God and Woman at Harvard
A 2010 summa cum laude heads to a convent.


LOPEZ: Why do you want to teach? Is that more a desire or a call?

MARKS: For me, the attraction to teaching is both a desire and a call. Some sisters in my community never wanted to teach but still knew that God was calling them to the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist; for them, the community’s educational apostolate is an element of their vocation that requires trust and surrender. In my case, I have always been exhilarated by the idea of being able to give children the solid grounding in their faith that I never received in school. Truth has always been extremely important to me, and I am thrilled that God can use me to transmit it — Him!

LOPEZ: My Latin isn’t what it was in high school, so I read your commencement address in English. What did I miss? What is it that’s so special about Latin?

MARKS: As in any language, there are untranslatable elements: nuances of meaning; an extremely satisfying economy of expression; phrases that, through their vocabulary and word order, allude to other works of literature. There is also the mischievous thrill of expressing modern concepts in an ancient language rarely spoken today — “e-mail” as litteris electronicis, for example.

LOPEZ: You told a Harvard publication that “One of the exciting things about being a nun is that one never knows what the future holds!” Did Harvard people think you were nuts when you started saying such things?

MARKS: Not really; it’s a little like saying, “One of the exciting things about joining the Peace Corps is that one doesn’t know where one will be assigned or what life-changing experiences lie in store.”

LOPEZ: When did you start talking to people casually, publicly, about your vocational call?

MARKS: In eighth grade, after I had committed myself entirely to God during a trip to Lourdes the previous summer. Until then, I had lived a double life, drawn on the one hand to immerse myself in the beauty of my faith, on the other to imitate the less than edifying dress, speech, and behavior of my classmates. Kneeling before the tabernacle in the lower church at Lourdes, I was filled with an understanding of God as Love and a yearning to love Him at all times in everything I did, no matter what anyone else thought. Freed from the need to conform to others’ standards and willing to make Love the ruling principle of my life, I could speak unashamedly and sincerely of my desire to become a sister.

LOPEZ: What are some of the most notable or revealing things that adults — maybe especially faculty — have said to you once they became aware of your vocational plans?

MARKS: Two of my professors told me they had siblings who had entered religious life. Another, a kind but thoroughly unsentimental professor who had been very encouraging of my intention to apply to graduate school, ended our discussion of my change of plans by opening her arms and declaring quietly, “I am going to give you a hug, because this is a big decision, and I admire you for it.” When I remarked to yet another professor on the many positive responses from faculty, he replied that he wasn’t surprised that academics could appreciate the appeal of a life of contemplation and of single-minded pursuit of a spiritual goal.

LOPEZ: What did your classmates say? And did their reactions, in one way or another, explain anything to you?

MARKS: Most were happy that I had found a path to which I could unreservedly commit both mind and heart, and they respected my willingness to do so. One classmate, after hearing my vocation story, felt emboldened to tell me about her upcoming marriage, and I had the chance to explain the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. Another conversation turned toward my friend’s a-religious upbringing and her current unbelief. That my plans could open up discussion on such a personal level was beautiful but also startling and slightly disconcerting, and I realized that I was already experiencing one of the great graces and great challenges of the religious life and priesthood: the legitimate expectation of others that those in a habit or collar are equipped and willing to discuss profound or painful subjects . . . anywhere: in the airport as much as in the classroom or the rectory.