Receiving the call to religion
RUTHERFORDTON — Beatrice Ann Riley, known by her religious name as Sister Mary Catherine of Siena, MC, awakes each day at 4:30 a.m. and is on her knees praying by 5 a.m.
She continues to pray for several hours each day while living a life like that of a cloistered nun in her Chicago, Illinois missionary house, where she is a sister of the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative.
Riley, 39, received the call to religion 11 years ago.
"Beatrice had a great job after college, but felt something was missing. The next year she joined the order of the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative," said Giuliana Riley, Beatrice's mother. "She wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world. She thought about the Peace Corps, but found that it lacked the religious aspect that she was wanting."
Beatrice is the daughter of Giuliana and Robert Riley of Rutherfordton.
She graduated from R-S Central High School in 1991 and continued her education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Four years later, after receiving her Bachelor of Music from UNCG with a concentration in violin performance, Beatrice attended Radford University in Virginia.
She completed her Master of Science degree in music in 2000 and began a music therapy internship in St. Paul, Minnesota shortly after.
By 2001, Beatrice was recognized as a board certified music therapist.
In January 2002, Beatrice joined the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative and entered the formation house in Plaintive, New Jersey.
"Beatrice has always been a well-rounded person, playing violin, riding horses, acting in theatre performances and helping as a dance and gymnastics instructor," Riley said. "I was very surprised when she joined the order, but I am so very proud of her for being so wise and mature and for never compromising on her faith."
Missionaries of Charity Contemplative
In 1976, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative branch in the South Bronx.
The contemplative sisters serve the poorest of the poor through prayer and the spiritual works of mercy.
Missionaries of Charity take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, as well as an additional fourth vow of wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.
They live life like a cloistered nun, leaving the convent three or four days a week for two hours to go speak with the poor and hand out religious medals and rosaries.
Each sister has two blue and white saris, sandals and an apostolate bag, which holds rosaries, religious medals, holy cards and holy water to give to the poor when they visit them.
"Every time I'm out with Beatrice, I see people approach her, speak with her and ask her for prayers," Riley said.
The training periods for contemplative sisters like Beatrice ranges from six months to six years.
After the initial six months of training, a sister reaches aspirancy, followed by postulancy after another year.
Two years later, a sister reaches the level of noviciate, at the end of which the first profession of vows are taken.
A Missionaries of Charity novice professes her first vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.
Beatrice made her first profession of religious vows on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 2007, at St. Mary's Church in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Sisters then continue their training for five more years, becoming juniorates.
After their final year of training, they reach tertianship, at the end of which the final profession of vows are taken.
These vows are again of chastity, poverty, obedience and wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.
Beatrice made her final profession of religious vows in May 2013 at Our Lady of Victory Church in Washington, D.C.
Her final vows last for life.
A Day in the Life of a Sister
"There's a misconception to what sisters like Beatrice do," Riley said. "Do they just fix soup? No. People find that there's a bigger purpose — that the sisters serve a bigger purpose."
In addition to service, the sisters' daily routine includes participating in Mass, prayer and Adoration.
They begin their day in prayer, promptly on their knees to pray when the morning bell rings.
Sisters have four or five hours of prayer each day and allow people to pray with them in their convent.
During Adoration, Missionaries of Charity pray before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed in a monstrance, for one or more hours each day.
Sisters also follow the advice given by Mother Teresa on how to be humble. This includes speaking as little as possible about oneself, not meddling in the affairs of others, yielding to the will of others, being courteous and sensitive and always choosing what is most difficult.
The sisters do not eat meals outside their convent, a custom designed to protect the poor from giving their last bit of food to their guests.
Furthermore, the sisters do not own property or receive personal gifts.
"Beatrice doesn't get to have many personal possessions," Riley said. "She has one change of clothes and just enough items to fit into a small box."
They live modestly without modern conveniences such as air conditioning, home appliances, computers or cell phones.
"They do have wind-up alarm clocks and one telephone line," Riley said. "When we call her we have to keep it brief and often have a family conference call."
Visitation is only during the first Sunday of each month, and home visits are granted once every 10 years for three weeks at a time.
While Beatrice was at the formation house in New Jersey, her mother frequently flew up to see her on those Sundays.
Beatrice is currently assigned to a missionary home in Chicago, and her mother plans to visit her soon.
"She's very happy there and happy to do what the Lord wants her to do," Riley said. "She could have been sent to India or Italy, but I'm glad she is still in the U.S."
A typical day for a sister:
4:30 a.m. Arise
5:00 a.m. Morning prayer
6:00 a.m. Meditation
7:00 a.m. Mass
7:30 a.m. Breakfast
8:00 a.m. Cleaning
9:00 a.m. Missionary duties
12:00 p.m. Prayer
12:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. Rest
2:00 p.m. Tea
2:30 p.m. Missionary duties
5:00 p.m. Adoration
7:00 p.m. Laundry
7:30 p.m. Supper
8:00 p.m. Recreation
9:00 p.m. Prayer
9:30 p.m. Retire