Jesus leads the way: An interview with Sister Carly Paula Arcella, FSP

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Sister Carly Paula Arcella, FSP, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, professed her final vows with the Daughters of St. Paul this summer and is now stationed at their Jamaica Plain motherhouse. Here, she shares about her vocation story and her current activities.

You grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so how did you meet the Daughters of St. Paul?

It was through an event called Coffee House that the Daughters of St. Paul in Miami were running each month. People gathered in the book center for Eucharistic Adoration, and to sing praise and worship music. I never went, but people from my parish were driving an hour to attend and decided to do something similar at my church. They invited the sisters to the first one, and they came, so I got to meet them. (Actually, it was providential that they had to drive to Fort Lauderdale to pick up someone at the airport that night. Otherwise they might not have accepted the invitation.)

Talking to them, I was really struck by their mission of using the media to communicate Christ. At the time, I was the editor of the school newspaper and had just started thinking about religious life. I was preparing to start college at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where I studied broadcast communications. So, the idea that both an invitation from the Lord to follow him and an invitation to work in the media could come together was really crazy, but really attractive to me.

What did your discernment journey look like from there?

One of the sisters, Sister Tracey, said as they left, "I think we're going to meet again," and I said, "Yes, I think so." I did keep praying about it, and I had the sense that if it was meant to be, Jesus was going to lead the way.

Later, during my first year of college, I went on a discernment retreat at the sisters' convent in Miami. It was a little scary because my car broke down; my parents were worried about my spending the night in Miami, which felt like a different world from Fort Lauderdale! What struck me most about that retreat weekend was the time of Eucharistic Adoration -- what we call our "Visit." Again, I had the sense that I didn't need to worry about figuring it all out -- that if this was from God, he would make it all clear.

The next year, I visited our motherhouse in Boston. This was the Year of St. Paul (2008-2009). I had saved up my Christmas money to buy a plane ticket, and Sister Chelsea Bethany, FSP, my co-novice who also just made perpetual profession this year, attended the retreat as well. I was super excited to see snow! And the time of Eucharistic Adoration until midnight on New Year's Eve was so beautiful.

Back in Florida, I remember asking Jesus pretty directly at one point, "I need to know that [the Daughters of St. Paul] are truly serious about communicating you through the media." I decided to check YouTube, thinking, "If they're not here, they're not really serious about this." I found a video called "Ask the Nuns," uploaded by a Daughter of St. Paul literally the day before!

Now that you're here in Boston, tell us what you've been up to.

Right now, I'm part of our marketing team. We've been working on the videos for our Come to Bethlehem Advent Retreat. People who have signed up (at will be receiving weekly video meditations, links to Advent music sung by the Daughters of St. Paul choir, and prayer prompts to help them prepare for Christmas.

I'm also just loving New England -- being able to see the change of the four seasons. I help the sisters who do the gardening and yard work. It's a delight for me to see God through nature.

To find out more about Sister Carly Paula's vocation journey, check out her interview in preparation for her final vows on the Daughters' Project Podcast (season four, episode 15).