Heaven or bust: Eden Valley woman prepares to enter religious life

He was lying face down on the cold floor when it struck her. “He is giving everything, everything he possibly can for the Church, to be able to bring us Jesus,” Madi Field thought while attending the ordination of a priest in 2017.

She attended the ordination with a friend, and the two sat side by side as they watched all the priests of the diocese come forward and give the newly ordained priest a hug, known in the ordination rite as the Kiss of Peace.

“Just witnessing the brotherhood of these men who all laid down their lives for us and to see them welcoming this new brother into this life-giving ministry, I was moved to tears at the sight. These men are on the frontlines to protect us and guide us and lead us. Seeing them lay down their lives made me want to lay down mine, too,” Madi said.

Madi Field will enter contemplative religious life Jan. 26 with the Discalced Carmelites of the Holy Name of Jeus in Denmark, Wisconsin. (Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Growing up in the rural town of Eden Valley in a Catholic home with three sisters, Madi didn’t feel like her life was out of the norm. Her family attended Mass together at Assumption Parish. Her grandpa was once her religion teacher.

Her church didn’t really have a youth group, but each summer she attended retreats including the National Catholic Youth Conference, Steubenville Youth Conferences and Catholic Heart Work Camp. It was in college at Minnesota State University in Moorhead where she really felt her faith blossom. She met a friend who invited her to a Catholic Bible study.

The following year, she took a break from her studies and spent a year as a National Evangelization Team (NET) missionary, traveling from town to town in a van with other young adults spreading the Gospel.

“It was a really good year of growth and community life, learning how to love people better and how to get along with all kinds of people,” Madi recalled.

When she returned to school, she lived in a faith formation and discernment house with other women. There she met Father Bryan Kujawa, director of campus ministries.

“Father Bryan spent a lot of time with us and really invested in us,” Madi said. “He was on fire and in love with God. He really encouraged us to become saints and to not compromise any part of the Gospel, which very much helped me in my faith.”

Madi’s friend who invited her to the Bible study entered the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus in New Ulm, taking the name of Sister Mary Angela.

“Witnessing her prayer life made me think, ‘Wow, she has a really special relationship with Jesus.’ And I wanted that, too — her peace and joy,” Madi said.

Over the next few years of college, Madi opened herself to the possibility of religious life.

“After meeting Sister Mary Angela, I slowly started talking to people about religious life and visited a couple of places — the Handmaids and also the Sisters of Life in New York. Then I just wasn’t really sure. I loved their mission and their apostolates, but at neither one did I feel the Lord at all say to move forward. I was thinking, ‘Uh-oh. Now what do I do?’”

Madi considered mission work, but she felt prompted to consider looking at a more contemplative order. Last January, she visited the Discalced Carmelites of the Holy Name of Jesus in Denmark, Wisconsin.

“I asked Mother [Christine Marie of the Saints O.C.D] all the questions that I would ask if I was serious about entering the monastery, but I still wasn’t sure that I really wanted to jump into all of that. She answered all my questions zealously and joyfully. After that, the Lord continued to reveal little pieces of our conversation. I felt like he was asking me to continue to open my heart to it,” Madi said.

Within a couple of months of visiting the monastery, Madi submitted her application. She was accepted and began her first year as an aspirant, typically spent mostly outside of the monastery preparing to enter the community.

“It’s very supernatural. It’s not something I would naturally consider. But the Lord is so generous that how can I not be open to what he is inviting me to?” Madi said.

On Jan. 25, she will officially enter the community. The order is cloistered, which means the sisters do not leave the monastery. She may receive letters but she is not permitted to respond. She will be allowed to visit her family for three days each year.

“Our charism is contemplation and prayer is our apostolate, with an emphasis on praying for those who are teaching the teachings of the Church, praying for them to be centered in the tradition, and for those who fight heresies. It’s really about protecting the core of the Church,” Madi said.

“Madi has been generous with the Lord, and the Lord has not been outdone in generosity.”

The monastery has two priest retreat houses onsite for priests and seminarians.

Madi is most looking forward to meeting all the sisters — there are 12 professed members in the community, which was founded in 1992. Her formation includes one year of postulancy, two years in the novitiate and at least five years in temporary vows before making final vows.

Two of the priests she knows she will be praying for are Father Aaron Nett, pastor of Assumption Parish in Eden Valley, who has known Madi for three years; and Father Kujawa.

“I hold high regards for Madi and have a great respect for her courage and faith to answer the calling to the Carmelites,” Father Nett said. “We will all be blessed by her prayers and sacrifices for souls, especially for the priests. We need a lot of prayers. The Church so needs young men and women to answer the call to serve where they are called, given over to the heart of Jesus. I pray that she finds true happiness and fulfillment in God’s plan.”

“At least two things have become deeply evident,” added Father Kujawa. “Madi has been generous with the Lord, and the Lord has not been outdone in generosity. I think she would happily agree that her open heart has been filled with the grace of God to overflowing. As with almost everyone discerning the celibate life, Madi had some hesitations. Even greater were her hesitations to join a contemplative community. But she still opened her heart to the Lord and he has provided in so many ways.

“My only hope for her is the only thing worth hoping for: Heaven or bust. I’m reminded of the line (often quoted in a number of slight variations) from Leon Bloy: ‘In the end there is only one real tragedy: not to have become a saint.’”

Madi requests prayers from the people of the Diocese of St. Cloud as she takes this leap of faith. She specifically seeks information about priests and teachers of the Catholic faith so she can pray intentionally for their needs. She can receive letters (though unable to respond) at: Discalced Carmelites of the Holy Name of Jesus, 6100 Pepper Road, Denmark, WI 54208.

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the associate editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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