Meet Nicole: SND Postulant

Posted on: September 1, 2015 12:00 pm
Tags: Vocation, Novitiate,

Nicole Varnerin entered the SND postulancy in July 2014.

Name: Nicole Varnerin

Hometown: Ridgefield, CT

Parents: Bruce & Debbie Varnerin

Siblings: Jessica Adomako & Brianne Varnerin

Age: 25

Date of Postulancy: July 2014

Education: B.S. Electrical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH

Recent Occupation: Research Technologist at the Cleveland Clinic; worked with stroke and spinal cord injury patients, using brain stimulation to aid in rehabilitation.

After my senior year of high school, I went to a Catholic youth conference. At the concluding Mass of this conference, the priest called anyone in the congregation who felt a call in their heart to the priesthood or religious life to come to the altar to be prayed over. As I watched all of these young people walk to the altar I heard a voice from within say, “You should be up there.” And I promptly stayed in my seat.

My plan for my life was to study engineering and change the world through science, and nuns aren’t scientists – or so I told myself. As I continued in life this little voice kept resurfacing, and I kept ignoring it. It wasn’t until two years later that I began to give in to God’s persistent voice. I started doing research. And the more I found out, the more I could see myself in that life. I grew up in public schools and had never had contact with religious sisters. It was a foreign concept to me. I decided to take the leap and experience the life for myself. I set into motion a covert operation. My mission? To experience religious life and see if it was right for me without letting my family know I was considering becoming a nun. I spent a summer of service living in community with sisters.

It was after that experience that I was convinced of my call to religious life. I felt so comfortable and at home living with these sisters. I loved the rhythm of the life and sharing service and prayer with those I lived with. That summer, I was the most in-my-skin I have ever felt. It is that Nicole that I wanted to be for the rest of my life. And I truly believed that a big part of who I was that summer had to do with living in community as a partner with religious sisters. My experience that summer marked the point of no return. I just HAD to pursue religious life. I discovered that it was in my blood. It was in my spirit. And there was no turning back from that knowledge.

I honestly “fell in” to the Sisters of Notre Dame. I originally had no intention of discerning with the SNDs and was looking at other orders. But when I needed a place to live and be supported in my discernment, the SNDs opened their doors to me. It was that living experience that opened my eyes to my call to the Sisters of Notre Dame. As I got to know the sisters better and interact with them on a deeper level, I realized that I had found my home. I felt comfortable and I identified with their spirituality and mission. I, too, experience God as being so good. I look back over my life and see how he has lovingly guided me to where I need to be. It is these two tenets that shape everything the SNDs do.

I am excited to create the future with my fellow sisters. I am entering religious life at a very transitional time. My life might not look the same in ten or twenty years as it does now-and I get to imagine and create that future. I am specifically excited about becoming a Sister of Notre Dame because I can become close to many wonderful, faith-filled women. I could do any other aspect of religious life on my own, but it is the fact that I walk with other women that makes this a unique experience. As I develop myself and my relationship with God, I have over 600 role models and supporters across the U.S. to look to for guidance and encouragement. My sisters inspire me by who they are.

Every moment in formation is a surprise, but I think I am most surprised by how much I have been transformed. I look at who I was a year ago and almost don’t recognize myself. The essence of me is still there, but I have grown in so many ways. I have grown in how I am with people. I have grown in my relationship with God. I have grown in my understanding of myself. And I just know that I will continue to grow and be transformed in all of these areas. Through the entire formation process I am becoming a more God-steeped, SND flavor of myself.

There is no stereotype of what it means to be a woman religious. I often give vocation talks to religion classes and each time I walk in, the students are surprised. They are surprised that I look so normal, that I don’t have gray hair, and that I am a scientist and engineer. God calls all kinds of people, maybe even you! Becoming a religious sister is not about conforming to the majority or conforming to what people think you should look and be like. Becoming a religious is about becoming a more authentic you by living out God’s true call for your life. The more you follow God, the truer you will become. So listen and investigate if you feel a tug on your heart. It might just be God pulling you in your true direction.

Date: on March 1, 2018

Such a beautiful journey, and I have no doubt the future will be more fulfilling for you and for the lives you will touch. May God continue to bless you

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