Providence College Commencement 2013
Academic Lives of Meaning and Purpose
Beatriz Forster ’13 Discerns a Call to Become a Religious Sister
~ Vicki-Ann Downing, Writer
Providence, R.I. - Beatriz Forster ’13— who loves history, writing, and expressing her opinions — arrived at Providence College with many expectations.
Graduating a year early to join a religious order wasn’t among them.
But on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, Forster (Bethesda, Md.) will join the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia in Nashville, Tenn., for her first year of religious formation, a process that takes seven years to complete. She also will study for a teaching degree through Aquinas College, which is owned by the congregation.
The “Nashville Dominicans,” as they are known, are primarily a teaching order, staffing more than 30 schools in 15 states — from St. Pius V School in Providence, near the PC campus, to Indiana, Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado — and even in Australia, British Colombia, and Rome.
Forster, a history major who has been at PC for three years, will receive a diploma at commencement, then finish remaining credit requirements this summer through the School of Continuing Education.
A member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program, she arrived at PC certain that she wanted to study political science and become a journalist, lawyer, or college professor. But through her studies freshman year, Forster made an important discovery.
“The end of political science isn’t truth and doesn’t pretend to be,” she said.
Even in her American Constitutional Law class, she realized “It’s not about truth, it’s about who has the better argument. It really bothered me.”
“Not what God wanted me to be”
The daughter of diplomats from Brazil, Forster attended a secular high school, Walt Whitman High in Bethesda. As a college freshman studying in the Development of Western Civilization Program, she was introduced to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, which led her to take a further course in Thomistic theology her sophomore year.
She began to reconsider her future as a journalist or lawyer. “It became clear to me sophomore year this was not what God wanted me to be,” Forster said. “There’s a place for politics and political science but not for me.”
In December 2011, when the Nashville Dominicans offered “A Day of Recollection” retreat in Providence, Forster went “with an open heart and a willingness to make as much of it or as little of it as came to me.
“I was just overcome with joy afterward, after spending time with these sisters.”
It was the same weekend that PC presented its annual Advent celebration, Lessons & Carols, in St. Dominic Chapel. As a member of the Liturgical Choir, Forster had to leave early to rehearse, so she missed a presentation on religious life. But the retreat left an impression.
“I did not stop thinking about it that weekend,” said Forster. “I prayed a lot about it that week.”
“God was calling me into an intimate relationship with him,” she said. “I was filled with awe. I’d never thought about this before. It was a very personal encounter with Christ summoning me. I was filled with so much wonder.”
Remembering that the vocations director had said, “Whatever you give to the Lord, He will give back to you,” Forster, who had been attending Mass several times a week, began going every day and participating in Eucharistic adoration. She went to morning and evening prayer with PC’s Dominican priests in the Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas.
In January 2013, she attended a vocations retreat in Nashville. She applied to the congregation in March and was notified of her acceptance on March 13, the same day Pope Francis was elected.
Sisters growing in numbers
While the age of religious sisters in the United States is increasing and their numbers declining, the Nashville Dominicans tell a different story. Almost a third of the sisters are younger than 30. Ninety women entered the congregation between 2005 and 2010.
During graduate studies at PC, they have been spotted playing Frisbee or ice skating, their long white robes flowing behind them.
“They live a very balanced life,” said Forster. “People think there’s some sort of draconian obligation. It’s not like that at all. The sisters are very friendly, very joyous.”
Forster follows in the footsteps of Kristen Lopez ’05, now Sister Sophia, O.P., who joined the order after commencement and professed final vows in July 2012; Sister Allison Evans ’11, who joined in August 2012; and Jennifer C. Draeger ’10, who also will join this August.
While at PC, Forster wrote regularly for The Cowl newspaper. Last summer, as a Father Philip A. Smith, O.P. Fellow, she went to Blackfriars Hall at Oxford University in England to study.
“At Providence College, Beatriz discovered the riches of the Catholic and Dominican tradition,” said her spiritual advisor, Rev. Thomas Petri, O.P., assistant professor of theology. “She’s discerned a call to a closer union with Christ and now leaves to become a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. I have every confidence that she will soon be passing on to others what she herself received. I know she’ll make us all proud.”
Forster is grateful to her roommate, Laura Wells ’14 (Poughquag, N.Y.), “whose own humility and beauty continue to bring me closer to our Lord, and without whose friendship I cannot imagine discerning a vocation to the religious life.”
“Only with the grace of God is any of this possible. I am so unworthy of it all,” said Forster. “It gives me peace of heart to know that this is what God wants. It fulfills me as a person.”