Beyond: I took this photo while on retreat at St Beuno’s Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Wales. The bell fascinated me and I wondered how many people it has called to prayer, to silence and peace. The early morning light revealed sheep, a little village at a distance, verdant hills, and peeking through them are the mountains of Wales.
Looking at the picture reminds me of another time, when I made my first profession, and the first steps I took which led to … Beyond. Here’s my story.
Every vocation is a mystery. It is almost impossible to indicate when it starts, the people instrumental in its growth, how it survives. But the Lord gives glimpses of his creative hands as they maneuver through the twists and turns of life. My vocation story belongs to the ordinary type. Nothing spectacular or earth-shaking.
I was born to a poor couple whose only wealth was their love and their faith. My father was a simple employee and my mother, an enterprising housewife who worked magic in the kitchen. My parents taught us how to pray and every Sunday we went to church for Mass. I enjoyed the singing and the quiet, learned the songs even before I could understand the words. We also prayed the rosary, on our knees, every night in May and October. For my parents being a Christian meant praying, working hard and helping those in need.
Where I got the idea, no one knows, but my mother said I would play with the towel and put it on my head like a veil. I wanted to become a sister at the age of five! This childhood dream was quickly forgotten only to resurface in high school. But my father told me to study first. He said if I really have a vocation, it is better to have finished my studies.
Following my father’s advice I took up Chemical Engineering in college and was in my senior year when I felt a certain restlessness. “Is this all there is to life?” I asked. At that time born-again Christians became very active in campus. I joined their fellowship and enjoyed the company until they started attacking the Virgin Mary. I was aghast. I wanted to defend her – this loving Mother who was a constant companion since my childhood – but didn’t know what to say.
I was challenged to study the Faith and joined an evangelization seminar in the parish. This opened my eyes and heart: God loves me and has given me so much! How blessed I am. What treasures are hidden in the Scriptures, the sacraments, the Eucharist! What can I give this beautiful God in return? At the same time he made me see this “valley of tears.” So many people suffer – families, young people, the poor, children, those who do not believe or are misled. They hunger for him. Can I do something to satisfy their hunger and quench their thirst?
I came across Pretty As You Please, a book for teenage girls published by the Daughters of St Paul (It has been revised and titled Best of a Lady). There was a vocation page inviting young ladies to try religious life. Could this be God’s answer? I tried to discern and know more about being a nun and the mission. I wrote the vocation directress for more information and a year later, at 20 years old, I gave the convent a try. I didn’t have much to offer being young, poor and inexperienced. But I wanted to return love for love. I was willing to do anything for God.
This initial yes opened up new ways of living and loving. Slowly he made me understand it was me he wanted. Not what I can do. I discovered a God who is both Father and Mother, who takes care of every single detail in my life. He is the one who initiates everything and brings it to completion. I simply had to listen, obey, follow his lead and enjoy the ride.
That was 30 years ago. He has led me beyond my wildest dreams into places I never imagined, met many wonderful people, experienced unforgettable moments, learned more about him, the world, people and myself… And the love affair continues.
Thanks to all of you who have been part of this journey. Thank you, Jesus, for everything. I know there is much more beyond waiting for me.
Happy feast of the conversion of St Paul!