“I can’t imagine anything better or more wonderful than this gift of being called to give myself, every bit of myself, to God.”
Placing her hands between those of Sister Renata Camenzind, the sister responsible for the Community of the Resurrection, Sister Christine Marie Kimball made her perpetual profession this November during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Deeley at Saint Joseph Church in Bridgton.
“I was immersed in, surrounded by, filled with, one with, overwhelming all-consuming love,” she says.
Sister Christine has been in formation with the Community of Resurrection, a public association of the faithful, for the past eight years. During that time, she has lived with, worked with, and embraced the spirituality of the small contemplative community located on a farm in Otisfield.
"In this consecration, Sister Christine follows on the path she set out on some eight years ago when she first became a part of the community. Today, she makes that path her life,” Bishop Deeley said during the Mass. “For Sister Christine, this is the path of holiness. Today, she definitively states that she wishes publicly to respond to Jesus' call to her to follow Him. She pledges to love Him before all else and, in that love, to love all those whom she is sent to serve.”
During her perpetual profession, Sister Christine vowed to put her life at the service of the Church and promised poverty, chastity, and obedience to God, as well as to Sister Renata and her successors.
After making her profession, she signed her vows, as did Sister Renata, the bishop, and the concelebrating priests. The bishop then blessed her ring with these words: "Lord God, bless this ring, sign of Sister Christine belonging to your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit, who has the power to actualize the first 'Yes' and to perfect it to the last breath, keep her faithful to her vows.”
“This is my wedding day with Our Lord. It’s beyond words. It’s just beyond words,” she says. “This is forever because we have forever with God, and there is no one, no one who can begin to compare.”
Sister Christine sees her perpetual profession as evidence that all is possible with God. Originally from South Portland, she was not raised Catholic. She was baptized in the Episcopal Church, the faith of her father, but says, while God was part of her upbringing, her family went to church primarily at Easter.
Sister Christine points to several experiences which led her to seek Christ and, eventually, the Catholic Church. The first occurred when she was in fifth grade. After her family had moved to a new neighborhood, she recalls that a girl invited her and other children to her home.
“I think she literally stood up on a box and started preaching to us,” Sister Christine recalls. “She prayed the ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ which is ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior,’ something along those lines. I don’t remember the exact words she said, but immediately, I was interested in Jesus. Probably a little bit out of fear, but I really wanted to find Jesus. So, I was literally looking around me, going down the street, looking for Jesus."
It would start Christine on a search that would continue into her adult years.
“I started, then, going to church here and there with different friends, trying to find Jesus,” she says. “There was already a seed planted in my baptism, and then, this was this next level of searching for a personal Jesus, instead of just the stories that I heard in Bible school growing up.”
Sister Christine says her second conversion experience came when she was an adult living in Florida. She says she met an exceptional, faith-filled woman there and attended a workshop the woman was leading on finding your purpose in life.
“Her direction was – ‘Ask God!’ So, I simply, in my heart, asked God, ‘What is my purpose?’ Immediately, there was no hesitation; there was no question. Deep inside, I heard plainly: ‘love.’ My first reaction was that I was thrilled. My second reaction was, ‘Great, what am I supposed to do what that?’”
She began to consciously seek guidance from God. She remembers, after having moved to Washington State, looking towards the sky one day and asking Him, ‘What is the point of all this anyway?’” She got her answer in an unexpected way.
Sister Christine says she was struck with a debilitating illness which doctors were unable to diagnose. Her condition grew progressively worse until she was nearly bedridden. Unable to go out, she remembers picking up a book on Christianity and beginning to read it. Later, while flipping through the handful of channels available on her television set, she came upon an evangelical program. She paused to listen as the preacher was wrapping up his message.
“Just as I turned it on, he invited everyone to pray this prayer, the same prayer that I prayed as a little girl. Again, it was without thought, but it all came from the heart. I prayed the prayer, and in that instant, everything changed. And I knew I was a new person. I was filled with the Holy Spirit, although I didn’t know it at the time.”
She says being so ill allowed her to surrender herself to God.
“I was entirely open, entirely open. That is partly grace, but it’s coming to a point where I could accept that, be open to receiving what God was offering me and asking of me. And so, I gave everything back to God at that time, and then started asking, ‘What do you want of me?’”
Her health improving, she felt called to return to Maine where she went to live with her aging grandmother. She started driving her grandmother, who was Catholic, to Mass. She also began to tune in to EWTN because the evangelical channel that she had watched out west was not available here. She also developed an insatiable appetite for Scripture and started to read the Bible.
Sister Christine says she had long felt drawn to communal life but had no familiarity with religious communities. She remembers asking if the Protestant Church had communities of women religious but says she immediately knew that wasn’t her path.
“So, I said, ‘If I’m called to religious life, and it’s not Protestant, the only thing left is Catholic,’” she says. “I knew that God had brought me there.”
She experienced a deep desire to receive absolution through the sacrament of reconciliation. It would lead her to participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, during which her longing for absolution was overwhelmed by a hunger for the Eucharist.
Christine received the initiation sacraments at Easter vigil in 2004 and, not long after, contacted the diocese’s vocations office about religious communities. Sister Renata was among those who sent her information.
She encountered the community again while searching for a place to take a respite from her caregiving responsibilities. She wanted a place where the Blessed Sacrament would be present but also wanted to be able to take her dog. The Community of the Resurrection operates a kennel. After receiving a second letter from Sister Renata, Sister Christine says she thought maybe God was trying to tell her something.
She went to stay with the sisters both for a respite and to learn about the community. It would lead to regular monthly visits, and in 2007, following discernment, she entered formation.
“I believed, with all my heart, God was calling me to be here. And I knew that I couldn’t say no to God.”
The Community of the Resurrection is a public association of the faithful with the intention of become a religious congregation. Public associations of the faithful are canonically erected and must be approved by the bishop. As with religious congregations, members embrace a mutual charism.
The Community of the Resurrection follows the Rule of Saint Augustine and derives it spirituality from Blessed Jean Joseph Lataste, O.P. Father Lataste was a Dominican priest who led a retreat at a women’s prison in France in the mid-1800s and was so moved by the grace he saw among the women that he founded a religious community, which would accept women regardless of their backgrounds, the Dominican Sisters of Bethany.
Sister Renata was a Dominican Sister of Bethany assigned here, but when the order called her and the other sisters back to Europe, she felt called to return to continue this ministry. It led to the establishment of the Community of the Resurrection.
Today, the community continues to assist women in need. Those who are struggling find a welcome, and some even live with them for a time. Sister Christine and Sister Renata are also involved with prison ministry and participate in communion services. And the sisters, in the spirit of Blessed Jean Joseph, still accept women into the community regardless of their pasts.
Sister Christine says on the day of her final profession she experienced joy and gratitude beyond words. She says she knows that she owes everything to God.
“Anything that we have, and everything we are, really belongs to God,” she says “Our gifts, our talent, our life, our energy, our breath, it’s all gift from God.”
She says the blessings she has received are beyond counting.
“They say God cannot be outdone in generosity, and it’s true.”