The promise of pursuing a fulfilling career and the satisfaction of advancing in one’s profession is certainly not an uncommon aspiration. And though it may be the right path for many, sometimes God calls a person to switch gears entirely. Sister Vickie Griner, OSC, can attest to that. In fact, she’s encountered more than one twist in her vocational road to becoming a contemplative Franciscan sister.
Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, Sister Vickie attended public grade school and high school. “I did not grow up going to church or practicing any faith tradition,” she says. “I was raised in a close-knit family, with good values and a strong work ethic, but faith and religion were not really talked about [when I was] growing up.”
She completed an undergraduate degree in finance with minors in economics and organizational communication. Sister Vickie went on to pursue joint postgraduate degrees in business and law at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
CONNECTING TO CONTEMPLATION
After finishing her MBA and Juris Doctor studies in 1994, she practiced law in Indianapolis for five years, “before closing my law practice to go on sabbatical,” Sister Vickie says. Up to that point in her life, the natural progression of professional life seemed to suit her. “As a teen, I dreamed of ‘climbing the corporate ladder,’ making a lot of money, and owning my own business,” she says. “There was always another ‘goal’ I had in mind. So I was completely blown away when I had my first conversion experience that led me to go on sabbatical and begin the path I’m on today as a Poor Clare nun, living a life of prayer and contemplation here at our monastery in Cincinnati, Ohio.”
While working as a lawyer, Sister Vickie met and became friends with several people whom she felt comfortable speaking with about spirituality, faith, and religion. “I am grateful that they came into my life, and we remain close friends to this day,” she says. “I believe that God sent these people into my life—when I was ready—to help direct me to the path I am on today as a Poor Clare.”
After closing her law practice, Sister Vickie moved out to New Mexico and onto a Navajo reservation, where she went through the steps of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). She was accepted into the Catholic Church in 2001. It was during RCIA classes that she met her husband, Louie. “My husband was a very important part of my journey,” she says. “I believe that I had a lot to learn about love and relationships, and I am forever grateful for the time we had together.”
Sadly, in 2007, Louie died of a heart attack, a loss that nudged Sister Vickie to take another leap of faith in her life—toward religious life. “Learning to live—and love—through the ups and downs in my married life helped prepare me for religious life within a close-knit community of contemplative women,” she says. “As Franciscans, our relationship with God, with each other, as well as with all creation, defines our lives.”
‘GAZE, CONSIDER, CONTEMPLATE, IMITATE’
While in New Mexico, Sister Vickie volunteered at the Little Sisters of the Poor mission in Gallup. After her husband’s death, she “began to feel called to a contemplative rather than active religious life, without even really understanding what that meant at the time,” she recalls. “The religious sisters I spoke with during this time encouraged me to ‘learn to be Catholic’ before thinking about religious life. They told me that I may just be on a ‘spiritual high’ as a new Catholic, and that this feeling of being called to religious life might pass.”
Sister Vickie considered a variety of contemplative orders, including the Carmelites and the Benedictines, but “my heart ‘leaped for joy’ when I was in discernment with the Poor Clares in Cincinnati,” she says. She entered as a postulant in 2008 and professed her solemn vows in 2014. The notion of being a contemplative religious sister can be a bit mysterious to some, but Sister Vickie points out that, “as Poor Clares, our primary mission is to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and to pray for the needs of the Church and the world.
“We’re cloistered, meaning that we have no active ministry outside the monastery. In addition to our prayer life, we do all the household chores, handle the business of the monastery, and earn money to help sustain our way of life (providing spiritual direction, leading retreats, presentations on Franciscan/Clarian spirituality).”
Sister Vickie has enjoyed the opportunity to go on two pilgrimages to Assisi and Rome, one in 2007, prior to her entering the monastery, and the second in 2021, when she was also able to visit Padua. “Going on pilgrimage 14 years later meant that I could deepen my experiences and take time to pause and reflect on my vocation,” she says. Last November, Sister Vickie was appointed to the International Commission for the Revision of the General Constitutions of the Order of St. Clare. “I am one of 13 Poor Clares from around the world appointed to the commission, which is expected to last four years,” says Sister Vickie.
She takes these latest developments in stride and is always drawn back to the timeless words of St. Clare, penned in one of her letters to St. Agnes of Prague. “No matter how many times I read St. Clare’s letters,” says Sister Vickie, “I experience something new” in her invitation to “‘gaze, consider, contemplate’ so as to ‘imitate’ Christ.”