Sister Alice Garcia, 91, a member of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San Antonio, Texas, did not say “yes” to religious life when her 8th grade teacher, a Catholic sister, suggested she might have a vocation.

“My first-grade teacher, Sister Celestia, was the biggest influence on my vocation,” says Sister Anne Cecile Muldoon, a member of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland. “She was just so loving and kind. She made you feel at ease, and I wanted to be like her.”

“When you are pretty sure that God is calling you to a place, life is full of contentment,” says Abbot Emeritus Peter Eberle. For him, that place was Mount Angel Abbey, a Benedictine monastery and seminary near Portland, Oregon, where he has been a monk for roughly 60 years.

“Life is a gift,” says Sister Catarina Santa Cruz, a member of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San Antonio, Texas. “Take it. Embrace it. And live it in hope.”