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Sister Amanda Marie de Jesus of Little Sisters of the Poor ‘made me a better Catholic,’ mom says

Sister Amanda Marie de Jesus began her novitiate with the Little Sisters of the Poor on Oct. 27. She is standing next to a portrait of the order’s founder Saint Jeanne Jugan. Courtesy photo.

DENTON – More than 29 years ago, Amy Nicholls dedicated her unborn baby to the Blessed Mother.

That little girl, baptized Amanda Marie Krow, is now known as Sister Amanda Marie de Jesus. She’s beginning her novitiate at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Queen of Peace Provincial Residence in Queens Village, N.Y.

Nicholls was quick to add that her daughter’s vocation to consecrated life, “was her own free choice though, too.”

Before receiving her veil as a novice on Oct. 27, Sister Amanda was allowed to submit three choices for her new name to the Mother General in France. According to Nicholls, her daughter said, “‘Mom, I was able to keep Amanda Marie because Amanda means beloved, and Marie is the French version of Mary.”

“(When) Mother Michele (of the novitiate in New York) sent me the picture of Amanda after she had received her veil, my heart overflowed with love in seeing the pure happiness that was more than apparent in Amanda’s smile and in her eyes,” Nicholls wrote in a Dec. 7 text message.

A lifelong Catholic, Nicholls is a member of St. Benedict/St. Elizabeth Parish in Ridgely and Denton, Md. She and her husband Bill Nicholls live in Denton.

Sister Amanda, born May 7, 1993, is the older of Nicholls’ two daughters. Younger daughter Emily, 26, lives in Lancaster, Pa., where they were all born and raised, and where her children attended St. Anne Elementary School. Their step siblings are Jonathan Nicholls, 31, and Morgan Nicholls, 29.

After moving to Denton in 2005, Sister Amanda and Emily attended Holy Cross, moving on to St. Thomas More Academy, where Sister Amanda, an honors student and athlete, graduated in 2011. Even as she experienced some health issues and social challenges in high school, “I would tell her to pray to the Blessed Mother about it,” Nicholls said.

Amy Nicholls, left, and her daughter Amanda celebrate her 2019 graduation with a Master of Nursing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore

It was in high school that Sister Amanda developed “patience and being more compassionate,” Nicholls said. “But she was always compassionate even as (a child), like, ‘Mommy, you don’t feel good? Mommy, I’ll help you.’”

“She really had a devotion to the Blessed Mother at a very young age,” Nicholls said. “And when she was at college at Doylestown, she found The Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which is the Polish shrine, and she started going to Mass there. She really enjoyed it.”

“And then when she was in the master’s program at Johns Hopkins and she was living in Baltimore, she began attending Mass and Adoration at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” also known as the Baltimore Basilica, with Father James Boric as her priest and spiritual advisor.

At Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa., Sister Amanda finished in three and a half years, earning her bachelor’s degree in wildlife management and conservation. As she tried to find work in her field, she worked various jobs to earn money and repay her student loans by babysitting, teaching yoga and even fulfilling orders at Amazon during Christmas time. Her father Ed Krow suggested career counseling to discover a different way of parlaying her science and people skills into full-time employment.

That path led her into Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore. She was able to use her bachelor’s degree credits toward an accelerated program. Sister Amanda earned her Master of Nursing degree and became a registered nurse in May 2019. Following the formal licensing process, she began working in July on the medical-surgical unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She worked three 12-hour shifts with four days off, so she decided she wanted to do volunteer work with the elderly and dying. “So, she told Father Boric, ‘Father, I’m bored. I need something to do (on my days off),’” Nicholls said. “And he said ‘Well, with you being a nurse, you would be an excellent fit with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville, a short drive from here, because they run a care home.”

According to Littlesistersofthepoor.org, “The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international congregation of Roman Catholic women religious founded in 1839 by Saint Jeanne Jugan.”

“The sisters were so pleased with Amanda, that by January 2020, the LSP offered Amanda a full-time position as a nurse with them in St. Martin’s Home,” Nicholls shared in an email. “She was excited to leave her full-time position at Johns Hopkins to pursue a career at the home.”

