Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Eastern Washington woman explores Religious life with Franciscan community
by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff
(From the Jan. 15, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
Right: Laura Nettles has begun the process to become a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. (IR file photo)
At Mass recently at St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, Laura Nettles was blessed as she entered a new stage of life. On Jan. 5 she began the associate phase to become a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration.
In what used to be called postulancy, she will make her home for at least the next 18 months at the Sisters’ mother-house in Lacrosse, Wis.
“I had never been in Wisconsin until I went there for a ‘come and see’ weekend,” she said – an opportunity to visit the Religious community. Until that point, actually, Wisconsin was one of two states Nettles had yet to visit at one time or another.
She was born and raised Catholic and thought she might have a vocation to Religious life, but “I hadn’t known any Sisters growing up,” Nettles said. “As a real little girl, I thought maybe I could be a priest. I even practiced saying Mass.”
She was born in Washington D.C. and attended elementary and high schools in New Mexico. She participated in religious education classes at her parishes. She graduated from college in Wyoming with a degree in music education.
After graduation from college, Nettles taught high school band in California, first at a public school in the south of the state and then at a Catholic boys’school in northern California. At the boys’ school she was able to become acquainted with some Catholic Sisters, and also with the Sisters at the Catholic girls’ school across the street.
Being around Religious Sisters, she began thinking about vocation again, and decided to take a year off “for discernment.” Since her parents, Ed and Carol Nettles, had retired in eastern Washington state, she came north to live with them.
“My mother graduated from Eastern Washington University and they like small towns,” Nettles said. Her grandmother, Ruby West, is a long-time resident of Spokane and a member of Mary Queen Parish.
The internet was one tool Nettles used to learn about various Religious orders. She checked out websites and also looked at ads. She knew that she didn’t want to be very formal, especially in regard to habits. A friend had a friend who was an FSPA Sister and suggested Nettles research the community, which she did.
“I (reflected) on that for a while,” she said. “Finally I called them.” That was when she attended the “come and see” weekend with the result that “I liked what I saw.”
What was important to Nettles was the Franciscans’ openness to all forms of prayer, and also their use of art, including music, as a form of prayer.
She enjoyed her weekend stay and decided to go back for a closer look. She spent the month of May with the Sisters in Wisconsin.
There were two parts to Nettles’ discernment process. First was a discernment to Religious life; the second, discernment for which community.
“I felt confident that Religious life was for me,” Nettles said. “I was looking for a place I could be me in.”
As she enters Franciscan Religious life, she looks forward to a deeper development of her spiritual life, and the time “to be able to listen.” That way, she said, “I can zero in on what God wants.”