GREEN BAY — The religious community of A New Genesis welcomed a new vowed member on June 30 at St. Philip the Apostle Church. Mary Peters professed vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience to become the first A New Genesis sister to complete formation through the community. Other members of the community had professed vows for other communities before joining A New Genesis.
Peters could have become a non-vowed or associate member, but neither was ever a consideration for her. She felt called to be a religious sister.
“It’s my DNA. It’s who I am,” she said. “I’ve felt that way since I was young. I was fascinated with sisters in second and third grade. There was always something special about that.”
Peters, a Manitowoc native, planned to join a religious community after college, but her path changed when she met her husband, Bill.
“He was going to be a priest,” she explained in an interview with The Compass prior to her profession of vows. “We decided to get married. I never wanted to get married, let alone have kids, but that was meant to be. God leads in different ways, and when you least expect it.”
They had been married nearly 22 years when Bill died of cancer in February of 2008. Mary’s father, Deacon Phil Andrastek, died that July. By August, thoughts of religious life returned.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh no, not at this point in my life,’” said Mary. “It started gnawing at me. God just took the lead with everything.”
Mary journeyed with the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis in Stevens Point. She also attended a few New Genesis meetings.
“I knew that A New Genesis was for me,” she said. “It’s just a good fit. Every community has its own charism and it needs to fit. The sisters of Stevens Point is such a good community as well. I have friends there.”
Mary’s first sponsors during candidacy were Sr. Carol Haanen, who has been with her throughout, and the late Sr. Mary Bride Grubbs, one of the foundresses of A New Genesis.
“That was neat to be able to walk with her,” said Mary. “She was such a wise woman.”
Sr. Helen Keyzer served as a sponsor until she was appointed to leadership. Sr. Deb Kedzierski then joined Sr. Carol to guide Mary.
“They have been so supportive. We read a lot of different materials and we discuss it together,” explained Mary. “They share their stories. I went to see most of the sisters in the community just to hear their call stories; just to see what religious life was for them, how they entered and their journey.”
Mary has two sons: Will, who lives in Green Bay with his wife, Sarah Jane, and their children, Aleda and Billy; and Joey who resides in Denver.
“Sarah Jane said that it will be so neat for our kids to have a grandma who is a nun,” said Mary with a laugh. “My sons are so supportive. One said to me, ‘This is you.’ How accepting. It’s awesome.”
Mary’s mother, Lucy, was a director of religious education. She followed her mother’s path and has served in religious education in Manitowoc, Seymour, Francis Creek, Maple Grove before moving to Green Bay. She will continue to serve as faith formation/discipleship coordinator at St. Philip the Apostle Parish.
“I am so thankful to the people of the parish,” she said. “I feel so loved here. They have given me so much. It’s very humbling for me to accept all of that.”
Mary is currently enrolled in a spiritual guidance program at the Siena Center in Racine.
After completing the two-year program, she will begin servings as a spiritual director.
“I find that people seek me out,” she said. “I’ve learned more about me and how to be a better listener and to be a guide to help people find how God is acting in their lives.”
Reflecting on her journey to religious life, Sr. Mary Peters believes her husband and father “had a hand in this.” She subscribes to A New Genesis charism, “radical openness to the Spirit,” which allowed God to lead her.
“I look at my life after Bill died and it’s like my life has just expanded,” she said. “I’m really growing in the way God is calling me to grow. I’m being my true self.”