Perched on the motorcycle behind Katie, racing with the wind and feeling the freedom of life as a newly graduated high school student, Mary Margaret Delaski suddenly decided it was time to tell her friend of a decision she had made.

“I think I’m going to enter St. Rose Convent in the fall,” she yelled into her friend’s ear.

The two of them nearly crashed. To Katie, this seemed out of the blue. But to Mary, it was something she’d been thinking about all through high school. An athlete, talented musician, and class valedictorian, she had felt a pull toward the religious life since eighth grade when she had been selected to escort a vocations director the four blocks from one Catholic school to another in Ashland, Wisconsin, chatting along the way. She now calls this her “four-block walk,” the stroll that led her to a life rich in accomplishment and joy.

She knew then at some level that religious life was a possibility for her. However, for the next four years, her studies and extracurricular activities kept her more than busy.

Through the commotion of senior year when everyday life became more demanding than deciding her future, she recalls hearing a recurrent thought, which she now realizes was God whispering, ‘What have you done about entering religious life?’

The answer, of course, was nothing. But the thought was persistent, so she wrote to the Franciscan Sisters at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin. They replied to her, but again, she did nothing. A few months later, a second letter came from the convent: Are you still interested?

“Well,” she thought, “I can try it for a couple weeks just to get this over with.”

She told her parents and was accepted.

Sister Mary Margaret remembers the drive with her parents from Ashland to La Crosse that summer of 1962. They stopped at an outdoor restaurant for lunch and as she savored her burger, she thought that if she stayed in the convent, that will be the last time she’d ever again eat a hamburger or drink a malt. “Little did I know,” she chuckles, “I would have my share of fast food as a nun, as well as much better meals.”

Mary found life in the convent full and engaging. Thoughts of trying it out but then leaving soon dissipated.

As a postulant, she attended college, at first majoring in medical technology because, though she loved music, she didn’t think she was good enough to make it her life focus. When her high school music teacher heard that Mary was not majoring in music, she phoned the college and told them they were missing out.

Mary switched coursework and as a result has found satisfying success as a musician, music teacher, and music therapist. She now teaches music at the Franciscan Montessori Earth School in Southeast Portland, a school founded by her religious community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.

“When you’re using the talents God gave you,” observes Sister Mary Margaret, “your life is centered, and balanced. This brings a deep sense of inner certainty, confidence and peace. That’s how you find joy.”

Though early on she did go through moments of deliberation about giving up family and husband, Sister Mary Margaret does not regret her choice. With confidence, she declares, “I knew I wanted to do something special and to me this was a special life.”

Some muse that today’s world does not need women religious. They argue that nuns are outdated or irrelevant. But Sister Mary Margaret believes the Catholic Church needs the feminine perspective.

“Religious sisters can be a real compliment to the masculine reality that exists in our church,” she said.

She sees that God created us, male and female, and gave each her/his own attributes. The church needs both, she said, explaining that with that balance, we compliment and complete each other.

Religious sisters and committed secular women are critically necessary at all levels, said Sister Mary Margaret.

Pope Francis said in a 2019 homily, “(Mary) is the Mother of the Church, but she is also the image of the Church...Women in the Church achieve more with this Marian principle which ‘maternalizes’ the Church and transforms it into Holy Mother Church.”