of our home, our family life, and was truly leaving for the first time when she entered the Monastery. 

I will always remember the day Sarah entered the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R.  It was one of the happiest and yet most sorrowful days of my life.  If I may compare it to Good Friday, it was truly something like that for me.  I had to let go of my daughter so that she could go fulfill the Father’s will for her life, so that she could go serve him in complete and total abandonment of the world.  Of course, none of us dare compare our sacrifices to what our Lord has done for us, and we never could come close.  But since he called us to take up our cross and follow him daily, I do dare make some analogy here.  I felt like I lost my daughter that day. I felt like I stood with Mother Mary at the foot of the cross.   I truly mourned like never before.  No actual death that I had ever experienced came close to the grief I felt when we returned home that day without our daughter.  I sat at the kitchen table completely lost.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I cried easily for days, weeks, even months. I was lost. There is no other word to describe it besides grief. 

And then the joy of the Resurrection:  Christ lives!  My daughter lives.  Yes, she has a new life.  Our little family will never be the same as it was before.  But now I can honestly say, it is not only different but better.  One and a half years after our daughter entered as Sarah Kilonsky, we were waiting for the phone call to hear that she had been accepted as a novice and had been given her new name.  I waited as an expectant mother.  I waited like I had waited the first time: to meet my daughter.  Who would this new person be?  What would God name her?  And we got the call: Sr. Agnes Maria.

I praise and thank the Almighty God for he has done good things to me. 
-Shirley Kilonsky (mother of Sr. Agnes Maria)

You may also like


  1. Wow, thanks so much for sharing this special, personal experience! :)

  2. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful tale. Blessings!

  3. I met your daughter and Sr. Philomena Clare at an outing one evening. She is such a lovely person and so very sincere. God Bless you and Sr. Agnes Maria.


Powered by Blogger.