Arkansas women are discerning call to religious life – Arkansas Catholic

Sister Magdalene Marie of the Good Shepherd (left), formerly Madison Moseley of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, plays guitar with her fellow novices from the Convent of San Damiano in The Bronx in September. Sister Magdalene will spend two years as a novice, discerning before consecration to religious life. CFR Sisters.

Discernment takes time to find right religious community, but God’s call always there

Published: February 28, 2024

Rosann Mucciolo

Sister Magdalene Marie of the Good Shepherd, formerly Madison Moseley of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, prays during her investiture at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in East Harlem, Manhattan, Aug. 1. As a novice, she received her habit, veil and new name
during her investiture.

When Sister Magdalene Marie Moseley, a novice with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, helps minister to the poor and suffering in The Bronx in New York City, she knows God placed her right where she needs to be. 

Josie Nunez, also discerning a religious vocation, is actively contemplating God’s will for her life and praying about the best way to “respond to the love he has lavished upon me,” she said. 

Both young Arkansas women are at different stages of following God’s call to explore religious life, a path that’s become less traveled in the United States but one that’s vital for the life of the Church. 


Following his will

Nunez, 26, a member of Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, attended a Diocese of Little Rock women’s discernment retreat in 2019, clearly hearing God’s voice moving her toward religious life, calling out her fear. 

“The Lord knows our hearts, and he knows he needs to speak very sternly with me,” she said. It wasn’t the first time the Lord had called her.

While friends were picking out colleges and discussing majors during her senior year in high school, the Lord unearthed a memory for her while praying. 

“When I was in adoration, I got this flashback when I was 8 years old. I was here in my home parish, I was actually singing in the choir; I had volunteered to sing at First Communion. Right after the consecration, when the priest lifted up the Eucharist, I heard Jesus ask me, ‘Will you come with me? Will you lead my people?’ At the time, I was only 8, so I really didn’t understand what that meant,” Nunez said. “I didn’t know I had that memory until I was in adoration, until the Lord revealed that to me. Something in my heart was like, ‘Go for it.’” 

However, after discussing it with her parents and pastor Father John Antony, JCL, she decided to discern further and move forward as one of the 12 selected out of 500 for a full-ride scholarship to the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. 

“Father John Antony told me, ‘If it’s your calling, it won’t go away at all. It’s still going to be there,’” she said. 

And that calling has remained through graduation, spiritual direction and even years of discernment with a religious community that did not work out. But as Nunez has learned, it’s all in God’s time. 

In December, Nunez spent about a week with the Benedictines at Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro, where she felt “very safe, very at home.” She’s currently in the application process, deciding whether or not to take that next step forward if she’s accepted. 

“I have a heart that beats for him. When I see religious, you can tell when they have the Holy Spirit in them and transmit that joy and love for Christ. I want to be able to do that too,” Nunez said. “… If this is God’s will, I want to respond.” 

Serving Jesus

Madison Moseley has always “felt drawn to give my whole life to Jesus.” But understanding what that looked like — a vocation to the single life, marriage or religious — wasn’t always so clear. The 29-year-old became a parishioner at Christ the King Church in Little Rock after her family moved to Little Rock in 2013. 

“Ever since coming to CTK, I have experienced the parish as one that finds great joy in those answering the call to a priestly or religious vocation, and they really put in an effort to make the community aware of those of us who are discerning — including telling the children in the school about us and by praying for us in the intercessions every single weekend,” she said via email. 

Moseley spent many years following Jesus’ call to serve, including ministering to people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles in 2015 during her spring break as a sophomore at Texas A&M University in College Station. 

“Amidst a deeper conversion experience right after college, it was through daily Mass and eucharistic holy hours that this fire was unearthed and intensified in a way that I couldn’t ignore,” she said.

In 2022, Moseley entered the CFR religious order in New York City as a postulant. Serving at the Convent of San Damiano in The Bronx, she recently celebrated her investiture, receiving her habit and veil, and chose her new name, Sister Magdalene Marie of the Good Shepherd. Her novitiate will last two years in preparation for consecration. 

The CFRs, parallel with the community to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, live out St. Francis’ ideals of simplicity through the Capuchin tradition. According to their website,, they live a life of prayer and service to the poor and evangelization by ministering in food and clothing pantries, a soup kitchen, visiting homes, retreats, pro-life work and inner-city youth ministry. They have three convents in New York City, where they were founded. 

While the community sees the brokenness in humanity firsthand within their ministries, Sister Magdalene said God’s love shines through. Recently, she went to assist her fellow sisters in East Harlem during a first Saturday devotion for the poor in a local neighborhood. 

“My role was to help those in attendance to walk up the steps so that they could have a chance to pray right before the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. There was an older woman there whom I have met many times before and who I know has lived a very hard life of deep poverty, suffering and loss. 

“As she shuffled slowly forward with a face that looked quite burdened, I greeted her by name, telling her it was good to see her again, and she said with a little smile, ‘Hi, you remember me,’” Sister Magdalene said. “I was so moved by the goodness of God who reminds his children that they are seen through something so small. I just really experienced in that little moment his desire for all of his children to live in awareness of his gaze upon us at every moment.” 


‘Love story’

While women are undoubtedly called to religious life, it doesn’t mean they will follow. 

Nunez said she doesn’t remember hearing about women’s religious vocations growing up. 

“We hear about all these jobs. Universities do a really good job of having career days at exposition centers where students can come and look at different colleges or jobs that align with their major. It’s kind of sad we don’t see that within our Catholic faith,” she said. 

While discernment retreats are a blessing, she added that Jesus “went out into the world,” and meeting young women where they are can make a difference. 

“I think that’s one of the biggest problems in our diocese is not being a more active community instead of a passive community,” she said. “We have to go look for them.” 

For Sister Magdalene, being around joyful women religious since she was about 10 years old had a direct and lasting impact on her call to religious life. 

“The little embers Jesus put into my heart were most fanned into flame by hearing the way that these women spoke to him when they prayed aloud; I heard a tender love and closeness that I longed for in my own heart,” Sister Magdalene said.

Because of societal pressures of moving forward with a career and a family, religious life can be countercultural, leading to misconceptions. 

“People think religious are lonely, and they live a loveless life. And I don’t think that’s it. Having Christ with you, that’s all you need in life,” Nunez said. “Religious who have the calling would definitely agree with me that their life isn’t boring. Their life is filled with so much love, and his love pours out. It’s a love story at the end of the day; it’s a marriage.” 

This concept of a “love story” drew Sister Magdalene to the CFRs. She said she was “captivated” by their authenticity of carrying out the Gospel message. 

“There is a simplicity in our life that corresponds so deeply within me and which is really the heart and the motivation of the Franciscan life we live — we seek to love Jesus, our spouse, more each day by rooting ourselves deeply in prayer and the sacraments,” Sister Magdalene said. “And then this just pours out into our life together as sisters and into the apostolate of serving his beloved poor and evangelizing all whom we encounter.” 

While Nunez and Sister Magdalene are still working toward God’s plans for their lives, this time of discernment is blessed. Nunez said she’s “grown so much spiritually,” and if the Lord calls her to another vocation outside of religious life, she won’t regret anything. 

“It’s showed me how much the Lord is loving me. … If this is part of it, I’m all up for the adventure,” she said. 

Sister Magdalene said she’s “filled with wonder” at Jesus’ love and calling for her. 

“He has a place prepared for each one of us. I have always heard this, but am now daily experiencing just how infinitely better and full of life his ways are — so far beyond anything I could have ever thought of or imagined for myself,” she said. 

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