Alice Snee was already convinced the Teresian sisterhood was in God’s plan for her, but a recently unearthed family photograph sealed the deal in the most beautiful way.
The 1981 photo showed the toddler-aged Snee sitting with her mother, brother, great aunt and a Teresian sister whom relatives identified as Mother Maria Mejia.
Upon further investigation, a shocked Snee learned that her great grandmother had been a close friend of Mother Mejia’s and the entire community of Teresian Sisters who’d taught Snee’s grandmother at St. Louis Cathedral School in the French Quarter.
“I found out that every day of her life, my great grandmother prayed that a Teresian Sister would come out of the family,” said Snee, an Academy of Our Lady teacher who has lived at the Teresian Sisters’ Mirabeau Avenue residence for two years in hopeful anticipation of her formal entry as a postulant.
“I had no idea that I had this history with the Teresians,” Snee said. “I saw (the photo) and just felt loved beyond my existence! Someone had been praying for this vocation for decades before I was here!”
An initial ‘no’
Snee, 36, grew up in Marrero as the only daughter of devoutly Catholic parents who led a weekly family rosary, gathered nightly for bedtime prayers and decked their living room mantel with sacred art.
The joyfulness and individualized attention demonstrated by the Salesian Sisters who taught at Snee’s elementary school of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Westwego and her alma mater of Immaculata High made consecrated life an attractive option to her, while early ministries as a lector, CCD helper and prayer group participant inched the teenage Snee toward her expected vocational destination.
During a summer discernment retreat following her graduation from Immaculata, a mountain-size speedbump would rise out of nowhere.
“About halfway through the week I was in prayer and I just got this overwhelming sense that God was saying, ‘No. I’m not calling you (to religious life),’” Snee recalled. Unable to trust that this pause was part of God’s plan, she experienced feelings of deep rejection.
“From that point forward, my prayer life was disrupted; I lost focus,” she said. “After that discernment retreat, there was this period of me trying to say, ‘Well, I tried to go with you God, and you said no, so I’m going to try to figure this out on my own.’”
Snee responded by pouring herself into academic pursuits, earning a degree in architecture from Louisiana Tech University and her law degree from Ave Maria School of Law. A few months into her first job at a New Orleans law firm, the feelings of emptiness that had dogged her from the time she had abandoned her discernment to become a woman religious grew more powerful.
“I started to pray more wholeheartedly. I started to get the word ‘vocation’ in prayer,” said Snee, who went to Salesian Sister Maria Colombo for advice.
Although Snee insisted that she only wanted career guidance from Sister Maria – and not tips on how to reignite a religious vocation – Sister Maria made an observation that rocked the younger woman to her core: Perhaps God wasn’t saying “no” during that retreat a dozen years ago; maybe he was simply saying, “not yet.”
“I felt like I was empty and all of a sudden I was full! My heart woke up!” said Snee,” who eventually quit her attorney’s job and began working as a tutor and substitute teacher. She ultimately was hired to teach at Academy of Our Lady, where she is founding instructor of AOL’s law and civil leadership program.
Magnificat House resident
Now asking God to show her “a way” to begin following his will, despite educational loans that prevented her from entering a religious community, Snee’s prayers were answered, in part, when she heard about a soon-to-open place where women could go to discern a religious vocation: the Magnificat House of Discernment.
In the fall of 2012, Snee became one of the first two residents who got to immerse themselves in the community- and prayer-based lifestyle of religious sisterhood, while holding a regular job outside of the house.
“Magnificat House is a ‘yes.’ It’s moving in and saying: ‘I’m here for you, God. Do with me what you will,’” Snee said. “You’re just doing your everyday life, but your everyday life is based on that yes, and because of that, the Spirit is moving!”
‘All for Jesus’
During a retreat at the Teresians’ provincial headquarters in Covington, Snee “fell in love” with the sisters, the writings of their founder St. Henri de Osso, and their charism of “All for Jesus” carried out through prayer, teaching and sacrifice.
“I love that ‘prayer’ comes first, because that’s what I struggle with so much,” said Snee, smiling. “I’m a woman of action – I want to go out and solve the problem. But the Teresians will always say, ‘Let’s stop and pray about it first.’”
Snee said her Academy of Our Lady students also have helped her to grow in the virtues, especially in patience, humility and resolve to always love others “first,” as Jesus did.
“Everything you ever teach them will fall on deaf ears unless there’s love behind it,” Snee said.