“‘Mom, I just feel so much better when I’m with the Little Sisters than what I’m doing here,’ she told her mother.

The sisters asked her if she wanted to stay in an empty apartment in the assisted living area, not the convent, and they invited her to eat meals with the residents.

“And then if she needed personal items, she was allowed to go to their pantry,” Nicholls said. “The Little Sisters were so charitable to her,” and aware that she was trying to pay down some hefty student loans.

According to the Baltimore Little Sisters of the Poor website, “we care for the elderly poor in the spirit of humble service we have received from our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan. We welcome the elderly as we would Jesus Christ himself and serve them with love and respect until God calls them home.”

Sister Amanda was no stranger to caring for the elderly. Nicholls is a licensed practical nurse who worked at Caroline Nursing and Rehab in Denton when her daughter was in high school.

To earn community service hours in high school Sister Amanda liked helping her mom, “pass dinner trays or wheel my patients to activities,” Nicholls said.

“It was shortly after she began working at St. Martin’s Home that she shared with me that she was discerning a vocation with the LSP and being permitted to pray and eat and attend certain functions with them as part of this discernment,” Nicholls wrote.

As she continued her work with the Little Sisters in Catonsville, Sister Amanda prayed for confirmation about whether to become a postulant, the first stage in a long journey of discernment. Then during one of her mother’s visits, she said, “Mom, I think I’m going to go further with this.”

“And I’m kind of like, I knew it. I just knew it. I felt it,” Nicholls said.

She told her daughter, however, “‘If you ever have any doubts, Amanda, please don’t be afraid to tell me. I won’t think ill of you if you decide this isn’t for you.’ And she said, “Mom, I want this more than anything.”

On Aug. 8, 2021, Sister Amanda became a pre-postulant and was sent to the order’s St. Joseph’s Home in Palatine, Illinois. She returned home to visit family through Christmas, and then returned to St. Martin’s Home for her postulancy from January until June 2022. On June 28, Amanda was sent to the novitiate in Queens Village to conclude her postulancy.

“This has been quite an emotional time of discernment, as Amanda witnessed the first of the three postulants leave while they were still in Catonsville, and the second postulant left from New York,” Nicholls said. “Amanda became very close to these two girls as they were the only three LSP postulants in the United States and they shared in all of this together. Mother Michele feels confident that if anyone can make it through being a novice on her own, it is Amanda, which makes me very proud and honored.”

Sister Amanda is now at the fourth stage of the process of “progressively taking on the mind and heart of Christ and the spirit of Saint Jeanne Jugan,” according to Littlesistersofthepoor.org. The order has been in the United States for 154 years.

Her nine-month postulancy followed initial and formal discernment periods. As a novice, she officially became a member of the Congregation. During a special private Mass, her hair was cut and she began wearing the novice’s black jumper and a short veil.

The U.S. novitiate, located in Queens Village, New York, lasts for two years, followed by the novice’s profession of the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and hospitality for two years. The sisters then make temporary vows for five years, followed by a second novitiate at the motherhouse in France, and culminating in perpetual profession, or final vows, after which each Little Sister may be sent anywhere in the world, according to the order’s official website.

Although she is accompanying her daughter from a distance and without the luxury of instant and frequent communication, Nicholls is on her own journey.

“Any insecurities that I initially had prior to her becoming a postulant quickly dissipated once I began to personally witness and learn of the joy and the happiness she expressed by just being able to be included in the lives of the Sisters, her joy in serving as a nurse to the elderly and her compassion for them in the LSP home (in Catonsville),” Nicholls texted.

“It’s humbling. (Her decision) made me take another look at myself and my faith,” Nicholls said. And I’ve told her before in her life that she saved me more than once from wanting to give up on things. She’s made me a better Catholic.”

“These are her gifts that God gave her to share with others, so she’s actually being very Christ-like,” Nicholls said. “And when I tell people she’s becoming a nun, the first thing they say is, ‘Who does that anymore? And I say, “Well, my Amanda does.”