The article below is an interview with Sister Julie Pintal, OP before her death. Sister Julie died on June 13, 2017 at St. Catherine of Siena Convent in New Jersey.

What is a joyful part of being a sister?

There is a fulfillment in your life. You aspire to something, and you finally reach it. So you’re happy. It’s an inborn happiness. When you make your vows, it is an accomplishment. You do it with God, but God is not physical. You have to believe and hope that He is with you. You can’t do it if you don’t believe. You can’t reach the amount of happiness that the profession of your vows will bring if it’s not deeply in you.

What is a difficult part of being a sister?

Leaving everything! That’s a challenge. And then making a vow of obedience to do whatever [the congregation] asks you to do. And then the vow of poverty: not to own anything. If you have something, you turn it in. And then the vow of chastity: not to ever get married and to keep yourself for God. That is not natural. So it’s difficult. And you have to ask for the grace of doing it in your prayers. All the time. Whatever you do.

How do you keep it up?

With prayer. With hope. Whatever you have promised for life, you have to keep going on. It’s just like people who are married; it’s not always easy to keep going. But they do because they have a vow there. We have three vows. But in order to keep this, to be faithful to it, you need a lot of help from God. So you pray. And it comes. And you keep going. In health and sickness.

We don’t live in a society that sponsors what the religious life asks. But it’s still very important.

“There is a fulfillment in your life. You aspire to something, and you finally reach it. So you’re happy. It’s an inborn happiness. When you make your vows, it is an accomplishment.”

What’s the secret to being 97?

I kept going. I kept doing what I had to do. And I always will. And it’s long. I didn’t think it would be that long. But God wants it that way so He will help me. I am sure of that.

Why?

Because He is faithful to His promises. You may not feel it, but He’s there. I’ve given my life to Him. He can’t throw it away. Because whatever I have comes from Him. It’s a great gift.

I have been fortunate to breathe religion ever since I was born. See, you’re baptized right away, then you’re taught religion, then they teach you prayers, then you go to Catholic school. I am very grateful for everything that God has given me.

Sister Julie

What would you say to someone who is struggling to find God?

Faith is a gift from God. You don’t have it. God gives you faith if you pray for it. He never refuses anybody. You have to trust. Faith is like trust. You put it all in His arms; He takes care of it. The hard thing, I think, is to be faithful to the end. Because the suffering that comes is senseless—humanly speaking. Turn it to God, it’s not senseless. It’s not easy, though.

What is the purpose of suffering?

Unite your suffering to Christ. You can never suffer as much as He did. But whatever you have, you can unite to his and offer it for the salvation of people. I think it’s one purpose. You grow in love of God. You stop loving yourself so much. A lot of harm comes from exaggerated love of self. You have to love yourself, but not to an exaggeration.

What gives you hope?

That people care about one another and are willing to work together, which is necessary for progress. You can never be just alone. Caring about who other people are, what the others are working toward.

The world changes. It gets kind of smaller. When you’re young, everything is open to you. But there is still hope that God will give you what you need. And I count on that.

This post is in honor of National Nursing Home Week. During this week, we celebrate and honor our retired sisters who continue to do ministry and share their inspiring stories with the world from their homes.

Cover image is from Flickr: Saint-Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy