Sister Sharon finds her heart

TRAVELERS REST—Poor Clare Sister Sharon Ratteree gives a lot of credit to the nun who prayed for her mother while she was giving birth to her in the former St. Eugene’s Hospital in Dillon.

“I am convinced now that the prayer of that sister was the beginning of God’s call upon my life,” she said in a recent interview.

Sister Sharon professed her solemn vows at the Monastery of St. Clare on June 19, which was also her 58th birthday. Franciscan Father Thomas Hartle presided at the ceremony. He is the religious associate for Poor Clare Nuns of the Holy Name Federation.

Her two brothers and a sister-in law were there to celebrate with her.

She was born in Dillon but lived most of her life in North Carolina, one of three children of the late Bernice and William Ratteree. Both parents were public schoolteachers who raised their children to have a deep love of learning. Sister Sharon received a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and then studied at École Normale de Musique in Paris. She also did graduate work at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and earned a registered nursing degree from the Carolina College of Health Sciences.

“My field was music, and my goals of performance and teaching in higher education were achieved before I was 30,” she said. “I felt empty and began to seek to find my heart again.”

Raised a Presbyterian, she was a teen when she first felt what she calls “the whisper of God” to live a monastic life, but dismissed the idea because she wasn’t Catholic and felt, then, that it would be “hiding from the world.” After she left her career in music, she worked for a nondenominational church and explored the missionary field, but still felt something was missing.

After watching evening Mass on television, Sister Sharon said she suddenly realized the fullness of Christ that came through the Eucharist, and started attending RCIA classes at a church in Charlotte. She became a Catholic in 2006.

She felt a genuine call to religious life but didn’t know whether to enter a contemplative or apostolic order, so she asked the question “What part of the Body of Christ am I?”

While at prayer one day, she heard the voice of God answer: “I want you to be my heart, I want you to be my heart for the world.”

A visit to the Travelers Rest monastery and a month-long Franciscan pilgrimage led to her decision to enter the Order of the Poor Clares six years ago.

Their primary mission is constant prayer for the needs of the Church, the poor and the world. The Travelers Rest sisters live a cloistered life and support themselves by distributing altar breads and producing prayer cards.

“I am grateful to God for the gift of Sister Sharon’s vocation and for her generous response,” said Sister Mary Connor, abbess at the Monastery of St. Clare. “We have already been blessed by her presence among us. I know that her life of prayer will be blessings to our diocese and to our world.”

Sister Sharon said she had to be willing to let go of all her possessions and all she had known before in order to reach this milestone.

“It really is true that when you surrender all, God will bring more than you ever imagined and in a way that you would never expect,” she said.

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