“Don’t listen to all the voices out there — listen to your heart.”
Sister Elizabeth Ann Christensen, SDS tells people she was called to religious life three times. She never knew Salvatorian Sisters as a child, and in fact, had little contact with women religious except for weekend religious ed classes.
“I still can’t really explain it,” says Sr. Liz. “I just had this sense that I wanted to be a sister.” Seeing ads in the back of her aunt’s Sacred Heart Messenger magazine, she recalls, “The name Sisters of the Divine Savior just grabbed me, so I started writing and was invited to visit in Milwaukee, some 450 miles from home. I remember my mother asking, ‘Why don’t you visit the Benedictines…they’re only 25 miles away’.” Sr. Liz didn’t have a good answer, so entered the nearby Benedictine community where she stayed for exactly two weeks.
“I cried most of the time; it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.” She left, completed a six-month business school course and then worked for a while. But she still felt the tug. Sr. Liz entered the SDS community in 1959, and is candid about the doubt that set in 20 years later.
“I just wasn’t sure here was where I was supposed to be anymore.” She left the Salvatorian Sisters community. While away, she still “lived the Salvatorian life” and soon sensed God’s call to return, which she did a year and a half later.
Sr. Liz jokes about “the seven-year itch” because nearly every seven years she changed ministries or moved. She served as an LPN in Portage and St. Nazianz, Wis. and later at Salvatorian Heights, the former home for retired Salvatorian Sisters in Milwaukee. In the mid-1990s she served as a secretary in the Generalate Office in Rome, an experience she describes as fascinating.
“I remember thinking, ‘What’s a girl from Two Harbors, Minnesota doing in the middle of St. Peter’s Square?” She admits, though, the language barrier made her feel lonely at times.
Later Sr. Liz served ten years as administrative assistant with Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs in Franklin, Wis., where she helped coordinate worldwide religious pilgrimages. She still cherishes the opportunity she had to visit Assisi, Italy during that time. After retiring at age 70, Sr. Liz relocated to Tucson, Ariz. in order to do volunteer work full time. She worked at Southwest Medical Aid (a Salvatorian ministry that recycles medical equipment from canes and wheelchairs to x-ray machines). She also volunteered at Most Holy Trinity, a Salvatorian parish. A self-described “animal person,” Sr. Liz also helped out at Pima Animal Care Center.
In 2017 Sr. Liz returned to Milwaukee where she currently lives with two other Salvatorian Sisters. She did volunteer work at several places but had to stop when COVID-19 took over the country. She is hoping to be able to resume some of that work at a later date.
Her best advice to someone thinking about a religious vocation: “Listen to your heart.”