By Angelica Casas
While most students learn to balance school life with social and family life, one student also includes the consecrated life in her balance.
Sister Patricia Marie Lohre, a sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament of Victoria Congregation, is a senior at Our Lady of the Lake University, where she will receive a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies and theology with a minor in philosophy.
Lohre was born in El Paso, while her father was stationed at Fort Bliss. Her family moved many times because her father was in the Army. They lived in Germany for three years, where Lohre learned about communicating despite language barriers.
“I learned over there how to play with kids without having a common language for playing was a universal language in itself.” Lohre said. “The years in West Germany were the best years of my life growing up.”
Those fun years ended when her family moved back to the United States to Fort Tilden, just outside of New York City, in 1967. It was then, early of nine-years-old, that she found out the reality of what the world was really like there.
“Before New York, the only prejudice I knew was whether one’s family are Army or Air Force,” Lohre said.
She remembers that a girl she would play with would sometimes bite her. The girl would be sent to the principal’s office, and she would wait for her to come out so that we could play some more.
“I held no ill will against her,” Lohre said. “I did not understand why she did it, just that she was my friend.”
Lohre’s high school years were chaotic due to family and personal troubles.
“I was very depressed,” Lohre said. “I had started drinking and was suicidal. If I had not had God in my life back then and knew God as my friend, I know that I would not be alive today. Knowing that God was always with me, helped me in my struggle to live. God never betrayed me, harmed me, or deserted me as people did. The Psalms were my prayers, expressing my pain yet ending with hope. The Gospel according to John spoke of real love that was life giving. I desired what I had not experienced.”
The love of God she felt inspired her to later become a sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament.
At the end of this month, Lohre will move back to Victoria, where she hopes to work in one of the parishes in the Diocese of Victoria.
Q: What inspired you to become a sister?
A: After surviving those high school years, I knew that I wanted to give my life in service to God in response to God’s love that kept me alive. God had captured my heart. Yet, God had other plans for me. I was not only called to give my life to God, I was called to help my family with love. My younger sister Mary was Mary began being rebellious and constantly fighting with others when she was 11 or 12 years old. Mom would take her to different doctors trying to determine what might be cause. Many years later, she was diagnosed as manic-depressive and bi-polar. She would physically attack my parents and me. I lived at home, trying to run interference between her and our parents until I was 21. I moved out after she attacked me with an ice pick. A year later, she moved in with me when Dad kicked her out of the house. I never gave up on her.
When she graduated from high school and turned 18, I got my own apartment. I always looked out for her, which once involved bailing her out of jail. Watching out for her was a life long mission.
Q: How did you choose which congregation to join?
A: Over the years, I searched for a religious order to join but something always blocked it. The CDPs would say that it was providential. By the time I was 32, I had given up hope of finding a community to be a part of and so, on my birthday I went to my parish and made my own vows. In that quiet, empty, dark church, I put a ring on my finger and vowed to love God first with my whole heart, mind, and soul, to seek to follow God’s will, and to live simply. I had been living that in that manner anyways and during that time disappointing five guys by not marrying them. They could not be satisfied with just being good friends. Go figure!
When I was 50, I met Sister Laura Toman of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament of Victoria, Texas. She asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a religious sister and I told her that I had given up on it and that I was too old to join. She said that I wasn’t too old. That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. She invited me to a Come and See weekend at the Motherhouse in Victoria. I finally gave in to her asking, thinking that once I went she would leave me alone about it. I still remember every detail of that Saturday night when I visited their chapel after all the others had gone to bed. I heard in my heart God telling me that I was home. God told me that I had given my life giving to others and this was God’s gift to me, a home. When the weekend was over, I told the Sisters of my intention to be a part of them and they accepted me.
Q: How did you balance your consecrated life with your life as a student?
A: It was not so much that I balance the two for my life as a student was part of my life as a consecrated person. As a Sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament of Victoria Congregation, I live to be an extension of the Incarnate Word (Jesus Christ) in the world today. My vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience call me to love God with my whole heart, mind, and soul, to love my neighbor, my enemy and myself. As such, I strive to be present to other students, to love, comfort, and help them just as God does. I also strive to be aware of God in others and accepting of their help and support for me. Just as any student, I have struggled at times in my studies. It is in those times that others have ministered to me.
Q: What is the best part about being consecrated?
A: Living in a manner that says God is real, God is love, and God cares.