Archdiocese of Edmonton Communications
Sara Dmitri is a woman who radiates joy. But she also knows the feeling of fear.
Sara has recently left her hometown of Edmonton to discern becoming a religious sister with the Queenship of Mary, a religious community based out of the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall. On Sept. 7, the eve of her departure to Ottawa, I had the chance to speak with her about the journey that led her move to a religious community and start discerning with them.
Her joy at the prospect of joining a religious community is evident as I sit with her. She has a glowing demeanor, like a person in love. But she is honest and open about the fear of the unknown which has been a parallel to her sense of joy: “There’s a lot fear because there are a lot of unknowns. Marriage is easier to discern because we are familiar with it, we see it in our daily life, but religious life is more unknown to many people. . . And yet, the Lord tells us to not be anxious about anything! Fear isn’t going to entirely go away, but it is held in this peace and confidence in God.”
Sara has lived in Edmonton for all of her 29 years and she has been an active member of St. Thomas More Parish for just as long. By trade, she is both a civil engineer and a teacher and she has also served in her local parish as a youth minister and in various other capacities for more than seven years. She i
For much of her life, the vocation of a religious sister was only vaguely familiar to Sara. However, in 2016, while she serving as a NET Ministries missionary in Ireland, Sara had an experience that sparked within her an initial desire for religious life. “They had some religious sisters join us for [NET] training and they were the opposite of what I had expected. They were so joyful and very prayerful, they loved the Lord a lot. They played Ultimate frisbee with us on the beach. . . and they were so much better than any of us! After that. . . it was the first time I thought, oh maybe I’m being called to religious life.”
Since that initial experience in Ireland, Sara’s interest in religious life slowly began to grow. She shares how the gentle encouragement of people close to her and the example of other religious sisters in Edmonton helped to dispel the fear of the unknown and grow her openness to exploring a vocation as a sister.
Sister Rafala Duraj, a member of the Sister Servants of Mary in Edmonton, has been a friend of Sara’s for more than 7 years. Sara shares that Sr. Rafala was a witness to the beauty and appeal of religious life and one of the reasons that Sara started to seriously discern religious life. “I invited [Sister Rafala] to give a talk at a youth group event I was leading and I noticed that she would say ‘Jesus’ and then look towards the tabernacle and you could just see. . . really this love of Christ as a Bridegroom.”
Sr. Rafala shared with me that Sara’s deep “relationship with Jesus” and that fact that Sara has always been “very involved in the Church, in service” is a natural connection to religious life.
Sara is has also been one of the founding members and the chair for CYEG, the Catholic Young Adults organization for the Archdiocese and her service through CYEG has been pivotal in creating an increasingly engaged Catholic young adult community in the Edmonton area. Johanna Yusep, a friend of Sara’s and the co-chair for CYEG shares that through Sara’s work with CYEG, “she really cared that CYEG was serving the actual needs of young Catholics in our diocese and listening to hear what those needs were, rather than just creating events that people assume would be what young adults want.”
Johanna also shared that “Sara is the kind of person who wants to make sure that people always have what they need and that they feel welcome in a space,” which directly flows into her discernment of religious life with a religious community that is focused on service and hospitality!
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sara connected virtually with several religious communities and in December 2021 she found the Queenship of Mary religious order through the recommendation of a friend.
Sara shares that there are two central characteristics that attracted her to the Queenship of Mary community. The joy and playful camaraderie of the community immediately drew her in. It was a joy that far superseded the fear of the unknown. “I fell in love with the totality of who they are and how they live. They are so full of joy – every interaction I’ve had with them, we were laughing and it didn’t feel fake and it didn’t feel less than the joy I’ve had with other friendships throughout my life.”
Sara was also drawn to how hospitality and service are central to the mission of the Queenship of Mary. “I love that their mission is to be available to the needs of the Church. It feels very much like who I am.. . the Lord knew that! I love opening spaces for people to encounter each other and encounter Christ and that’s what they do.”
The Queenship of Mary was founded in 2012 by Alice Fougere (now known as Mother Mary Bernadette) just outside of Ottawa. The fact that the community is Canadian means a lot to Sara: “One beautiful part (of community life with the Queenship of Mary) is that everyday we ask for the intercession of the Canadian martyrs and the saints who brought Catholicism to Canada and we pray for Canada, our country. And not that I couldn’t pray for Canada from a community that was located somewhere else, but I believe that God intended for me to grow up in Edmonton, in Canada. I’ve been so involved in ministry in Edmonton and I desire to the Church in Canada to grow, to grow in its love for Christ. . . and [the Queenship of Mary] is focused on Canada and that means a lot to me.”
As of the second week of September, Sara has joined the Queenship of Mary community, where she is beginning her first full year of discernment. This includes an initial three-month period called an aspirancy and a second period of discernment called the postulancy.
How does her family feel about her departure to Ottawa and the potential that she may spend her life as a religious sister? Sara shares that “it’s hard for family to have me leave, but they can see the joy that I have. . . they can see that (this discernment of religious life) is God’s will and they want that for me!”
As an integral part of the Edmonton Catholic community, Sara’s presence will be missed as she sets out to Ottawa to continue discerning religious life, but her witness to the joy of the Gospel message and her willingness to seek out God’s will is an inspiration to many in the diocese. Please keep Sara in your prayers!
-Jenny Connelly is a communications coordinator for the Archdiocese of Edmonton