The spiritual environment she experienced at St. Bridget’s Catholic Parish in Mesa for 14 years and “vocations discernment” weekends she took part in at Mormon Lake were keystones when Sister Carrie Flood recently professed her vows and became a nun at the age of 41.
On July 27, Flood took her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience with the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scranton, Pa. She recently moved to New York for her first assignment, working with Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens. She is applying expertise gained working from 1990 to 2004 as a department manager for PacifiCare, now United HealthCare Insurance, with offices in Phoenix.
During that time, Flood was also a minister of care at St. Bridget’s, taking communion each Sunday to the homebound and elderly. “I would go and visit with them and talk to them and then we would pray,” she said.
“St. Bridget’s was a wonderful parish, and it still is,” she said. “The liturgies were
such a celebration, and you looked forward to being with that community of people who loved God and came together to celebrate and to take that experience and go out into the world.
“I think belonging to that parish had an influence in how my faith grew during that time, and I started to think about religious life again,” she said.
Just after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a major in French and minor in German, Flood was a volunteer living in a convent in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I entered right after college and spent two years, but I didn’t really feel I had a vocation at that time, so I moved back to Arizona and started living my life,” she said.
But during her years living in Mesa and being active at St. Bridget’s, “there was something inside of me that wouldn’t go away,” Flood said. Realizing she really needed to explore whether she had a religious calling, Flood took part in a vocational discernment weekend in October 2002, led by Sister Jean Steffes, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. It brought together Catholics considering going into religious life. She took part in another weekend in 2003. “It was very helpful to me for discerning my vocation,” she said.
“Carrie was absolutely taken by the call to religious life,” Steffes said. “She was a very professional woman, very successful, very involved with her family and certainly able to continue to make a living and getting involved in society, but that call was so strong that she really literally left everything to follow Jesus.”
Steffes said that once Flood recognized her call to religious life, “she remained very faithful to it” and went earnestly through the many steps required for candidacy. “She will be just a wonderful gift to that community” in Pennsylvania and New York, the chancellor said.
Flood became a candidate at the Immaculate Heart of Mary mother house in Scranton in 2004 and, a year later, began two years as a novice, then professed her vows in July. After a period of three to five years of temporary profession, a nun professes her final vows.
More than 540 Catholic women make up the IHM Sisters, who serve in education,
health care, social services and pastoral ministry in the U.S. and Latin America.
Flood recalls her early 20s when she lived with nuns in California. “I sort of had a taste of religious life,” she said. She came away conflicted and not yet feeling a calling. “I loved my job at PacifiCare. It was very rewarding,” she said. “I kept thinking there was that sense inside me that there was something else: How can I best serve God? I don’t want to just work for the next promotion.” She said she wanted to spend the rest of her life helping people and “loving God through serving others.”
“I didn’t want to wake up at 85 and realize that I had lived the wrong life,” she said.
Many people look at Catholic religious life, as priests or nuns, “in terms of what you can’t do,” such as not being able to marry or have children or being financially prosperous, she said. Instead, “we learn about the vows in terms of what you are invited to do,” Flood said. “The vow of chastity invites us to try to love everyone equally, meaning it is not so much not having children because we are actually called by our vow of chastity to love all of God’s creation, to love all people. Our vow of obedience just calls us to listen to the voice of God and the movement of the Spirit in our lives.”
Only one other woman went through the training and took the vows with Flood.
That there aren’t more women entering religious life isn’t necessarily discouraging, she said. “I wasn’t around” in the years when as many as 50 or 60 women would enter convents for training, “so I don’t have any sense of loss.”
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions that you have to be a special person,” Flood said. “I am not very special. I listen to rock music and watch 'The Simpsons,’ and I am just a normal person. God has called me to be his presence in the world and to be a witness to the kingdom, so that is what I am here to do, and I hope I can fulfill that.”
In New York City, her Catholic charities work relates to mental health services for those hospitalized and in outpatient clinics. One company she closely works with is based in Phoenix, “so I hope I can get some business travel in,” Flood said.
“We call out jobs 'ministries,’ ” she said. Days include going to Mass each morning and gathering in the evening at St. Ephrem’s Convent in Brooklyn with 11 other sisters for dinner and prayer. Nuns in her house dress simply, and only older ones wear veils.
Flood said New York is a new way of life. It’s stimulating, she said, to walk the streets and hear so many languages and encounter people with so many ethnic and religious backgrounds.
“It is a lot of newness, but I rely on my faith, and I am confident that if God brought me to this place, there is a reason,” she said. “So whatever happens, it is going to be positive in a sense that I will learn something. I will grow.”