From Convent to Pentecost

Chapter 1

My “Calling”

It was a beautiful April morning in Iowa, in the year 1898. With the resurrection of Spring from the cold death of winter came the tiny blades of grass peeping through the ground. The maple trees budded, the fragrance of apple blossoms filled the air and the tulips that stood in their gorgeous array finished the color scheme in front of the two-storey frame house to welcome baby Charlotte into the Eckler family. l was the fifth child of a family of nine. Shortly thereafter, my family moved from Iowa to a small town in western Kansas.

I was baptized by Father H. in St. Joseph’s Church when eight days old, and was confirmed at the age of twelve.

While attending the Parochial School, I greatly admired the Holy Sisters who were my teachers. My ambition was to be like Sister Margaret She often talked to me about the convent and about becoming “the Bride of Christ.”

One day, Sister Margaret and Sister Ramona came home from school with me Father H. was already there. The Church and manse were across the street from our home. During the course of the conversation, I asked permission from me father to speak. To the astonishment of father and mother. I announced my desire to enter the Convent and be a little nursing Sister. Father and mother burst into tears of great joy and pride. The thought that I had chosen such a holy vocation overwhelmed them. My father took me between his knees and hugged me approvingly. Father H remarked, “God hath chosen her.”

Having finished Grammar School, plans were made for me to enter the convent boarding school fifty-eight miles away, The small town newspaper heralded the joyous news of my entry into the convent.

Walking by our neighbour’s house one day, I saw the person we had known as Aunt Sarah. She called me aside as if to let me in on a secret. She mentioned the newspaper article, and then, with saddened face, told me that convents were horrible institutions She said I was deluded and would be sorry if I entered one. I immediately defended myself and repeated what the Holy Father had told me “It will be a place of meditation and prayer, eating our meals in silence, and doing penance for the lost souls in purgatory If I am obedient to my superiors. and never murmur or complain, I am promised to go immediately into the presence of God at death and escape Purgatory

However, Aunt Sarah’s words clung to me and I repeated them to my father that evening. He was very indignant and promised me a severe whipping if I ever stopped and talked to that heretic again. Knowing my father never promised punishment without having kept his word, I always crossed over and walked on the other side of the street to avoid meeting Aunt Sarah.

The day before I left home arrived. I wanted to bid Aunt Sarah good-bye. This precious soul was known throughout the community as “The Cookie Woman.” If anyone became ill, their pain was lessened by a small figure coming up the steps with a basket of choice cookies. She not only taught the young people in her Church class, but ministered to the sick and would speak of Jesus and His love.

Having seen her cut roses in her flower garden, I stepped over very cautiously and in a low tone said, “I’m leaving tomorrow for the convent. I just wanted to tell you good-bye.”

Tears came to her eyes and very sadly and haltingly she said, “Good-bye.” She then spoke words I never forgot during my next twenty-two years in the convent, “Charlotte, I shall never miss one day praying for you that God will deliver and bring you out of that place.”

Those were strange words I heard that day, but in a short time afterwards I learned my lesson well, for in the next several years I sought my Patron Saint for deliverance from the horror of convent life, and found that she failed me. I kneeled and kissed the toes of the saints and pled for help, but only found that they refused to help me. When my body grew sick, from being tortured and laid in a dirty dungeon beneath the convent, I often thought of Aunt Sarah and her God. “Why hadn’t He answered her prayer?” I also remembered her words, “You arc deluded, my Dear, convents are horrible institutions.”

I am certain that had any objective observer saw me, one would have readily concluded that I was very religious and conscientious concerning “my calling.” I faithfully performed all of the ritualistic requirements, observed unfailing the rules of order and prayed daily to my Patron Saint regarding the will of God for my life.