Throughout her life, Sydney Stracke, 22, has always had a hunger and passion for her faith. She was eager to learn about it and to share it with others. She attended elementary school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Sauk Rapids and later Cathedral High School in St. Cloud.
Throughout her education, she attended Sacred Heart Church in Sauk Rapids with her parents Stephanie and Larry Stracke and her younger brother Nathan. There she helped with children’s liturgy, was active in the youth group and attended various mission trips.
“I wanted to learn more about the faith, and I wanted to build my relationship with Jesus,” Sydney said.
In high school, she participated in a mission trip to Tanzania, Africa, where she also grew in her faith. A major turning point for her was in college. She attended Moorhead State University in Moorhead where she received a bachelor of science degree in sustainability with an emphasis on environmental science and environmental policy. She also has a minor in Spanish.
In Moorhead, she lived in a formation house with five to seven other women who wanted to grow in holiness.
“It was a place where I could solidify my daily prayer, study Scripture and be near the adoration chapel. It was there I really began to hear the voice of the Lord,” she said. “The Lord kept whispering to me, ‘Religious life. Religious life.’”
Sydney began to tally how often she heard this voice and realized she didn’t need to keep a tally.
“I heard it every day,” she said.
She began to do some research and talk with others about her call to religious life. She visited convents and found the most peace at the Missionaries of Charity in Chicago, where she went on retreat for two weeks. Missionaries of Charity is the order founded by St. Mother Teresa.
“I knew after a week that I was going to enter. I just loved it so much and I was filled with the joy of Jesus,” she said.
She applied with the sisters in October and was accepted. She entered the order on Jan. 5.
“She no longer has a cellphone or a computer,” said Stephanie Stracke, Sydney’s mother who is a math teacher at Cathedral. “That’s a big change for all of us. I’m really proud of my daughter and I’m excited for her. She is doing what she wants to do and following God’s plan for her and I’m happy for her.”
Stephanie said Sydney has always been special.
“She is genuine. She has a big heart and always has cared for others. She is good with people of all ages — young to old. Syd has always been able to stand up for what she believes is right, even if it goes against the grain,” Stephanie said.
Two of the Missionaries of Charity sisters came from Minneapolis in December to meet with the Strackes.
“They answered all of our questions, helped us to learn more about the process,” Stephanie said.
“They acknowledged that it is a sacrifice for Sydney, but also a sacrifice for us as her parents. They’ve assured us that Sydney will be cared for wherever she is sent in the world.”
Over spring break, Stephanie will travel to Chicago to visit Sydney and will also visit her son, Nathan, who is serving on a NET Ministries team in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
“She was a gift from God to me. God gave her to me and to her dad. She belongs to God so we want God’s will for her. This is her desire,” Stephanie said. “You just want your kids to be happy and to love and serve the Lord, and what a great way to do it.”
Before she left for Chicago, The Visitor asked Sydney to answer a few questions about her preparation. Her answers are below.
Q: What are some of your interests?
A: I enjoy traveling and learning about different cultures. I like to write and blog. I just love to stay active, whether running, roller-blading, hiking. I even played dodgeball every Monday night with my friends this past fall.
Q: How have your life experiences prepared you for entering religious life?
A: A lot of my life experiences have led me to visit the Missionaries of Charity and apply. Otherwise, Jesus has been preparing my heart all along. If I had to pick one thing I would say the silent retreats I went on in college helped me to know the unique deep love that God has for me and reminded me, time and time again, that I can always turn to Jesus for anything. That has given me a lot of peace.
Q: Who has been influential in your path this far?
A: Father Bryan Kujawa led our college ministry program in Moorhead. Also, my spiritual director Father Craig Vasek. These two young priests from the Diocese of Crookston have been great role models for me all through college as they challenged, guided and encouraged me in so many ways.
Q: What specifically drew you to Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity?
A: I watched a few movies/documentaries on Mother Teresa, and I had life experiences working with the elderly and the poor which drew me to visit her order. Once I visited the sisters, their pure love and joy for Jesus was incredible and I enjoyed the silence and prayer as well.
Q: Can you share a little about what your initial formation process will be like?
A: I don’t know much. I think the first period in Chicago is me just getting used to the daily routine. I will be studying the Gospels and reading material from Mother Teresa while still serving and going out in the community as well.
Here are the stages in life:
- Aspirancy in Chicago for one and a half years.
- Postulancy in Mexico City for one year.
- Novitiate in San Francisco for one and a half years, [where] I will take first vows.
- After a minimum of nine years I can take my final vows in Washington, D.C.
Q: Do you feel that you have a particular charism that you would like to share with people?
A: I think that I have a charism for going out and sharing the Gospel. I enjoy doing that even with random people. I know that as disciples of Christ we are all called to go out and spread the Gospel, but that is just more natural for me.
Q: What are your feelings now as you prepare to take this step into religious life?
A: I am feeling giddy and antsy and have moments of sadness, too, but overall I am excited and confident in my decision.
Q: Is there any advice you would give to young people as they discern their own vocations?
A: Trust in the Lord and don’t ignore any prayer inspirations. I have learned that God always wants what is best for us, even if we don’t always like his plan for us. Also community is a must — I can’t emphasize it enough how important a faith community is. Last, frequent the sacraments as much as possible, especially confession and Mass.