Sister Anna Fan shares her story as a fully professed Sister of Providence
Editor’s note: Sister of Providence Anna (Tsai Ping) Fan made her final vows as a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on May 1, 2023 at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Hsinchu County, Taiwan. She shared the following reflection about her journey with the Sisters of Providence.
I am 58 years old, a very late vocation. Let me share my vocation story with you.
I worked at Chang-An Nursing Home for the Elderly in 2010. My original plan was to work there until age 65, my time for retirement. Then, I would become one of the residents at that nursing home. Well, a human proposes, but God disposes! Due to some circumstances, I had to leave that job, which, with great love, I had for almost eight years. God rerouted my life journey many times!
It was 2011. I was 46. I sent my résumé to many agencies and one of those was Miracle Home. Sister Delan Ma, SP, was the director of Miracle Home then. During the interview, she asked me if I had ever considered being a Sister. I responded “Never and No” with confidence. Yet, Sister Delan still hired me. During my first year working at Miracle Home, Sisters Delan Ma and Sophia Chen invited me many times to consider a vocation to religious life. They continued their invitation and asked me not to say no too quickly. I refused each time. My reasons were: I am too old. I have no interest. That life doesn’t fit me. Yet, I prayed for vocations for others frequently.
I attended a liturgy on Aug. 8, 2012. It happened to be my first anniversary of working at Miracle Home. The reading of the Gospel of that day was:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. (Matthew 13: 44-46)
Many pastors or catechists had told their parishioners that faith was like a treasure hidden under the ground, like a precious pearl and we needed to sell all we had for that hidden treasure and precious pearl. During Mass, I heard the priest talking about faith. Suddenly, a voice in my heart raised: if “vocation” for you is that hidden treasure or that precious pearl found, what would you do?
Following God’s call
Very few religious communities would invite people older than 40 years of age to consider joining their communities. Yet the Sisters of Providence welcomed me. When I heard the call in 2012, I told myself that it was time for me to respond to God’s invitation. My thought was: If God gave me this opportunity through Sister Delan, how can I not give myself an opportunity to try? I immediately sent a text message to Sister Delan, sharing with her my experience during the liturgy and told her that I was willing to consider my “vocation.”
Yet, later when I consulted with many of my friends, classmates, teachers, Catholics and non-Catholics about my thinking of being a woman religious, all of their responses were: “You do not fit!” They knew that I enjoyed living carefree and was generous with my money. They wondered if I had lost my mind.
Stepping forward in faith
I entered the Congregation and went to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, for my initial formation for three years. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is a very peaceful and beautiful place. I hope you can create an opportunity to visit there.
When I reflect on my life journey, I realize that God has turned the routes my life journey around many times. I believe that God knows what is the best for me. I believe God wants me to take the journey that will enrich my life more and deeper. For almost nine years I have been a Sister of Providence. My vocation led me to leave my comfort zone and drew me closer to God.
Thank you, my dear Sisters at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods! Your love and prayers give me strength and courage to be able to stand firm here to share my vocation. Thank you, my dear Sisters in Taiwan for your support and loving care.
I seldom got sick, not even getting a cold. On March 2, about two months ago, I went to Cardinal Tien Hospital for a physical check-up. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, stage 4. I am undergoing chemo treatments. The spreading of cancer is under control. Possibly at the end of May or early June I will undergo another surgery.
When I heard about my diagnosis, I did not complain or feel sad; I accepted with a peaceful mind. I believe God always has the best plan for me. I gave myself to God and totally trust the medical team at Cardinal Tien Hospital. My illness brought me many prayers and loving support in a variety of ways far and near. Thank you, my dear family members and friends, my dear teachers and classmates! Your prayers and love have been my best and strongest support to face cancer and continue my journey as a Sister of Providence.
My sincere gratitude goes to each one of you who are present. Each of your presence and contribution in today’s liturgy is like the five loaves of bread and two fish — our body and soul have been well fed; without your support this celebration cannot happen. I trust you will continue to pray for my vocation and for my health. Thank you. You are my blessings and guardian angels! I will also keep you in my thoughts and prayers. May God’s peace and joy be with you!