Sister Delan Ma at ease with God and others
Sister Delan Ma has a calm and gentle presence. She listens attentively and is easy to talk with.
She speaks carefully in Chinese-accented English. “I feel God is always with me, always. I find very much ease with God. And I’m very sure God called me,” she says.
In 52 years as a Sister of Providence, she has never doubted that call.
An advertisement just for her
Delan Ma had just graduated high school in 1967 when she saw an advertisement in the Taiwanese Catholic newspaper. The Sisters of Providence had opened a novitiate in Taiwan. The ad listed three requirements, she recalls. Applicants must be at least a high school graduate, have the intention to join and be in good health.
“’Oh’, I said, ‘that’s me. I just graduate right now. So touching to have that kind of invitation for me’. Even now I still can feel that joy. I feel touched still very much,” she said.
Part of the miracle, she said, is that her parents agreed to let her go.
Her parents had come to Taiwan from Beijing in 1947 for her father’s job. They intended to stay for one year. They left their 7-year-old son with his grandmother in Beijing. But by 1948 tensions had escalated between China and Taiwan. Travel and communication was banned between the two countries. In 1948, Delan was born in Taiwan and three years later her younger brother arrived. They lived just the four of them, cut off from the rest of their family. Her parents could not return to China or communicate with anyone there for 40 years.
“And the strange thing is my parents didn’t fuss [about my joining the Sisters of Providence]. This is very unusual. Because when my parents came to Taiwan from China, it feels they lost everything. Their family was completely lost, cut off, nothing left. The two, myself and my brother, were their precious.”
Called to love
“And I didn’t know the Providence sisters. At the time I only knew, my heart inside since I was a child, I like helping people. I love the Lord, that kind of feeling. And I know that sisters do that kind of service for others and don’t get married. I only knew that much,” she said.
Sister Delan entered the community and went through formation with the sisters in Taiwan. She was the first sister to enter the Taiwanese novitiate and the only one to finish final vows at that time. She came to the United States and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for the first time in 1976 as she prepared for final vows.
Serving and leading
Most of her life’s ministries have been in Taiwan. She’s ministered in campus ministry and with college students living in dormitories. She’s done prison ministry, parish ministry, she even started Miracle Home, a ministry to elders still run by the Congregation.
And in the 1980s when the Sisters of Providence began a formation program again in Taiwan after many years without one, it was Sister Delan who led it. Many of the Sisters of Providence from Taiwan today were guided through formation by Sister Delan.
“I love working with people. I have an easy time with different people, I can relate to them. And I don’t mind where I work. If I am there at a place, I’m easy to adapt. That I think is a God-given grace,” she said.
One mission, one Congregation
Though separated by oceans and continents from the Sisters of Providence in the United States, Sister Delan says, “I feel we belong to one community. I don’t feel left out.”
At recent yearly meetings, the Congregation has focused on interculturality, a sharing of culture based on equality and mutual respect. Sister Delan says, “I think it’s good our sisters here [in the U.S.] are open. They are conscious we have different cultures and that makes a difference because we know they respect different cultures. And they do not ask that everybody should be the American way. So that has kind of freed us. If different is OK and we kind of want to learn from each other, we’ll not have bad kind of feelings,” she said.
Whether in China or Taiwan or the United States, God calls Sisters of Providence to serve, she says. We bring love, mercy and justice and God’s plan of salvation. We do God’s work. We serve the people where we are. “The service is our mission,” she says.
Advice for future sisters
Sister Delan currently ministers as vocation/formation director in Asia. She offers this advice to those considering life as a sister:
“Just trust God. God will provide. Even tomorrow what will happen we don’t know. Believe there is God. God doesn’t always give happy feelings. But in the end we are looking to eternal life. Cooperate and trust and believe. Trust the community and trust God and trust yourself and go day by day and it will take you to the end. You are thinking too much. We don’t know what the future will be.”
(Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of HOPE magazine.)