How Sister Charlotte said "Yes"!

Sister Charlotte Sonneville, OSB, reflects on her younger life as a single woman, and later as a Benedictine Sister in this article. We hope it inspires you!

As a child, I attended the Benedictine Sisters’ St. Mary’s School in Moline. I loved to stay after school and help clean the blackboards, sort papers, or run errands. I liked being with the Sisters and was curious to learn what they were really like. Was it the habit that made them seem different? Or was it something deep inside that you had to get to know?
I loved their laughter, their sense of humor, their kindness and gentleness. Sisters Gregory and Imelda were two of my favorites. Even though I loved to dance and sing and began to be attracted to boys, deep down, I wanted to be like those Sisters who taught me so much and made me feel good about myself.

I attended St. Mary’s Academy in Nauvoo throughout my high school years. I met girls from all over the country and had great experiences in drama, music and sports. Like many of my friends, I began dating and looked forward to my summers at home. I felt pulled in two directions as to what I wanted to do in life. Should I enter the community, or attend college, date and perhaps marry?

I received a scholarship to Marycrest College at the end of my Senior year, so I thought that would give me four more years to decide. I knew that I loved the Sisters in Nauvoo, but I wanted to be sure that I planned to enter the community because that is what God was calling me to do, and not just out of an emotional attachment to my teachers.

My roommate and best friend, Mary Jane Wallace, told me just before graduation that she planned to enter the community in August. I cried, partially because now I was not certain that I wanted to wait four years and be separated from her and partially out of joy for her. She seemed so certain and so happy and at peace!

I went home, registered for school and applied for a job as a bookkeeper at John Deere & Company. I started work the next day. Three weeks later, a phone call came from Sister Donna Hefner in Nauvoo asking me to be her maid-of-honor for reception into the Novitiate.

During the reception, I was filled with an overwhelming sense that this is where God was calling me to be. I felt that I could never be happy until I said “YES.” I entered the community on November 1st along with 3 other young women.

Looking back on my life here, I realize the reasons I have stayed are the reasons that attracted me to religious life in the first place:

1. I came seeking God in and with this particular monastic community who loved each other and enjoyed what they did.

2. I was attracted by a balanced life of prayer, work and leisure.

3. I have felt blessed with wonderful opportunities to grow in my appreciation of Sacred Scripture, the Liturgy, as well as great professional training as a teacher, religious educator, musician and counselor.

4. I have had a variety of opportunities to serve God as a music teacher, an elementary and high school teacher, a coordinator and founder of a Religious Education Center, a director of a large community food pantry, a pastoral associate in several parishes as well as directing retreats, Bible study programs and other adult religious education programs. Now I continue to serve as Director of Benet House Retreat Center here at our Monastery in Rock Island, as well as Liturgist and organist for our community.

My Sisters and I welcome you to share our joy and sense of purpose as Catholic Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery. Contact our Vocation Director, Sister Bobbi Bussan at (309) 283-2300 or for more information. We look forward to meeting you!

2 thoughts on “How Sister Charlotte said "Yes"!

  1. Cathy Roszhart, SFO

    Dear sister Charlotte,
    Thank you for sharing your faith journey with us. I enjoyed reading this article and also spending last weekend at the monastery getting to know you better with the group from Bloomington-Normal.
    May God bless you always. Peace and all good.


  2. Sr. Charlotte,
    Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for your wisdom and inspiration in the retreat this past weekend. You were so gracious to our group. Benedictine hospitality at its finest. Many blessings in this new year!


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