Before I can tell the story of my discernment I have to give you the story of my faith. I was not baptised as an infant - my mother is Anglican and my father Catholic so they decided to let me and my sister decide for ourselves what church we would follow. As children, we attended an Anglican church but were (by chance) sent to Catholic school. At 8 years old I decided to become a Catholic. I can't tell you why, but I can only think it was divine providence. Four years later, I was baptised and a year later took my First Communion. I will admit that after that I sort of fell away. We had just moved, my parents had separated so I was the only Catholic in my family. At that age I didn't really understand the importance of going to Mass and was really too shy and afraid to go alone, so I didn't go. Another three years later, we moved again. My mother met a Catholic woman at work who, upon discovering I was Catholic, offered to take me to Mass with her. She did so for the next three years, and was a real blessing to me. I had never been confirmed so she helped me apply for RCIA, came with me to classes and was even my sponsor. I was confirmed at 17. When I came to university, I will admit my faith slipped. The church was very far from me, over an hour to walk and I couldn't afford the bus. The next year when I moved closer I started attending more regularly but struggled with a fear of confession (I have now gotten over it). But over time I started attending regularly again and every day I find even greater joy in my faith.
I don't remember when exactly but while I was at university I became interested in religious life. I remember looking into communities, but I didn't feel like it was a possibility. It wasn't something that was done and I pushed the idea out of my mind. In September 2011 a documentary aired on television about young women joining convents. I was transfixed, reading a news article about it over and over before the documentary aired. I watched it and had a moment of realisation that it was a possibility. I felt a strong calling and began discerning the religious life in October 2011, shortly before I began my blog Emily Ann's Corner. I visited two communities, one Benedictine and one Carmelite and felt an instinctual draw towards the Benedictine life. In summer 2012 I went on a live-in for 3 weeks and stayed at St. Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde - coincidentally one of the communities featured in the documentary I had watched. It is a fantastic community and I was instantly in love with their life. If you would like to read more about my live-in, I have written two blog posts about it: Part 1 Part 2.
Since then, after much prayer and discernment I have realised that I am not called to the religious life at this point in time. I cannot say it was a sudden thing, but more a gradual realisation. I loved my experience of the religious life and I did struggle with not returning to the convent. I realised, however, that God had shown me the path He desired for me: shortly after I left the convent I found myself back in touch with an old school friend and we began a relationship. We now plan on getting married in the next few years and I am more sure than ever that I am where God wants me to be.