Sister Mary Barbara Hobbs
Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Age Entered Novitiate: 19
Age of Final Profession: 25
How did you first experience or hear "the call" to the Religious Life?
I was living at St. Joseph's Home for business Women while I was attending Worcester State College. In those days there were no dorms at the college. I was not Catholic and was sure that the sisters (of Mercy) would try to "convert" me. If they had, I probably would not be here today. They were kind and friendly but respected my privacy. Through the wonderful women I met there, I learned how to say the Rosary and began going to daily Mass. Eventually, I spoke to a priest about becoming a Catholic. This meant that I was disowned by my family. Cardinal Wright was bishop of Worcester at the time. He happened to be at the Cathedral the night I was baptized and took an interest in me. He gave me a job at the Chancery. I felt called to religious life and wanted to enter the Sisters of Mercy. Because I was a recent convert to the Catholic religion, they recommended that I wait two years. Monsignor Elwood, rector of the Cathedral, knew the Sisters of the Presentation and brought be to Fitchburg, MA to meet them. The Superior General thought I was applying and gave me an application and I filled it out and here I am! In some ways, my call to religious life came first and my entrance into the Church followed. However, for many years I had had a deep desire to become a Catholic, but because it meant leaving my family and hurting those I loved, I had put it off. I was baptized a Baptist and at sixteen I became an Episcopalian. At first glance this "looked the same" and was acceptable to my family. However, it did not take me long to realize that it was not where my heart was. My call to religious life gave me the courage to take steps necessary and to enter the Church and a few months after becoming a Catholic I was privileged to begin a journey with the Sisters of the Presentation of the blessed Virgin Mary in Fitchburg, MA. This journey has taken me along a road that has had many turns and surprises but it has been and continues to be filled with joy and wonder at God's continued generosity.
What was your work before entering the Religious Life?
I was a student in my second year at Worcester State college. I had several part-time jobs - Secretary at the Cathedral and at the Chancery; worked in a Jewish supermarket and in an ice cream stand. I hoped to become a teacher when I finished college.
What were your thoughts and feelings when you first thought about becoming a Religious sister?
I was so new to the Church that I really did not know anything about Religious Life. I had seen Sisters and they looked so happy. As a child I had thought about becoming a missionary - a Baptist missionary. Religion - spirituality- was always important to me. I guess my feelings were partly excitement, partly fear, partly awe that I could really join these women and live a life of dedication and prayer. Of course, the externals looked wonderful. Somehow I knew it would not always be easy. Perhaps it was easier for me to leave my family behind because I had already done that when I came into the Church. I think I appreciated my "new family" more and much of the loneliness that many young women feel was already part of my life whether or not I entered the convent. I was grateful to have others with whom I could share my life.
What are your thoughts now after your years of ministry?
Gratitude! Certainly, the mystery and the mystique that attracted me as a young woman have changed. Living Religious Life day after day is not always glamorous or easy. Many things have changed since I first entered. With Vatican II many changes took place. We changed our religious habit (several times!). Each change was difficult but each change brought us closer to our original Charism. My foundress, Nano Nagle, did not originally wear a "habit." With Vatican II each of us was called to take more responsibility for who we are and how we live our call in our particular congregation. The "habit" sometimes set us apart. Without special clothing, we were called to be more authentically who we are. Various opportunities for ministry opened for us. My congregation had primarily been a teaching community. Although I loved teaching, I felt God's call, to me personally, to deepen my own spiritual life and in seeking out spiritual direction I came to Emmaus Spiritual Life Center. This opened up a whole new ministry for me. I was offered a job here sixteen years ago and have been enriched by the people who have shared their spiritual journey with me. Ministry, today, is very important to me. I continue to meet God through the people I meet and I feel that God still has much to teach me as I minister here in the Diocese of Norwich!
Do you have any further thoughts about your vocation?
A Religious vocation is a great blessing! I have never regretted the decision I made many years ago. However, like any commitment, it is in the living of it that you find out what your "yes" really meant. There have been many joys and some sorrows. Life is never easy. With any vocation - whether to Priesthood, Religious Life, Marriage or the single life - we are all called to live out the Paschal Mystery - Life - Death - Resurrection. Certainly, the joys have outweighed the sorrows. I thank God every day, for inviting me to follow. My Faith is primary - a gift that continues to nourish and sustain me. My call to Religious Life and in particular to be a Sister of the Presentation of the blessed Virgin Mary is another gift for which I am profoundly grateful. Jesus said, "I came that you might have life and have it to the fullest." I feel that through my Faith, through my Religious vocation and through my ministry, Jesus has continually offered me gifts that go far beyond what I could ask for or imagine. And to all that has been and will be I can only say, "Thanks!"