By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Sister of St. Joseph the Worker Cecilia Ross, who recently professed first vows, has a message for anyone discerning a call to the priesthood or religious life: give it a chance.
Sister Ross, 23, said in a phone interview last week that too often young people think they need to know the direction their lives are heading at an early age. Thinking this way, she said, can be problematic. Listening to a potential call and giving it a chance is the only way to know if God is calling you to consecrated life, she said.
“It’s important for young people to make the decision to try it and to not be afraid,” she said.
Sister Ross, who grew up Sarah Ross in a large Catholic family that was dedicated to living their faith, has been in discernment with the sisters for several years and worked at a doctor’s office during part of that time.
The process began when she graduated from high school. It took time — time for her to mature and gain some practical skills, she said. But it’s one she’s glad she started.
She believes one really can’t know what religious life is going to be like unless you give it a chance and spend time with a religious congregation.
“When you enter postulancy you are not under any obligation,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for personal growth. Even if you end up concluding that religious life is not your vocation, nothing is wasted.”
Sister Ross’ interest in religious life began when she was 13 or 14 years old. Even though she had never met any women religious, she was intrigued by the idea of religious life.
“I was always inspired by the lives of saints, especially St. Therese the Little Flower, and other saints who were religious,” she said. “They were really all I knew about religious life.”
Sister Ross said her mother and step-father, Marcia and Paul Gilbert, encouraged her curiosity and that of her six siblings. Sister Ross’ brother, Daniel, is in seminary for the Archdiocese of Louisville at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.
“My parents, and mom especially, always taught us how important the faith was. They always encouraged me to follow my vocation and supported it.”
The Gilbert family was honored last year by the Knights of Columbus. They were named the Knights’ “International Family of the Year.” (The Record featured the family in a story on August 30, 2012.)
Sister Ross grew up in Maryland and Northern Virginia until 2002 when her family moved to Campbellsville, Ky., and joined Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
Throughout high school her thoughts of religious life continued to grow stronger so she approached Father James Bromwich, who was her pastor at the time, to seek advice.
He encouraged her to meet with the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker at a vocational day the sisters held at the facility they operate, Taylor Manor Nursing Home in Versailles, Ky.
“I knew I was interested but I didn’t really know what religious life would be like,” she said.
To find out, Sister Ross visited the sisters’ Motherhouse in Walton, Ky., several times her junior and senior year of high school.
Sister Cecilia said she was initially attracted to the community, which is located about 20 miles south of Cincinnati, because of its size.
“We are a smaller community,” she noted. “It’s very much a community, a family.”
She also was moved by the care she observed the sisters providing to the residents of the nursing home.
“The attention the sisters, and the trained staff as well, gave (to the patients), they respected them as individuals with human dignity,” she said.
The Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker were founded in 1974. They reside on the grounds of All Saints Church in Walton, Ky., which is in the Diocese of Covington.
The sisters also operate St. Joseph Academy. The pre-kindergarten to eighth school educates about 190 students from eight counties in Northern Kentucky.
Sister Ross professed first vows to Bishop Roger Foys of Covington on May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
Currently Sister Ross updates the congregation’s website with photographs and video of the sisters and their work. In the fall she plans to enroll in an associate’s degree program to study information technology and networking.
“I’ve always had an interest in computers. I’ve really gotten into it since I’ve been here,” she said. “The school has its own (computer) server so I’ll take care of that.”
Sister Ross noted that in the future she may end up teaching at the school.
“It’s very important to be flexible, to do what is necessary.”
She will make perpetual vows in three to five years.