Oldenburg, In. — Sister Susan Marie Pleiss, OSF professed her perpetual vows as a Franciscan Sister on May 26 in a ceremony held at the Sisters’ Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg.The Dayton, OH native is the third child born to the late Bernard Pleiss and Rita Pleiss, who resides in Dayton. Siblings include Michael (and Chris) Pleiss, Mark (and Cecilia) Pleiss, Linda (and Richard) Felts, Lisa (and Kevin) Walker, Philip (and Karen) Pleiss, Martin, and Kristina Pleiss. An eager learner, Susan Marie is a graduate of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception grade school and Carroll High School, both in Dayton, Purdue University in IN and Wheaton College Graduate School in IL.When asked about her call to religious life, S. Susan Marie commented, “I trace my vocational call back to the fall of 1986, a time in which I wasn’t even a practicing Catholic. Although born and raised a Catholic, I did leave the Church between 1978- 1995. However, I was a faithful Christian in those intervening years, mostly in evangelical churches, and my ‘call’ actually took me to China from 1990-1995. It was during the last year of my service in China that I felt the call to return to the Catholic Church. Soon after returning to the Church in 1996, I began to discern whether I might be called to embrace religious life. Sadly, my status as a cancer survivor was an impediment to the congregations I felt were a good fit for me. One congregation even affirmed the validity of my call to religious life, but responded, ‘not at this time. After several years of wrestling with how to understand what my vocational call meant within the Catholic Church, I finally gave up altogether sometime in 1999.Fast forward 10 years to 2009 when I ‘found’ the Oldenburg Franciscans because I happened to stop for an overnight stay in Batesville, IN. To be clear, I happened to see a sign promoting the congregation along I-74 where they were listed as a “local attraction”! There is much more to that story but the circumstances of how I ‘found’ the congregation (when I wasn’t even looking) are an important part of my story. And similar to the congregations I’d discerned with 10 years earlier, I was initially rejected because of a previous cancer diagnosis. Amazingly, I pushed back. The Oldenburg Franciscan Vocation Director asked the Council to reconsider, and they changed their minds. The rest is history.”The newly-professed Sister went on to explain, “I began my reflection by tracing my vocational call back to 1986 for a reason. I discovered during my canonical year in St. Louis that many of the sociological issues that other novices my age were grappling with did not match my own current struggles. I then realized that I had crossed some of those important bridges some 25 years earlier as I came to understand that original vocational call. So that early call, over many years and in several locations, influenced my subsequent employment choices, my simple lifestyle, my devotion to a life of service both in the Church and in the wider community. During most of those 25 years, my choices were not always understood by my peers, by my own family, or even by fellow parishioners. Having now entered religious life, those same type of choices are now affirmed as normative by my Sisters in community. I would say that for me the “transformation process” in this respect has been one of acceptance and affirmation for a lifestyle that I have lived for most of my adult life – which for me means that at long last I feel I’ve found a ‘home’ for my soul and spirit.”Since beginning her journey as a Franciscan novice later in life, S. Susan Marie was able to discern her call to become an Oldenburg Franciscan. When asked about her discernment process, she noted, “Finding a ‘home’ after many years out in the desert is the touchstone of my joy as a religious Sister. It is not something I reflect upon every day but it is a major component of why I choose to stay faithful to my call, despite ups and downs and even disappointments along the way. I know what it feels like to be an anomaly out in the ‘world’; and I also know well how hard it was to stay faithful to my call, without much support or even a sense of accountability for my choices or actions. I recently read a wonderful quote from The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, ‘…there are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk. And among these people, if they are faithful to their own calling, to their own vocation, and to their own message from God, communication on the deepest level is possible. And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech and beyond concept.’ In my Sisters, I have found and cherish this communion. Yes, I find that it is often beyond words and beyond speech and yet it is REAL.” Susan Marie currently ministers as the Parish Life Director at the Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Campton, KY in the Diocese of Lexington.The Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, Oldenburg, are women of prayer, committed to the Gospel values as lived by St. Francis and Mother Theresa Hackelmeier who founded the Community in 1851. From their life in community they are sent to extend the mission of Jesus through our presence and service. Enlivened by a spirit of justice, reconciliation and peace, they collaborate with others in responding to the needs of the world.