When Garden City native Kensie Geier, 26, took a vow of poverty in September, she found wealth beyond anything she could have ever imagined.
“It was the best day of my life, so far,” said Geier, who is now “Sister Mary Pieta” of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. “Taking my vows (poverty, chastity, obedience) was the surest I’ve ever felt of God’s love for me. Not that I’ve ever doubted that, but it was a profound experience of God the Father loving me and choosing me and calling me, and all I had to do was just say yes. It was very humbling.”
The distance between Garden City and Harlem, NY is 1,448 miles, as the crow flies. The convent in which she and the other sisters live is set deep amid the tenements and government housing projects of the inner city, where the Sisters faithfully, and some would say bravely, take to the sidewalks to minister to God’s people.
“One walk we took was very blessed,” Sister Mary Pieta said. “There are so many different types of people who really need to witness Jesus loving them. One man was very hurt and angry toward the Catholic Church. We talked with him for about 10 minutes and invited him to come back to Mass. After praying with him, he seemed so touched by God’s love that he was moved to tears. Another group totally rejected us and would not talk to us, just as Jesus was rejected. We ran into a woman who was a Jehovah’s Witness and was out evangelizing. And there was a Baptist woman, about 60, who had grown up in the neighborhood; we spoke to her about the needs of the community and she told us of the drug problems. There’s just a whole gamut of people.”
Sister Mary Pieta graduated from Garden City High School and attended Benedictine College in Atchison where she studied music education and theology, the latter of which, she said, had nothing to do with her desire to become a Sister.
“I chose theology because I thought that education should bring us closer to the Lord,” she said. “God gave us our minds so we could come to know Him. What better way than to study theology?”
She was first introduced to the notion of becoming a Sister while in confession when she was 16. “A priest asked me to think about the Religious life. That’s when the door first opened. I didn’t formally start discerning until college. That’s when my desire to become a Sister was born.”
She then began her search for a Religious community devoted to the Eucharist, with daily Mass and a daily Eucharistic holy hour. She wanted a community that stressed the simplicity of life -- the poverty of life amid the “radical living of the Gospel.”
She found it in the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.
“We don’t have gadgets – computers, microwaves, TVs, dishwashers. I wanted to be in a community that worked with the poor, and I felt in my heart that if I wanted to work with the poor, I needed to be poor.”
Her parents, Don Geier and Linda Geier, were less than enamored with the notion of their daughter relocating to a tough neighborhood miles away. But once they traveled to New York and met the Sisters, they “knew that this was where God created me to be.” She has two brothers, Scott, 29, and Matt, 21.
Sister Mary Pieta completed her novitiate at a convent in the Bronx before moving to another convent in Harlem last month. Novices, she said, “hold back from the ministry so that we can build up our relationship with Jesus. Our ministry means absolutely nothing if we’re not fed by our relationship with Jesus.
“Being a novice means your main work, your duty, your responsibility, is to build your relationship with Jesus, so that when you profess vows, you’re ready to go out and evangelize.”
Her day -- her life -- centers primarily around prayer. The community meets five times a day for prayer; they have Mass each day, an hour of adoration in the evening, an hour of silent meditation in the morning, and daily recitation of the Rosary. They cook, they clean, and they serve the poor.
“I’m as happy as I thought I’d be, and I’m so much happier,” she said. “God creates our hearts and puts desires in our hearts. It’s everything I ever wanted, but then God poured out graces in abundance. My vocation is truly a gift. Of course I chose to embrace it, but it was a gift given to me.”
When asked if she had words to offer anyone – girl or boy, woman or man – who may be discerning a vocation, she responded with the following:
“Pray every day. Pray with an open heart, asking the Lord what he wants of you, and that you won’t be afraid of what he wants of you. In the end, what God wants for us is going to make us happier than anything else. Be courageous in following God. Don’t be afraid to follow God’s will, because God’s will is beyond your imaginings. He’ll make you happier than you ever thought you could be. Pray every day that God will lead you to his will, and that you’ll be courageous in accepting it.”
Sister Mary Pieta asked for prayers for young people and for vocations, that “young people will have the courage to embrace the total life of the Gospel -- to embrace the Gospel in a radical way. That’s what the Church needs at this time.
“And thanks to all the many people who are praying for me. With deepest gratitude in my heart, I offer prayers for them as well, and I thank God for their prayerful support.”