I have and still feel strongly called to pastoral care / counseling for people that are young. So, I was over the moon to be recently given the opportunity to experience school life in a high school in NSW (MacKillop College). I will admit that I felt like the apprehensive new kid at school when I first, arrived, plus when I was asked to speak in front of 1500 students on my first visit I’m pretty sure my jaw actually hit the concrete!
But, I said Yes… I flourished and ‘yes’ became my mantra. With embrace of fears and a lot of ‘yes’ moments I found an absolute sense of home. I felt myself become more and more alive with students, teachers and parents.
While at MacKillop College I had many opportunities for immersion and experienced a variety of things from sport days, leading classes, school events and even said ‘yes’ to doing a reflection for three Sunday masses. I used balloons and a bit of humour to talk about forgiveness in my reflection – figuring that it’s best to be your true self, full of joy (or… full of helium!). Thank you to all who journeyed with me in Warnervale – you are a beautiful group of humans.
I am now also passed the two year point on my Emmaus journey (novitiate). When I travelled to Australia in August 2015 I really didn’t know what I was getting myself in for. It may sound cheesy to say, but I feel in many ways like I really am a different person now. The Sisters have been very patient; it’s not an easy transition from secular life into religious life. Sure, it’s not a different world, but it is a different way of living, the ‘thawing’ process takes time. I have been given many opportunities for learning, including CPE, which really humbled me and started me on a new path to self-awareness (which I get the feeling I’ll always be working on!).
At the two-year point I completed a seven day silent retreat. This was a very intense time, the retreat focused on if this path to religious life is what God is calling me to, or if there is another pathway that would help me to best live out John 10:10? It is also a time when the congregation looks more deeply into my call. It is a mutual relationship, almost like dating in a way. It requires a lot of trust – negative “what if” moments can creep in. But, I have discovered that with deep discernment, listening and total surrender to God that there is no need to worry – letting go makes way for pure grace, peace and joy to flow.
Through the retreat I also had a huge realisation… it was time for me to stop running! Wowsers. I had been running pretty much every day for 7 years. But for the past 4 months I have been walking every morning instead of running. And I must say, I feel calmer, my hip and knee are much happier with my mind and in general I feel more peace.
“When I could not see my way
God kept my heart full of trust to make all come right.”
~ Mary MacKillop
After the retreat I had a two-year review and then I also had a meeting called Chapter with the five Sisters on the Central Leadership Team (CLT). At this point I had decided that I would like to ask to be considered for First Profession. Chapter is when I would either receive a Yes or No in regards to continuing onto First Profession. Chapter is a canonical step that takes place in order for my journey to be legitimate in the eyes of the Vatican (following canon law).
In the lead up to Chapter I woke up one morning with the song “this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” playing away in my head. This is how I felt; through surrender and ‘yes’ I was letting my light shine. Even if it was a yes or a no, I knew that through trust in God all would be well, if I was really trusting I had no need to worry.
I prepared the prayer for Chapter, and did my best to enter into the meeting with openness; trusting the pull in my heart, and also the wisdom and love of the CLT. At the end of the meeting it was an alleluia moment - a Yes!!! In some ways I still feel like I’m floating on cloud nine. I feel a sense of deep peace and gratitude. Home.
So what’s next?
Firstly, the discernment continues. Final Vows would not be for another 6 years (approximately). First Profession is when I will publicly profess vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience as a Sister of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. And commit to living them out for three years (renewal of vows for another three years potentially follows). It is continuing to discern the call in my heart from God, the congregation also continues to discern, walking one step, one day at a time.
The mass and canonical ritual will be in January in North Sydney. At this stage it will be a very small gathering. I hope family and friends understand that I am not able invite you all. Final Vows are the big celebration; in many ways First Profession is sort of like an engagement party, a small gathering, a step on the continued journey.
My theme for the mass focuses on Joy and Community - We journey together, we are one body. Through surrender to our God we together can find home, peace and pure joy. I plan to share videos and photos of the day. And really hope that you all will be WITH me in prayer?
In the meantime I am happy to be working with the communications team here in North Sydney (helping with graphic design and illustration). I look forward to hopefully heading to a high school next year.
Thank you all for journeying with me thus far. I have not walked this path alone, and I will not walk it alone in the future. This journey has tattooed on my heart new understanding of joyful communio (1 Cor 12). It’s a pleasure to travel together – and hey, God willing we will have many more adventures filled with joy to come…