An Uncertain Path for Olympians … and Discerners

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

Several of us have been following the Olympics every night. What an inspiring show! These elite athletes have trained and practiced their sport most of their lives and are at the top of their career. They are amazing.

Yet, the athletes – as all of us – are subject to variables they cannot control. They must face uncertain weather conditions and the potential for disaster at the beginning of every event. Their performance can be completely derailed – and their career ended – by a simple miscalculation as they battle through unexpected rain or blinding snow.

The point is, the athletes – despite their preparation – are not in control. After the unexpected happens, they are left without an easily discernible path. Some will try again while others will make career changes.

Isn’t that like all of us? We think we know what we’re doing and where we’re going until one day, the unexpected happens. We lose a job. We don’t get into a program we counted on. We don’t feel satisfied anymore.

These crossroads are important in our discernment. Pay attention! Listen deeply! God may be calling you in another direction.

I had discerned a religious vocation in my 20s, but had put it on hold – permanently, as far as I was concerned – because I was happy in my career as a teacher. I was active in my parish. I had my own place and routine and friends. Then, at 36 years old I suddenly felt … uneasy. Something was nagging at me.

Turned out, it was God.

I restarted my discernment and found my home with the Benedictine Sisters in Rock Island, Ill.

I’m still a teacher, but have my own family watching for me to get home at night in time for Vespers and dinner together. It’s a wonderful life … worth the discomfort I felt when I didn’t know what was next for me. Worth the anxiety of uncertainty that dogged me.

We are totally dependent on God. If we are honest, we not only admit that, we take the steps to find out what God wants of us. Take the first step today. Contact me at, and let’s talk.

It’s time to let God lead you home.

One thought on “An Uncertain Path for Olympians … and Discerners

  1. Hello Sister Stefanie,
    I love reading your story. I have met the sisters at Rock Island when I was on retreat a few years ago. What a special and amazing group of women.

    We have Benedictine Sisters in Mt Angel Oregon, about a hour away form Portland. I will be visiting in a week on my 2nd retreat with them. It’s wonderful to spend a few days in such a peaceful setting. I can understand why you would choose this lifestyle.

    Many Blessings,



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