Woman's authentic nature revealed in motherhood, says Dominican sister

By Conor Gilliland

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Religious sisters and biological mothers alike note that Mother's Day offers a special occasion to reflect on the role of motherhood in our personal lives and in the life of the Church.

“Motherhood is woman's crowning glory,” said Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, “whether it is physical, spiritual, or both.” 

Sr. Joseph Andrew is the vocations director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Despite her calling to the celibate life, she sees her vocation, and the vocations of other religious sisters, as truly motherly.

“It is through the consecration of my vows that all the spaces inside my heart are available and ready to be filled with the sons and daughters God sends me.”

The “spaces” refer to what Blessed John Paul II called the “feminine genius” in which a woman “carries a space inside her for the other.” This, according to Sr. Joseph Andrew, is woman's greatest gift.

Janet Teran, who serves on the board of directors for national Catholic women's organization ENDOW, noted the significance of the “feminine genius” in her own life as biological mother.

She said that when her children experience frustration or pain, she can feel it in every “sinew” of her being.

The mother of two explained that some women “are afraid to be open to life because they are afraid something is going to be taken from them – that they're going to lose freedom, or some of the things they desire to do.” 

But, she added, “this is an absolute cultural lie.”

Far from losing freedom or desires of the heart, women become more fully who they are, and therefore more free, when they are open to life, she said. God “really expands your heart.”

“I have a greater capacity for motherhood.  But he does not leave that empty, he fills it with a great desire to care for humanity.”

Sr. Joseph Andrew similarly told EWTN News that today’s culture “fails, so frequently, from the gravitational pull of original sin and it hurts us the most when we fail to appreciate, respect and treat with dignity, the greatest gifts God has given us.” The sister added that, “among these greatest, I certainly hold motherhood.”

Both women pointed to their own mothers as exemplars of openness to life and to God's will.

“My mother was a saint!” Sr. Joseph Andrew said. “Her life made a completion – from her first 'yes' to her last, I never knew her to respond in any other manner to all God asked of her.” 

“And God did ask a lot of her,” the sister added, saying “her greatest dream of motherhood wanted its completion in being a grandmother.

“But that was not to happen as God would take this precious woman home after a 10 year martyrdom from four kinds of cancer.”

Teran also described her mother's faith as being the highest priority in her life. “She had 12 children, six of whom died upon delivery. I was the 10th.  So she was very open to life, and I am so grateful for that.”

Teran then spoke of her son Alan, 21, who is an aspirant to the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae – a community of consecrated laymen and clergy, called Sodalits, who dedicate their lives to full apostolic availability.

“We share a special sense of humor, and that has been a great loss since he left,” Teran stated. Letting go of her expectations for her son is happening gradually as he enters deeper into his vocation, but the result has been a “tremendous spiritual deepening.” 

“No matter how much I love him, God loves him more and God's will for him is always better,” she affirmed.

Both women noted that motherhood, in any sense, could not be adequately addressed without discussing the Blessed Mother.

Sr. Joseph Andrew recalled that “the One who fulfills our salvation was presented to us through a mother.

“It was the immaculate love of this young virgin whose purity lured Heaven to earth … and Divinity came to rest in our midst; tucked into the contemplative hold of the virgin’s womb.”

Paraphrasing St. Louis de Montfort, she continued, “if God wanted to come to us through this woman, then surely His favorite manner of us going back to Him is through this same woman, the 'mother' of us all.”

Teran echoed Sr. Joseph Andrew, noting that “Mothers love to talk about their children. To me, saying the rosary is like sitting in Mary's lap, listening to her talk about her Son.” 

Teran added that she connects the significance of praying the rosary to a phrase that defines the spiritually of her son's community, “Through Christ to Mary and through Mary more fully to the Lord Jesus.” 

Through this dynamic, Teran said she has come to understand and more fully participate in her own motherhood.

This Mother's Day Teran encourages mothers everywhere by underscoring that “all of heaven, the entire heavenly host, are helping we mothers.”

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