On July 16, Sister Marcia Hall returned to her native Trenton and together with family, friends, colleagues and fellow parishioners, commemorated her 25th jubilee as a member of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first U.S.-based religious order of black women that was founded by the now-Venerable Mother Mary Lange in 1829.
PHOTO GALLERY: Sister Marcia Hall -25th Anniversary
A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated in Holy Cross Church, Trenton, part of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, where Sister Marcia renewed her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
“My life has radically changed since I’ve been in the convent,” said Sister Marcia.
“They certainly nurtured my faith and the traditions that I had learned there have held me in good stead,” she said.
Sister Marcia Hall addresses the parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, July 16 during a Mass for her 25th jubilee in religious life. Joe Moore photo
Sister Marcia’s vocation story began as a student in Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Grammar School, Trenton, where she was inspired by the Oblate Sisters of Providence who staffed the school. Her pursuit of entering religious life, however, did not happen until almost four decades later when it was the mid-1990s and she was in her 40s. Her experiences after grammar school included graduating from Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Princeton, where she attended high school, and leaving the Trenton area to pursue studies in sociology at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels. She worked in the education field, both teaching and in administrative positions, and spent several years as a college professor.
While serving on the faculty of Simmons College in Boston, Sister Marcia said thoughts of becoming a sister resurfaced and she began the discernment process, spending time in prayer and making weekly commutes to the motherhouse in Baltimore. In 1997, she realized the only way she would definitely know if she had a vocation was if she moved to Baltimore and lived and worked among the sisters.
For her, the biggest challenge she found was relinquishing her independence after having lived on her own for almost 20 years. “When you live by yourself you can do what you want. …You can’t do that in community life,” she said, then noted that among the challenges she encountered was transitioning from teaching at the college level to teaching grammar school students.
Sister Marcia entered the community as a postulant in 1998; became a novice in 1999; made her first profession of vows in 2001, and final vows in 2006. Since then, she’s held various positions including serving as principal of St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, the oldest black Catholic school in the country, founded in 1828 by Mother Mary Lange. Sister Marcia’s current duties include serving on the community’s leadership team, as motherhouse coordinator and liturgy coordinator, and as vocation director. She also serves as a guide for Venerable Mary Lange tours and pilgrimages.
She noted that there are currently five women who entered the congregation during her time as vocation director and that there are other sisters in various stages of formation, one of whom will profess final vows on Aug. 14 and a postulant who will become a novice on Aug. 25.
“We pray for all the women who are discerning a vocation with our congregation,” she said.
For any woman who is discerning a call to religious life, Sister Marcia advises that she prays unceasingly and asks others to pray with and for her; finds a spiritual director who can aid in the discernment process; reads VISION magazine, which has helpful articles written in English and Spanish by religious men and women; listens regularly to the podcast, “A Nun’s Life,” and talks with/visits as many communities as possible.
“Being in community has provided the most enjoyment, many blessings and the most challenges,” said Sister Marcia, adding how humbling it was for her to be an Oblate Sister of Providence as the community celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2004 and processing into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a standing ovation.
More recently, she said, “I was proud to be a daughter of Mary Lange on June 22 when Pope Francis declared her Venerable.
“It means that after 30 years, she is one step closer to sainthood,” Sister Marcia said, “and now more people want to know who she is and why she is important.”