She has spent 30 days in silence, immersed in prayer and spiritual exercises, in preparation for this occasion. His Excellency Most Rev. William J. Levada, Archbishop of Portland, Ore., has flown in expressly to preside over the ceremony; and a flock of more than 600 has filled Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Santa Barbara, all waiting to hear Sister Anna Tom utter the word, "Forever." Today, this slight and soft-spoken woman from Los Angeles, one of 47 sisters belonging to the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will profess her Final Vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Fewer than 50 women in Southern California make such a commitment each year.
"Our Lord has called me to the religious life," Sister Anna tells me, "and this is the final commitment by me in responding to His call. After 8 1/2 years--six months as a postulant, two years as a novitiate and having professed temporary vows over the past six years--I am ready, through His grace, to make my last and final vow: to say openly that I'd like to live totally in union with God, through the vow of chastity; and in poverty, that my greatest treasure is God, and in the vow of obedience, that I see God's will for me through His community and through my superiors, for the rest of my life."