Journey to Sisterhood
“It was in the midst of absolute agony,” brought on by an allergic reaction, that Sister Carla Mae Streeter realized her primary intimacy was to be with God. She recounts the moment when she was wearing a yellow, laced and plaid hand-me-down dress during her confirmation ceremony as a young girl. It was wool and she was allergic, but a definite and clear recognition of her calling was evident within her consciousness.
Prelude to the moment during her confirmation, Streeter had been growing aware of the relationship one was capable of acquiring with the Divine. She notes two particularly important events that helped her come to this awareness. Both occurred during her childhood, and the first came on an afternoon like any other. She had developed the habit of sitting in the quiet of the church after school, and one day a boy - a sturdy and strapping eighth-grader - marched to the front of the sanctuary. Oblivious to her being there, he knelt down and began to pray. Carla Mae recalls that he must have been experiencing difficulties with his family, because he “poured his heart out,” as if talking to someone he absolutely knew and trusted. Carla Mae sat in the back of the church, fixated on the boy.
The second notable moment occurred when Carla Mae stumbled upon her father, a large and commanding man, kneeling in prayer. He was so deep in prayer that he, like the boy, was oblivious to her presence. Carla Mae began to realize that a relationship with God was real, that God was “a somebody” and not some great “power in the sky.” She wanted that relationship.
Answering the call
As the proverbial “ball” started rolling in her journey to sisterhood, Carla Mae recounts her haphazard discovery of a pamphlet about the Racine Dominicans featuring a picture of a nun tending to chickens. Being incredibly shy, the prospect of a life of tending to animals and far from the public eye felt like the perfect fit for Carla Mae.
Sister Carla Mae calls the rest of the story “a joke on me,” explaining that because the flyer was so old, the animals were long gone from the Racine Dominicans’ convent. Instead she found upon visiting, that the sisters were her parents’ elementary school teachers. This familiarity, coupled with the fact that Racine was the Dominican convent closest to her home in Milwaukee, made the Racine Dominicans, the first and last stop in her search for a community. She laughed as she recounted the irony of the fit: the girl, who was terrified of speaking; joined the Order of Preachers. To expound on the “joke,” Sister Carla Mae herself, became a teacher.
Teaching is where Sister Carla Mae found herself most energized. She started her teaching career with fourth graders in Saulk City, WI and proceeded to teach throughout the state and in Minnesota. As her life has unfolded, Sister Carla Mae has been a teacher, an administrator, a student, a college professor, a researcher, a writer, and a volunteer.
With a willing and open heart
As Sister Carla Mae examines the events in her life, she attributes her spiritual and educational progression to a series of ‘calls.’ People have continued to offer her opportunities saying “why don’t you…” and she has continually responded with a willing and energized heart.
Sister Carla Mae is currently writing two books. The first is an examination of consciousness and the “Foundations of Spirituality”, and the second is being co-written by Streeter and a female Rabbi, featuring a discussion on “feminist interfaith.”
Sister Carla Mae lives and works in St. Louis, Missouri. She will be on sabbatical from Aquinas Institute this fall when she intends to examine the work of Jewish-Catholic sister, and holocaust victim, Edith Stein.
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