Sister Anji Fan
Sister Anji Fan wanted to be a “holy nun” from a very young age. But living in mainland China would make that dream difficult to fulfill, even in a close-knit family with deep devotions.
Sister Anji’s father was a mathematics teacher. Her mother worked in a day care and a factory and is an excellent seamstress, Sister Anji said. Her mother also plays the organ and accordion. Sister Anji has a brother who lives in the United States.
Sister Anji’s parents joined her in the collective dream that she would one day enter a religious congregation and continue her journey with God.
“My parents always valued two things in life. First was our faith tradition. They taught us how to pray, talked to us about God and showed us how God is really essential in our life. They also always valued education. My parents’ generation didn’t have the freedom to explore. They hoped their children’s education would open the world and create more opportunity,” Sister Anji said.
“I was first taught by my parents, and I was attracted by the idea or image of being a ‘holy nun’ because of their life of praying and serving — no involvement with political or social movements, no disruption by consumerism or materialism — and their physical appearance,” she said.
She became acquainted with a few women religious and was impressed by their positive attitudes and way-of-life examples.
But first Sister Anji studied to become a doctor and worked in the psychiatric unit of a hospital operated by the Chinese government.
“It was a very stable, very secure position,” Sister Anji said. “I was very young. It was a learning process, a study in progress. It was quite a decision to leave all those benefits and cut off the secure future.”
Coming to the United States
The benefits of a call to life as a woman religious prevailed, and Sister Anji began a two-year effort to come to the United States. She used her friendship with Sister of Providence Donna Marie Fu as the link to the Congregation. She entered the Sisters of Providence Sept. 17, 1998, and professed first vows Aug. 10, 2002.
“It is a call that I really cannot explain,” Sister Anji said. “It is a very mysterious call. It is a desire inside of me even though it may not be the most comfortable or easy choice in life. It is a challenge to follow the call because you don’t know what will happen. But you have a sense of joy when you know your heart is in the right place.”
The transition of leaving behind her family and a comfortable career and embracing a new country, culture, language and commitment was significant.
“I have noticed that my call of being a Sister of Providence is not out somewhere in the world like a shining star to attract me; it has moved into my heart. It has become a treasure within my unique journey. I no longer go out and look for the sign of my vocation, but I gradually grow into that calling,” Sister Anji said.
“I think if you are true to yourself, the call will become more and more clear. I am more sure of who I am,” Sister Anji said.
The path to becoming a “holy nun” was long for Sister Anji, so she understands the questions and challenges other women might have about joining a religious congregation.
“I would encourage her to get to know herself at a deeper level and to know her God at a deeper level. I would tell her to listen to that call inside herself and explore her opportunities. Prayer is very important,” she said.
Now a student at the University of San Francisco, Sister Anji is contemplating a career as a math teacher, following in her father’s footsteps. But she is creating her own path of footsteps by remaining committed to her faith, to serving God and to her life as a Sister of Providence.
“It is a wonderful journey so far,” she said. “I am grateful for the chance of getting to appreciate the United States culture. It is an educational process. I am living with very real people in a very true community in which I can share the wonders of my life. It is a mutually enriching experience for my community and me. It continues to deepen our understanding and acceptance for each of our own cultures.”
Favoritesfood: watermelon and Chinese food
movie: “The Sound of Music”
recreation: Playing a dice game with good friends
actor: Zhou Renfat
holiday: Chinese New Year
comic strip: “For Better or For Worse”
course in school: math
my best friend says I’m … a wierd angel.
childhood activity: field trips
least favorite course in school: English
pizza toppings: mushrooms
tv show: “The West Wing”