I do not speak of having a ‘call to priesthood’, which is often associated with the word vocation. To have a vocation regardless of what it is; to be a parent, farmer, teacher, single, married or religious, is a gift. A gift of life to be embraced, trust his hands and make something out of it. After all we are clay for our potter to mould and shape.
I sometimes feel like I’m in a dream yet even dreams are a strange part of life, you don’t know what they mean yet know enough to know they matter. I like to think of myself a typical European female, who has opened her heart and mind to seek. I have found a call to Religious Life yet more importantly to the Sisters of the Cross and Passion – Passionist. My journey started when I was born, like all of us, with the gift of Baptism. I really believe that this great gift has shaped who I am today and the journey I have travelled.
A wise friend taught me a saying, ‘Life is not about the destination rather the journey,’ This wisdom gives me a little insight when I look back on the journey. Regardless of being born and raised Catholic or entering into the church later in life, we all come to a moment when we have to make the conscious decision to embrace, nurture and own our faith. For me this happened at high school, where I found Christ falling into a great love. I would say it was ‘puppy love’ at first, the kind you might have had when you were younger-your first crush!! This set me on a mission to become Catholic. At the age of sixteen I celebrated my commitment to Christ and was welcomed into a new family. Naturally taking my relationship with Christ into a real joyous celebration ‘commitment’ stage. Through this I realise our smallest dream is a seed that when planted grows to make other dreams. All of which is the Lord working in the whole process from planting the seed to the blossoming.
On leaving High School I spoke to a Josephite Sister about having desire to live a life centred on Christ. Her wisdom was to gain a qualification, grow and explore and if the feeling still present return to her. It would be nice to inform you that I took Sister’s advice with grace, spread my wings to fly but I was so upset and dismayed. I left disheartened telling myself I would never return; little did I realise I was following her advice and proving that she spoke wisdom by my reaction.
I obtained a few degrees, travelled, got a taste for secular richness and also spiritual richness, wonder, insight, poverty and learnt what beauty looked like. I continued to think of Christ yet I would say I grew out of my ‘commitment’ stage into a post honeymoon period. Questioning as I started to discover, learn, realise what that world that I am present in looks like, with all its darkness and light – which I am still learning today! After travelling for six years I felt like a lost sheep looking for its flock. I returned to my home country, New Zealand.
Continuing to seek and not finding answers I took the bull by the horns and gave myself the false answer of forming a business, getting a home, filling every moment with activity or work so I wouldn’t see the hole so large and unfulfilled. To cut a long story short, in the Lord’s powerful way he brought me back to the Church, once again. The moment I blessed myself entering the Cathedral my heart leapt in joy as I was home.
From here it was two years of discerning, learning, visiting different religious communities overseas and in New Zealand, letting go and as Bishop Owen taught me ‘launch into the deep’, meaning trust with all your being in the Lord and step out like Peter not looking down or doubting.
My journey of discovery encompasses so many different aspects, leaving my post honeymoon stage entering a new period of deep unshakeable faith. Jesus changed my heart, cast out the nets and drew out the fish from the depths, making me a fisherman (fisher of men and women). Faith and hope gave way to love, leading me to him whom I seek. Feeling a deep burning spark within, changing my heart and mind drawing me closer to God, making me ‘the Disciple he has called me to be.
We live in an era of change including the church which is changing face, language, culture and awareness of its role and presence today. Amidst this change, in silence, women wait with patience and prudence. Women hope, together they know the day will come, though not soon enough, their role will once again be ‘the daughters of God’ we are called to be, ministering in the community as images of Christ in the service the church. If you listen you can hear the whisper from women that the Church will grow. There is a soft melody echoing with hope of returning to the churches foundation of inclusion, intimacy and direct reflection of Gospel attitudes and values.
Religious life for women is no different; we wait in hope and continue to embrace Christ’s values to go to the margins meeting today’s face of Christ. We wait in hope that the barriers constructed are eliminated. The image of women behind walls, women in prayer hour upon hour, dressed in heavy garments; separate from the people are some of these constructed barriers.
Regardless of vocation it is important to gently remind ourselves of the commandment Jesus spoke – ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ These words hold so much weight, for religious it is also important not to be stuck in the past, holding onto tradition, rituals, pre-Vatican II ways for their own sake. Move into the present, to the now, meet the needs that our brothers and sisters are facing, journeying beside them as they carry their daily crosses. Yet let’s not forget the future, the church is changing, society is changing therefore understandably religious life is changing too yet just like our faith the foundation is the same.
If you look hard enough, open your eyes and ears, you’ll see silence broken, hear voices crying out. For me personally I turn to our foundress Elizabeth Prout. I am only just learning of her deep beauty, the pure and bright Christ’s image given to all who are blessed to have crossed her paths during her short yet Christ-like life. I’m sure Elizabeth would say that it was the opposite; she was the one so blessed by the Lord, seeing the image of Christ in the suffering and did the only thing she knew, to respond to that call with all her whole being involving the power of the cross.
As Christians we often spend much time discerning God’s will for our lives, which plays itself out in us stopping at every intersection in life to cast our lots or wait for a voice from God. How many times has God given us this pep talk and told us to be ‘strong and courageous’ and we become timid and cowardly upon advice from those around us. Remember Joshua was one of two men who said God could help lead them to the promised land while the other ten were afraid (numbers13:30)
God can call you to do great things as he did with Joshua. God doesn’t tell Joshua to take it slow, to pray over every little detail. He doesn’t tell him to seek the council of five Godly men before making a decision. He simply says ‘be strong and courageous’. God had already set in Joshua’s heart what he was to do and he wanted him to do it. Be strong and courageous today in your walk with the Lord. “Be alert. Continue strong in the faith. Have courage, and be strong. Do everything in love.” (1Corinthians 16:13)