Barbara Bushnell was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the only child of older parents. Born in a Catholic hospital in the shadow of the archdiocesan Cathedral and baptized in the Presbyterian Church, she began her Christian journey.
As a child, Barbara's mom taught her to pray, and her dad helped her see God's grandeur in creation. Wanting to draw closer to God at age eight, she asked her mom if she could attend Sunday school. This was a new step since her family did not attend Church regularly.
During her high school and college years, Barbara struggled with her faith. A deep longing for God was in her heart, and later through the university's Catholic community, she met the Lord in a profound way through a roommate's influence. Though she did not enter the Catholic Church, she attended daily mass and spent time praying in church. After earning her degree in elementary education and teaching in Colorado, she became a part-time member of the Sacred Dance Group of Boulder, an interdenominational praise and worship dance ministry, proclaiming God's word in a visual way through movement.
Her desire to serve the Lord totally grew, so she left education and became a full-time member of the dance group. While ministering in England, she privately vowed chastity in the Anglican Church. The seed of a religious vocation was blossoming, and she made retreats at convents and monasteries. Drawn to the silence and solitude of contemplation, her union with God deepened.
While ministering with the dance group, she met the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and stayed at their facilities. Barbara was attracted to their simple life of prayer and solitude, and was taken by the vibrancy of the youthful, charismatic sisters. Their openness to the use of the arts in evangelization excited her due to her dance experience.
Barbara began making annual retreats with them, and she entered the sisterhood after joining the Catholic Church in 1985. It was difficult for her to leave her aged parents, especially as her mother was ill. She received the name Sister Cecilia as a novice, and this name reflected her great love for music. She professed her first vows in 1987 and her perpetual vows in 1991. A reflection that gives her strength to live the trials of religious life is this: ''Love makes its vows on days of joy. Love keeps its vows on days of sorrow.'' She encourages young women to seek God's grace for whatever vocation they are called to live.