An unusual careerAn Unusual Yale Career: Cloistered Nun Sister Sheryl Frances Chen, OCSOI became a Roman Catholic in my junior year. I felt I was coming home to a way of worship that already was deep within me. Even as a Protestant, I had had the secret desire of kissing the feet of Jesus on the cross. I nearly fell out of the pew when, during my first experience of the Good Friday liturgy at More House, everyone in the chapel got up and came forward to kiss the feet of Jesus on the cross. I knew I had to be a Catholic.Probably because I grew up with minimal religious instruction, my hunger to know more about the Christian faith grew to a point of crisis, when in my sophomore year I changed majors from biology to religious studies. After graduation I started the M.Div. at Notre Dame but felt I wanted to live my faith rather than learn about it. I took a leave of absence and spent 4 months in a monastery in DC. That told me I was on the right track. I was attracted to the Cistercians (Trappists) because they were supposedly the strictest order in the church, getting up at 3 a.m. to sing psalms, doing manual labor, and eating no meat. As Fr Dexter Brewer pointed out, everybody at Yale was "the best and the brightest," a fanatic about SOMETHING. The Cistercians were also an extreme.I felt it was too much of a self-contradiction to live as a Christian in the world. I remember going to a job interview and being asked what I was most interested in. What I really wanted to say was: humility! It became clear to me that the only way I could follow Jesus with integrity was to enter the cloister, where everything is ordered to the worship of God. Being a Christian was not a part of my life, alongside being an editor and a gymnastics judge. I didn’t want a career; I wanted a life.It was certainly a challenge going through novitiate. On the enneagram (Jungian personality type indicator), I’m a 3, the achiever. I’m driven by needing to be a success. Weren’t we all super-achievers? As a novice, I had to learn to let go of all that, find my self-definition and self-worth elsewhere than what I could DO (I could do so many things so well), let God direct my life. I realized, after I’d made my first vows, that being a good monk was the one thing I couldn’t achieve. I would have to let God do it for me. No amount of will power or intelligence "works" in the monastery. You have to open yourself to God who comes through other people. But that’s why I entered: I instinctively knew that the real journey in life is inward. You cannot get through the novitiate unscathed. You will be burned, as Thomas Merton said, and it will change you forever.I went through a challenging time when I decided to leave my monastery in Arizona and move to Iowa. It changed my perception of the vow of stability that I had professed, and it changed my very definition of God. Now as a member of the new Cistercian foundation in Norway, the challenge is to become fluent in another language and culture, and adapt monastic life to a totally different situation. While at Yale, I never could have imagined being a Chinese-American cloistered nun in Norway. But I feel in many ways as if I’ve come home once again.