Though she felt the nudge throughout her life, Laura Young hoped there would be a clear sign from God to enter religious life. Finally, she chanced upon a billboard while on a nine-day discernment weekend in the Bronx, which read, “You need to make a decision.”
“In that moment I realized that God gave me the gift of free will to make the choice to enter, or not,” Young said. “I realized my inaction was actually the action I was taking, and it was kind of like sitting in the mud. But I didn’t want the religious life chapter to be closed.”
On September 8, Young will enter as a postulant for the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hampden, Conn., a religious order with an active ministry founded in Italy in 1894 by Blessed Clelia Merloni.
Over the last three years, Young taught fourth grade at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School (OLA) in Columbia.
“Laura is a very kind, compassionate and faith-filled teacher,” said Amanda Young, principal of OLA. “We were so blessed to have been a part of her journey in life. During her time at OLA, every moment of her day was filled with her faith and love for God. We will truly miss her here, but we know that the next part of her life’s journey is extremely important as she answers God’s call.”
Before her tenure at OLA, Young taught special education at a school in Virginia as well as emotional and life skills support for the Intermediate Unit in Lancaster and Lebanon. From Colchester, Conn., Young received a bachelor’s degree from Lebanon Valley College in early childhood and special education, and a master’s degree from Messiah University in curriculum and instruction.
Several years ago, Young explored different religious orders and made a spreadsheet of them. Later, she brushed it off and began dating while continuing with her teaching career. But last summer, Young attended a virtual retreat on religious vocations where she felt God’s call anew.
Though she visited with several groups online, the mission of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus resonated with her because of its focus on serving others.
“The Apostles’ charism and way of life drew me,” she said. “The foundress, Mother Clelia, had a motto that the sisters follow, which inspired me: ‘The love of Christ impels us.’ Their mission is to go out and share that love.”
Young spent nine days visiting the order in June, where she explored the Apostles’ ministries, which range from education and administration, pastoral and diocesan ministries, health care, social services, human resources and evangelization.
“I’m most excited about how free and open I can be to serving God in such a wide variety of ministries,” she said. “I love teaching and volunteering now, so I’m ready to go wherever God will lead me next to serve.”
Young will wear professional clothes until Oct. 16, the Feast of Mary Magdalene, when she will receive her postulant clothes, a black skirt and white blouse. She will be a postulant for two years, followed by a novice and juniorate, and eventually profess final vows after nine years as a religious.
Young will start her postulancy serving in campus ministry at Sacred Heart Academy, a high school adjacent to the Hampden convent. She also will take classes on the Bible and on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and live in her own room on a wing of the convent with a few other sisters.
Young said it will be challenging to leave her church community and friends behind, but that she is excited for the change and newness.
“I was wrestling, thinking that everything in my life right now is so good, is going so well; my friendships, my teaching job, my church community and my family,” she said. “But I am consoled knowing that I am not running away from something, I am running to something.”
By Mariah Chuprinski, Special to The Witness