When I was working at the Fort Worth Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 1982, I was a new Catholic, and I decided to visit a nearby Carmelite Monastery.
Mother Maria of Jesus met me in the speakroom, and I began pouring out my story, using a lot of Kleenex. I loved a young man (Leonardo Defilippis), but he wasn’t ready to commit, and I had decided to give up on the relationship. I wondered, did I have a religious vocation? Mother must have been laughing inside, but she calmly told me that disappointment in love was not a sign of a religious vocation. She promised that the sisters would pray for me.
I left with the determination to pursue my acting career, and set out on a 3,500-mile journey by myself, auditioning at theaters throughout the Midwest, miserable much of the time.
When I returned, I had a powerful, instantaneous experience of conversion. A light bulb suddenly turned on, and everything became clear. In that moment, I was completely aware of God’s presence and His will for me. I was convicted that I had only one goal in life – to get to heaven, and Leonardo was the one to get me there. No matter what he decided, I made a commitment, and came back to Oregon.
Leonardo asked me to marry him on the first Sunday of Advent, 1982, we were married on the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 1983, and 33 years later we have seven children, ages 31 – 17.
I have always believed the prayers of the Carmelites were responsible for the powerful experience of grace that I received. I also thank Saint Thérèse for being my friend through all these years, and allowing us to learn the little way, which has been the foundation of our ministry.