From Sr. Rachel Marie, sctjm
On the 50th
anniversary of his priestly ordination, Blessed John Paul II spoke of his vocation as a “gift and mystery”, one which he had been able to contemplate, treasure, and allow to grow within him for his 50 years of fidelity to his vocation. In a humble and simple way, when I reflect on my own call to be Jesus’ bride, these same words come to my heart. My vocation to the religious life is indeed both a gift and a mystery, which I pray I too may always treasure and live to the fullest. Never would I have imagined myself as a religious sister growing up! Yet looking back, I can see the traces of His plan for me made manifest in my life…I can see now how He was leading me, although I couldn’t see it then. May He be praised forever!
Tell us a little about your childhood?
My family is one of God’s greatest gifts to me. I received my faith from my parents, who made our home truly a “domestic church”, as Blessed John Paul II speaks of the family in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio.
As my parents grew in their faith, so did our family; we grew together in love and in the heart of the Church.
I am the oldest of six children, and had a very normal childhood, playing sports and singing in choir throughout all of my years growing up. I do not recall having an explicit desire to be a religious sister as a young girl. In fact, there were very few times that I ever encountered a religious sister, so I never considered religious life to be a possibility for my future!
Who or what influenced you to serve God through a religious vocation?
The journey of discovering and saying “yes” to the Lord’s call for my life began after my freshman year of high school, after my first Steubenville conference, when I really encountered Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time…when I understood how great was His love for me. From that point on, the Lord drew me deeper and deeper to His Heart. As I grew in my relationship with Him, great desires were growing within me to serve Him, to be for Him, to make Him loved, to bring others to Him, to serve the Church…but I thought these desires were normal, and didn’t ever consider that they might be an indication of my vocation!
During my first year and a half of college, the desires that had been growing within my heart particularly since the end of high school became even stronger. I knew that the Lord had a mission for me…I felt like He was calling me fore more…yet I didn’t know what it was. This caused a lot of restlessness in my heart, for I truly and sincerely wanted to do His will. However, I wanted to do it on MY terms, I can see now. I withheld the innermost part of my heart from Him…I withheld from Him total surrender, because I was afraid of losing what I always dreamed of, what I had thought the happiness of my life would be found in: a vocation as a wife and mother. I understand now that those beautiful natural desires were the Lord’s way of showing me how they would be fulfilled supernaturally in the vocation to religious life.
I studied abroad in Rome the fall of 2007. It was here that I met several young seminarians and priests from the North American College Seminary, whose apostolate was campus ministry on our campus. It was their witness of ardent love of the Lord, total self-gift to Him, and availability to serve the Lord’s body, the Church, that inspired me (though I didn’t know it at the time!) to be not afraid to do the same as a religious sister: give my life in love for the Lord and His Church. It was the witness of their priestly hearts that echoed within my marian heart, helping me to accept my call.
How old were you when you first felt called? When you entered?
I began hearing the Lord’s call when I was 19 years old, in the spring of 2007. I entered the community when I was 21, in January of 2009.
What are your memories or experiences of St. Laurence parish?
Another of God’s greatest gifts to me is the parish family that I grew up with in St. Laurence. I can honestly say that I always felt the Church to be my “home.” As Father Drew used to say at Life Teen Mass, Sunday Mass should be the greatest hour of our week…and it really was that for me! When I speak about my childhood and my formation, St. Laurence cannot be separated from it.
My parents were blessed to be one of the founding families of St. Laurence back in 1985. Thus, we grew with the parish…and I have many treasured memories. Firstly, Holy Week at St. Laurence—in particular, Holy Thursday’s procession from the Church to the parish hall, following behind our Lord in the Eucharist singing “Pange Lingua”, the courtyard lighted with torches. Our first Heart of Worship back in 2004 is also a day I will never forget…the love and devotion that filled our parish, the feeling that filled my heart of being part of something so beautiful. My years of singing in the Life Teen Praise Group…and finally, being able to be part of the music ministry which sang the first Mass in our new Church in 2008…having the gift to welcome Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as He was brought back home to our new tabernacle. There are so many memories for which I thank the Lord.
How did you choose your order?
Truly, it was all the Lord! I know that He brought our community to me. I first heard about our community when I was studying in Rome., through the priests and seminarians that I mentioned above. One of the ways that I was able to know this community was “the one” was that its charism—its particular gift of the Holy Spirit to live and enflesh in the Church and the world—its spirituality—its mission—were the great desires of my heart. The particular way that our community is called to love and serve the Lord and the Church is the way my heart had always longed to do so...even if I couldn’t express it myself. The “mission” which I felt the Lord had for me was this community! So when I came to learn more about it, it was like my heart was coming home.
Tell us a little about your order?
We are a Marian charism, borne from Our Lady’s heart and desires to make Jesus known and loved. Thus, we take a fourth vow of Total Marian Identification and availability: to be the living image and presence of the Heart of Mary in the Heart of the Church. It is our particular identification with Our Lady’s heart which is the foundation of our charism of love to the extreme…for there is no heart who has loved Our Lord more or as perfectly as Our Lady’s! Our Marian identity shapes our apostolic identity and life: since the Marian principle in the Church is universal, encompassing all things, our apostolate is not limited to one area of the Church’s life. As our Mother Foundress, Mother Adela Galindo, teaches us, “wherever the Church needs us, we will go.” In a particular way, our order is at the service of the new evangelization…to conquer the human heart for God, to bring about His triumph of love, in order to build the new civilization of love and life which Blessed John Paul II proclaimed so incessantly throughout his pontificate.
Any advice for young girls?
The words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, from the homily given at his installation Mass as pope say it best:
“Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life.” (April 24, 2005)
Do not be afraid to give Him all access to your heart! Do not be afraid to surrender your will and your desires to Him! There is nothing to fear in God’s will…because His will is our total freedom, fulfillment, peace, and happiness. Believe that if He is calling you to Himself, He can, does, and will satisfy.
Any advice for parents?
Humbly and simply, to not be afraid of the Lord’s call for your daughter. May you have the grace to recognize the Lord’s call as a gift…and may you be given the grace to give your treasure to Him, who first gave her to you!