Sister Elizabeth Ann Christensen, SDS (formerly Sr. Mary Charles) tells people she was called to religious life three times. She never knew Salvatorian Sisters as a child, and in fact, had little contact with women religious except for weekend religious ed classes.
“I still can’t really explain it,” says Sr. Liz. “I just had this sense that I wanted to be a sister.” Seeing ads in the back of her aunt’s Sacred Heart Messenger magazine, she recalls, “The name Sisters of the Divine Savior just grabbed me, so I started writing and was invited to visit. I remember my mother saying, ‘ Why don’t you visit the Benedictines…they’re only 25 miles away’.” Sr. Liz listened to her mother and entered the nearby Benedictine community for exactly two weeks.
“I cried most of the time because it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.” She completed a six-month business school course and then worked for a while. But she still felt the tug. Sr. Liz entered the SDS community in 1959, and is candid about the doubt that set in 20 years later.
“I just wasn’t sure here was where I was supposed to be anymore.” She left the Salvatorian Sisters community, but not for long. While away, she still “lived the Salvatorian life” and soon heard God’s call to return.
Sr. Liz jokes about “the seven-year itch” because nearly every seven years she changed ministries or moved. She served as an LPN in Portage and St. Nazianz, Wis. and later at Salvatorian Heights, the former home for retired Salvatorian Sisters in Milwaukee. In the mid-1990s she served as a secretary in the Generalate Office in Rome, an experience she describes as fascinating.
“I remember thinking, ‘What’s a girl from Two Harbors, Minnesota doing in the middle of St. Peter’s Square?” She admits, though, the language barrier made her feel lonely at times. Sr. Liz also served ten years as administrative assistant with Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs in Franklin, Wis., where she coordinated worldwide religious pilgrimages. She still cherishes the opportunity to visit Assisi, Italy during that time. Now living in Tucson, Ariz., Sr. Liz volunteers at Most Holy Trinity, a Salvatorian parish. She serves as a Euchartistic minister and helps out weekly in the parish office. A self-described “animal person,” Sr. Liz also helps socialize cats at a nearby animal shelter.
Her best advice to someone thinking about a religious vocation: “Don’t listen to all the voices out there — listen to your heart.”