Spencer native joins an Omaha-based religious order
By Kris Todd
Daily Reporter Staff
Danika Boever officially became Sister Mary Danika of the Morning Star during a 2007 Easter Vigil. The Novice Sister with the Intercessors of the Lamb religious order reports she's never been happier than she is now.
Fresh from a weeklong conference in Omaha hosting 1,800 people from 18 countries, the 24-year-old daughter of Frank and Janee Boever of Spencer recently returned for a two-week "home visit." Besides taking part in mass at Sacred Heart Church, the visit allowed her to reconnect with family and friends as well as chaperone area high school students at a Steubenville, Ohio retreat.
Sister Danika admits she still likes to "blend in," but can find that hard while wearing her teal and white habit.
"I'm still the same person. I'm just doing the next step that God's called me to," she assured a few friends during her recent visit to Spencer. "I still have the same heart and the same personality."
The guitar-playing Sister still enjoys music and watching movies. She also finds herself laughing often at the remade songs and skits others in her community have devised.
The 2001 Spencer High School graduate took a semester of general and Western Philosophy courses at Iowa Lakes Community College before feeling God calling her to focus more on working in a church setting, especially in youth ministry. Her ensuing quest took her to New Jersey, where she attended a discernment with the Salesian Sisters. Although she didn't hear a call while there, she did meet with a woman from North Dakota who told her about the Young Disciples program based in Fargo, N.D. She then headed to St. Charles, Ill., where she was accepted into the yearlong youth ministry program Cultivation Ministries. When a host home was not found for her, the Spencer woman was forced to continue her search.
Following her acceptance into the Young Disciples program, a Catholic church camp for people from the diocese, Sister Danika admitted with a slight smile, "I never ever wanted to move to North Dakota. In my mind, North Dakota was flat, very cold and just like South Dakota - but colder."
After completing the weeklong summer stint, she received a card from a SOLT (Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity) priest telling her to trek to St. Ann's Church on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.
"Within one and one-half weeks of Young Disciples ending, I moved to Belcourt, N.D., which is 10 miles from Canada, where I ended up staying for two and one-half years as a youth minister. As youth ministers, we did everything from youth groups and retreats to summer camps," she recalled.
After researching a few others, four individuals from four states broached the Omaha, Neb.-based Intercessors of the Lamb religious order with the searching woman. Sister Danika, in turn, attended three eight-day silent retreats between the fall of 2004 and the spring of 2006 with members of the order.
"On those retreats, I clearly saw in prayer that God was calling me to the Intercessors of the Lamb to be the bride of Jesus," she recalled. "During the second retreat, I heard the clear call in my prayer that God called me to be a Sister. The third retreat gave me a lot of confirmation that I was really where God called me to be. I heard the call again, as I did throughout the year in between the retreats."
The Clay County native officially entered the religious order on Oct. 2, 2006, as a postulant.
During the 2007 Easter Vigil, she became a Novice Sister, had a Novice habit placed on her and received her new title. Regarding her decision to become a Sister rather than a Nun, she explained, "The call for me was contemplative-active, which means we do a lot of contemplative prayer, but we also do a lot of active work within the community."
The 40 Sisters, 20 Brothers and five Priests associated with the Intercessors of the Lamb order spearhead masses and healing retreats regularly. The international gathering is from all walks of life and carries a wide-ranging myriad of life stories. Sister Danika is the youngest of her respective group within the community.
"Contemplative communal intercession is our primary ministry," she explained of the community founded in 1998 by Mother Nadine Brown, a convert to the Catholic church turned former cloistered Nun with the Sisters of the Cross of the Good Shepherd Convocation. "...Most communities are either more contemplative or more active, but we're contemplative-active and we're doing both. And, we are a charismatic group, so we do a lot of things with the Holy Spirit. ... We follow everything the Pope says. We don't do anything against the Pope's teachings or the Pope's call."
While Sister Danika explained she is like everybody else in that she does get tempted and frustrated every so often, she acknowledged that prayer and contemplative listening help her to stay focused during such times today.
"There are times where the devil doesn't like us doing God's will and working for God. The main thing we do that helps us is we constantly make sure we have that prayer time in. Spending that time with Jesus, before Jesus, is very important," she said. "For example, if we get hurt by something, instead of getting angry, we take it to the Lord. So, we always try to keep our eyes and our hearts focused on Jesus at all times - because the devil will start attacking if you start looking other ways."
Those in her community begin each weekday at 6 a.m. with morning prayer. This is followed by silent prayer from 6:30 - 8:30 a.m. and then a time of discernment in each of their houses until 10 a.m.
"That's where we get together and lift up every prayer request that comes in the mail, over the fax or e-mail. We get hundreds every day," Sister Danika said. "...We pray for a huge variety of stuff, which shows that nothing is too big or too little for God."
Formation class, which takes place then until 11:30 a.m., has the religious initiates studying the teachings that Mother Nadine has given them. Following lunch, all are assigned to various jobs from 12:30 - 4 p.m.
"Monday through Thursday, I'm doing transcribing. Every mission Mother Nadine, one of the Sisters, Brothers or priests goes on, they record it on tape. I listen to the tape and type it out word for word so it can be put on the Internet or made into books. Friday, I'm in the kitchen, helping cook for the community."
Following a daily mass, the group of 65 gathers together on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to eat dinner. On other days, the evening meal is eaten in the houses they reside in.
Weekend schedules differ for those in the religious order in that they rise at 7 a.m. Saturday, pray until 8 a.m., attend mass at 8:30 a.m. and then clean the house and experience "free time" - where they can write and receive letters among other things - until dinner. The weekend then becomes a "hermitic" time - or quiet, contemplative and private - until Monday morning. The only time talking is heard is during the 5:30 p.m. mass on Sunday.
"The very first hermit day we had was hard for me," Sister Danika recalled. "I was like, 'The whole day?' But now when a week goes by, I look forward to Sunday and that quiet prayer. Hermit day is truly a gift to us."
The Novice Sister, who is expected to take her vows this upcoming Easter, currently wears a Trinitarian cross, the habit of a Novice and a teal scapular.
"The reason why we have teal is we're intercessors here on earth," she explained. "Our prayers go to heaven and we're kind of bridging the gap. And so, with earth being green and heaven being sky blue, we're in the middle. Blue and green makes teal."
During the 2008 Easter Vigil, it is anticipated that a teal veil will replace the long white one Sister Danika wears today. She will also gain knots on her cords.
"The knots represent vows we take," she said. "Eventually, I'll have four knots representing poverty, chastity, obedience and zeal for soul. I'll get them all at once. I haven't made any vows yet, but when I do, I'll renew them every year. It can take five to seven years before a Sister makes her final vows."
While Sister Danika has already imagined what her "wedding day," or the day she takes her final vows will be like, she keeps one foot firmly planted on the ground as she states, "I'm open for whatever God wants."