Exploring religious life today: one discerner’s story
How do you know God is calling you to religious life?
Here is a brief summary for me: I was born into the Catholic faith, but my faith really didn’t take off until I was in high school. I participated in youth groups where we did Apologetics, Eucharistic adoration and TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) retreats. Church became my second home and the only thing my mom allowed me to do outside of school. My faith was on fire. That helped me to decide to attend Our Lady of the Lake University where I received my undergrad degree in business.
After graduating with my bachelor’s and throughout my twenties, I just wanted to live life, have fun and put faith on the back burner. A few years ago, on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I went to church to pray. It was a hard time in my life. Everything I did up until that moment: work, friendships, romantic relationships, were not satisfying anymore. I felt that being in my comfort zone was very mediocre. Deep down a part of me knew I was not on the right path.
Being Latina and being raised by a single mom, you do not ask for help. I had to let go of my pride and ask for help, no matter how hard it would be. In doing so I finally had to give in to Jesus and let him love me. I started praying really hard. I would go to daily mass and sometimes sit there and cringe at the readings like UGHH!!! Okay, Jesus, you’re speaking to me. The most important person I had to put at the forefront was Jesus. I had to go all in with prayer, daily mass and adoration.
After a nine-year absence, I sought spiritual direction. I knew it would help me get back on the right track of finding my true vocation. I had to really be serious about my faith. During spiritual direction, I reflected on where I find the most peace and on the Discernment of Spirits that had happened in my life. It was hard but uplifting.
Most of the hard and uplifting moments happened during my work in serving kids and adults and accompanying them along their journey. It was something I would always come back to. I just started my third year of service as a Vitae Corp volunteer at Heather’s House, a maternity house that offers aid for women. Here I accompany women in the beginning stages of motherhood and help them get on their feet. Of course, this would not be possible without my strong prayer life that I have always leaned on. Service and prayer life go hand in hand and are my gifts to give the Church.
God has nudged me in small ways and big ways. I kept seeing sisters and nuns in my dreams, on TV after I returned home from a vocation retreat and one time even at the DMV!
What calls you to the Sisters of Providence?
Well I had never heard of Sisters of Providence until a few months ago. I was introduced to the sisters by my friend who studied in Oaxaca with Sister Joni Luna. Sister Joni has reached out to me. At first, I thought “Who is this lady who keeps contacting me??!!!” She sent me a really nice packet. At first, I told her not to send me a whole lotta papers because I was in the middle of moving, but it was a nice little package.
I call them Sisters of the Woods when I mention them to my friends. The mission of the Sisters of Providence is to reach out to others who are not always included and to help those who face injustice by accompanying them and serving them in a broad range of ministry areas. This is something I have passion for and feel that I am already doing.
What have you learned about the SPs/religious life?
The following are some of the ministries SPs work in: education, social work, ecology, gardening, prison ministry. The SPs are activists of community organizing, inclusivity, immigration.
What has surprised you about the SPs/religious life?
I like to see people face to face and Sister Dina Bato was the first Sister of Providence I met in person. The first thing I noticed was she reminded me of how I dress, casual and comfy. I appreciated her honesty to my questions regarding diversity and white privilege in religious life now and in the future, which is something I am passionate about. Her experience in ministry as a sister in formation for many years and being a spiritual director helped navigate our conversation. I also like for things to feel natural, which I told her at the beginning of our conversation. And Sister Dina brought her “A-game.”
What is it like for you to explore religious life during the pandemic?
The best part about where I live is that there is a chapel where I can go pray and be with Jesus anytime throughout my day or night.
Most of the religious life information I look up is online, but I have to experience it in person, firsthand.
I live on church grounds, so it is nice to walk outside and be in a religious environment through nature. I love to be outside!!!