Avila grad enters convent, prepares for sisterhood
By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY - Erica Berg's mother wasn't surprised when her 24-year-old daughter told her she was considering joining an order of religious sisters. After all, when Berg was a child she announced she wanted to be a rock-climbing astronaut geologist nun.
Marty Denzer/Key photo
About six weeks ago, Berg realized a lifelong dream and entered the order of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. She will spend the next two years in formation, living with professed sisters at the convent behind Hogan Preparatory Academy, working, learning and making the transition from lay to religious life. A year in the novitiate follows, living in community, learning to live a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, and deepening her prayer life.
Berg will then profess temporary vows, launching a three- to six-year period during which she will prepare for her final profession of vows and be integrated fully into the community at Leavenworth.
Berg graduated from Avila University in 2000 with a degree in theology, and immediately began teaching in Wichita, Kan. She said she kept having this recurring thought about being a sister, but pushed it away. "People just don't do that anymore," she recalled thinking. But the idea kept coming back.
One evening, Berg remembered, she stood in the center of her living room and told God, "You've got to send me a sign. If this is what you want me to do with my life, let me know. Otherwise I'll go on with my life and I'll never know. Send me a sign."
Over the next several days, she received an e-mail from one professed sister, an invitation to a discernment retreat for vocations, and finally a dinner invitation from another sister. After dinner, the nun told Berg she thought Berg would make a great sister.
Berg began talking to other religious sisters and vocation directors of various orders. An interest in social justice issues and service to others led her to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.
She looks forward to the day she becomes Sister Erica Frances. Berg said her middle name is Frances, after St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of social justice. She plans to teach and do missionary work, maybe in Peru, where the Sisters of Charity also have a motherhouse.
For now, Berg teaches freshman theology part-time at St. Teresa's Academy, spends two afternoons a week with her formation director, takes a class at Rockhurst University and lives in community with sponsoring sisters.
She still finds time for occasional movies, outings with friends, playing games with the sisters, and listening to music. She says she feels an underlying peace, although she is going through a period of adjustment: she's no longer independent.
Berg looks around the convent's sitting room and smiles. "I'm glad to be here," she said.