After spending nearly a decade in the banking industry, Sister Josephine (Toni) Garrett, C.S.F.N., BA ’03, began searching for ways to build upon her Catholic faith, and on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, she fostered a discussion on discipleship and discernment as she delivered the university’s annual Martin Luther King Day Symposium lecture titled “I've Been to the Mountaintop: Reflections on a Spirituality of Nonviolence and Inclusion.”
“I believe that God is leading me into a reflection on the family of God,” said Sister Josephine, a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in politics in 2003 from UD.
Two years after graduating from UD, Sister Josephine converted to Catholicism, though it wasn’t until some years later that she began discerning her vocation and began her formation with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In 2015, she professed her first vows.
“We believe that God lives in family, and His love came out of Nazareth and spread throughout the whole world to gather into one family of God,” she said. “This is the mission of Jesus: a mission of nonviolence and inclusion.”
During her initial formation, Sister Josephine believed her fellow sisters were angels, so she tried pretending to be one.
“Eventually I realized we were not angels,” she said. “But something very profound was happening within the convents and monasteries: people who didn’t specifically choose one another were living together, sharing life and sharing faith — and this was happening because of a deep conviction in the Gospel message.” She added, “If 15 women can live together, pray together, share meals, share lives, love one another and forgive each other ... then nonviolence, inclusion and peace are indeed possible in the world.”
“I would like to encourage students to take the opportunity to ask themselves: What is God calling me to do? How can I share the graces and gifts He is giving me in my UD education? How is what we learn in the classroom applicable in the world in which we live?” Finally, “How can it be applied in my life as a follower of Christ?”
Sister Josephine can testify to the impact of her UD education, found in her intellectual formation and in her introduction to the Catholic faith through UD’s Core curriculum and the university’s flagship study-abroad Rome Program.
“My UD education placed me on solid ground and helped me to be able to think critically, which is important in a culture where there are tons of messages that may sound good, but may not actually be good once some critical thinking is applied,” said Sister Josephine.
On campus is where she also discovered her love of community. She recalled happening across University Professor Louise Cowan one day following Mass at the Church of the Incarnation. “I told her how I was a UD grad, and how I converted to Catholicism after attending UD,” she said. “Dr. Cowan said to me, ‘Well, that’s not our intention, but it does happen.’”
Now Sister Josephine is dedicated to passing along these same gifts of discipleship and discernment that she has been afforded. “I would like to encourage students to take the opportunity to ask themselves: What is God calling me to do? How can I share the graces and gifts He is giving me in my UD education? How is what we learn in the classroom applicable in the world in which we live?” Finally, “How can it be applied in my life as a follower of Christ?”
As Martin Luther King stated in his final speech in 1968 titled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”: “I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.... And I've seen the Promised Land.”