Like many girls growing up, Sister Susanna Edmunds had dreams of marriage and family.
She grew up in a faithful Catholic family and attended Mass every Sunday, even when the promise of McDonalds for lunch was sometimes needed to get her and her siblings into the pews some weeks.
Throughout high school she read the bible diligently and became actively involved in the Church youth group, claiming the faith in a deeply personal way.
“In my teens I really developed that habit of leaning on God’s will through prayer but I still had no sense he was calling me to anything but marriage,” she says.
It was only at university, that God made Sr Susanna’s path clear and she was unable to ignore his call.
Studying engineering at the University of Sydney, she had the opportunity to complete some short theology courses where her passion for truth and God truly came together.
At the same time, she had come to meet the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, who had a strong chaplaincy presence at the university.
For Sr Susanna, it all came together, and she felt God’s call, drawing her towards religious life.
“I saw the effectiveness of their witness, wearing the habit and I felt really at home and comfortable, praying with them,” she says.
“I wasn’t familiar with St Dominic or the charism, but I saw the life they were living and I loved it.
“No one naturally desires to give up the good things of marriage or to move to another country so I knew if it was something I desired, it was probably God pulling me towards religious life.”
As each door opened, she walked through it. She went on retreat with the sisters and then was sent to the order’s mother house in Nashville for another retreat.
“It just felt like home, and it was a great fit,” she says.
She applied to enter the order as a postulant, entering a year of gradual transition from regular life to religious life. After three years, she made her first vows and then made her final vows in 2017.
“It’s been a great adventure,” she says.
“Jesus promises the hundredfold to those who leave their house, home and family. That’s 100 per cent true.”
Sr Susanna splits her time between teaching at Trinity Catholic College and the Seminary of the Good Shepherd. She also does chaplaincy work at University of Sydney, helping other young women respond to God’s call to religious life.
“Being on the other side, in the exact same place I grew so much and found my vocation, and to be walking with students and young woman is so wonderful,” she says.
“We’ve been really blessed with one or two Australians joining our community each year.”
Her public witness through the wearing of a religious habit allows her to connect to people from a vast number of backgrounds, faiths and ages, introducing them to the Good News of Jesus and answering their burning questions.
“We see the census and people are questioning or leaving, but the Lord can use that and when people are asking questions, that’s great,” she says.
“A lot of the young people are really searching for truth in an almost post-truth world. When people find the truth of Jesus’ teachings, that encounter is at the heart of every vocation.”
While the separation from family and friends can sometimes present an obstacle to many young people discerning religious life, Sr Susanna says any sacrifice was worth the infinite blessings.
“Sacrifice is part of life and is part of love. So, when the sacrifices do come, I think we’re especially blessed that the structure of our life is to look up to God,” she says.
“It’s a struggle to elevate that sacrifice but for us, there’s nowhere else to look and we’re very blessed with so many supernatural blessings.”
She encourages families to support their children in vocation but acknowledges it can also be a sacrifice for them.
“Parents have dreams for their families, but I’ve seen beautiful conversions in families when they see their daughters so joyful in this life,” she says.
“When He’s calling you to it, He’s giving you the grace and He’s giving the grace to your family too.”
When asked how she’d help others to discern vocation, she is typically gentle in her answer, encouraging people to naturally follow God’s calling.
“Just take it moment by moment,” she says. “The Christian life is meant to be an adventure of friendship with Jesus. You can live that and start now, and when we’re living that moment by moment, He’ll open the doors.
“Don’t be afraid to ask Him if He’s calling you in some way.”