Baltimore woman is one of a dwindling few inspired to answer 'call' to convent life


Margaret Brogden has been out in the material world: At age 27, she's attended college, had boyfriends, gone dancing, was engaged and knows a thing or two about love.

None of it made her happy for long.

Certainly not as happy as she is today, headed for the convent and ready for anything.

"It's an undefinable calling from God," she said. "And it's been there all my life."

In a day and age when more young women grow up to become doctors than nuns -- when counting the number of nuns in Baltimore is easier than at almost any time past -- Margaret Brogden is on her way to becoming one of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

That's an interesting career move for a woman who grew up as a Baptist.

NB "It was a decision I made by examining the things that made me

happy, by examining the reality of my life," said Ms. Brogden, who lives with her mother near Memorial Stadium and is now selling everything she owns before entering the Towson motherhouse of the Mission Helpers in September.

"I love the Lord -- I am in love with Him. When you love someone, you want to be with them and know everything about them. You want to help them."

A convert to Roman Catholicism at age 19 -- having been attracted to St. Veronica's Catholic Church in Cherry Hill because of its gospel choir and a boyfriend who worshiped there Ms. Brogden said her interest in joining a religious vocation was keen but gradual.

Like the many nuns who took up the cross before her, the decision was inspired by someone already doing the work, a woman named Sister Eileen Eppig whom Ms. Brogden met at St. Veronica's.

"Sister Eileen is open in her love for the Lord and other people," Ms. Brogden said. "And I could always talk to her."

Years ago, many girls so inspired left their parents' home for the strictures of convent life as early as the age of 12.

As more and more of them decided to break their vows to become wives and mothers or independent single women, the church changed its views on the appropriate age for accepting candidates for the sisterhood.

"I think it's good to live for a while before you make a decision like this, instead of entering when you're a teen-ager and then leaving," said Ms. Brogden. "It was hard enough making the decision at the age I am now. But I've been engaged and had boyfriends, and I know that married life will not make me as happy as religious life. And I know I can lead a celibate life."

Just because numbers are low in religious vocations doesn't mean the Catholic orders will take anyone with the urge to be a nun.

Many prayers will be prayed by both the Mission Helpers and Ms. Brogden in a "discernment" process that eventually decides who gets in and who doesn't.

If all goes well, Ms. Brogden hopes to work on problems peculiar to poor black people in cities like Baltimore.

think I'd like to work with teen-age mothers or in prisons, and I think it's a gift -- what greater lifestyle than serving the Lord?"

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