My name is Hannah Houser, and though I have apraxia, this hasn't stopped me from my desire to be what I was called to be, a Catholic sister.
In the Beginning
I was raised in Hamilton, Ohio, in a Catholic family of seven. Through their actions and words, my parents passed along their strong faith and Franciscan charism. From an early age, I was interested in helping others, so my childhood activities included volunteering with children with disabilities, caring for animals, the environment, and learning American Sign Language.
Apraxia is a speech impairment where individuals struggle to organize words, sounds, thoughts, and grammar. The speaker needs to have a slower speech rate when conversing with someone; both need to be patient to understand the person with apraxia better. Although I am not Deaf, I attended Saint Rita School for the Deaf through second grade because of my speech apraxia. My elementary school 2nd-8th grade was St. Joseph School in Hamilton, Ohio. My interest in the Catholic faith deepened during middle school. After Confirmation and First Holy Communion, I immediately felt a call to serve the Lord through the Blessed Mother, Mary.
While attending Hamilton High School, I joined a youth group, and shortly after, my pastor, Father Ray, inspired me and gave me the courage to sign the hymns and prayers at Mass. The Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, were also a significant influence in my life.
My major at Muskingum University was Sociology, focusing on animal and environmental issues. My involvement with Cru (a campus Christian ministry) allowed me to spend time with like-minded Christians and to provide sign language interpretation for musical presentations and other events.
After graduation, I started attending Saint Julie Billiart Church, which became my home parish. I joined the choir to sign at Sunday Mass throughout the year. Sharing God's Word through signing is a talent that allows me to bring God's grace and message to others. Through March 2020, I taught grade school age children how to sign. I also became a volunteer assistant with a youth group to help teenagers learn about Scripture.
Since I was young, I had heard stories of family members who entered religious life with different Franciscan communities, my great aunt, great uncle, and grandpa. They all inspired me to explore religious life. My mother, grandmother, and I are associate members of the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, so the idea of religious life came naturally to me. In October 2019, while listening to and signing the song Colors of the Wind, it occurred to me that God was leading me to a vocation with the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg. The realization came with a great burst of joy!
I've spent much of the past year visiting the sisters and learning about the Franciscan way of life and their charism. The sisters trust the Lord and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ by leading through example. Being near them has helped me grow in my faith. Whenever I am with the sisters, I feel like I've come home.
Called to Serve
I'm very excited about serving God as a Franciscan through the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, community. I look forward to teaching and advocating for children and adults with disabilities. I know that the best way to advocate and teach is to strive to live out the virtues of love, charity, and mercy through example.
Prayer & Invitation
The one impediment to my continuing formation is not my apraxia but is my student loan debt. According to Canon Law, any financial debt must be paid before entering the religious community's Novitiate program. On December 6, 2019, St. Nicholas’ Feast day, I remember the Lord giving me and my vocation director, Sr. Kathleen Branham, the grace to understand how to make my desire to be a sister possible. Through great prayer, wisdom, and trust, the Lord led us to the Labouré Society.
The Labouré Society exists to help men and women like me fulfill their vocations. They provide the tools and resources to support individuals who must resolve education loans to pursue a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Their vision is to bring priests, sisters, and brothers to exist in adequate numbers in order to fill the world's needs; where young people everywhere who feel they are called to the priesthood or religious life have the opportunity to pursue that calling. Labouré Society's journey helps me to grow in the virtue of obedience and gratitude for the Lord's gifts and to invite the laity on this journey with me.
I invite you to pray for me and others like me who desire to dedicate our lives for the Church but are blocked by our financial circumstances. As you know, the Church desperately needs priests, sisters, and brothers.