Section title text:  An FCJ Vocation.

To read some FCJ VOCATION STORIES, click below:

Photos of Sisters whose vocation stories follow below. Photo of Alicia - go to her vocation story. Photo of Agnes - go to her vocation story. Photo of MaryAnne - go to her vocation story. Photo of Rita - go to her vocation story. Photo of Mary Rose - go to her vocation story. Photo of Afra - go to her vocation story. Photo of Anouska - go to her vocation story. Photo of Ann - go to her vocation story. Photo of Inez - go to her vocation story.

Alicia Pérez, Spanish
Afra Primadiana, Indonesian
Agnes Samosir, Indonesian
Anouska Robinson-Biggin, English
Francisca Yohana Sri Winarsih (Inez), Indonesian
MaryAnne Francalanza, Maltese
Ann McGill, Canadian
Rita McLoughlin, English
Mary Rose Rawlinson, Canadian

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It was exciting, crazy, frightening, incredible, all at the same time ...
Alicia Pérez fcJ, Spanish

Alicia Pérez with other FCJ Sisters.My name is Alicia. I am from Spain, joined the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus in the USA, and made final profession in 2006 in Salta, NW of Argentina. I arrived to Salta five years ago. Our community is located in very poor neighborhood. I work there and also teach computer science at the Catholic University.

When I was studying for a PhD in computer science, the idea of a religious vocation swept into my mind. It was exciting, crazy, frightening, incredible, all at the same time. Honestly, I couldn’t make much sense of it: here I was, half way through a PhD in computer science, and thinking of becoming a nun?? I had never heard of such a thing. And what a waste of my effort! Plus, I am a very independent person. Surely I could never make a vow of obedience and live in a community of sisters. Yes, I was giving myself all kinds of reasons why this was non-sense. And yet deep inside I had a strange, almost silly, sense of joy and meaning. I was becoming aware that God was inviting me to deeper intimacy and to become part of Jesus mission of proclaiming God’s love to the world. Jesus said, “I lay down my life freely”. I can’t even think of comparing my life to Jesus sacrifice, but after all I am called to be his Faithful Companion in laying my life down too. And in doing it freely. What does it mean “to be free”? In discerning my vocation I realized I was free when I was able to put aside my work, friends, security, etc. and choose a religious life commitment; free to choose something in spite of what “the world” prefers; free to choose something good among other good things (work, relationships); after all, all were gifts. This may be why I like this prayer, written by a Spaniard and a companion of Jesus, Ignatius of Loyola. It’s interesting I can’t always pray it because some days the cost seems overwhelming. Take Lord receive… all I need is your love and your grace.

Over all these years, life as an FCJ continues being for me the response to an invitation from God, to an experience of the love of God. The invitation is so deep and so powerful that one senses the need to respond to it placing one’s life in God’s hands. It is an invitation to share in the life and the mission of Jesus, making him present in the world by living as he lived, chaste, poor and obedient. With my commitment I want to be an instrument of the power of the name of Jesus to bring healing, salvation and hope to our world. This conviction and a sense of gratitude for it is what sustains me day after day.

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My Journey has just begun
Afra Primadiana fcJ, Indonesian

Photo of Afra with members of an Indonesian family.Eight years ago, when I made my first vows, I said to myself, 'My life journey has just begun'. Now, on the occasion of my final vows, I find that that expression is still valid: 'I have just begun'.

I was born in Merauke on the 2nd August 1968. My family is originally from Yogyakarta. I am the third of five children and grew up in Jakarta. Become a sister? The idea was there already, even when I was young. But it wasn't constant. When I was in primary school, I wanted to be a sister because I was interested in their way of life. In Secondary School I tried to forget about it, especially because many of my friends at that time had the same idea. I didn't want to be like the others. In Upper Secondary, the desire became stronger because I wanted to share my life by serving the poor. I wanted to go to Papua and live with the people in the villages there. My director said that desire was not enough. Really? It's a good intention though! Finally when I was at university I had a deep spiritual experience that changed my life. I felt God loved me and wanted me, so much. God wanted me to be there as I was. Therefore if you had asked me at that time, why I wanted to be a sister, I would have answered 'I was flooded by God's love and I fell in love with God!'

I became a postulant on September 29th 1991 and became a novice on August 26th 1992. I made first vows on September 18th 1994. All of this took place in Yogyakarta.

Why do I say that 'I have just begun?' Firstly because just to be a sister is not my final aim. If it was so, it would mean that, after making first vows, I wouldn't need to do anything any more! To be a sister is to choose a way of life in which I offer myself totally to God's love, and grow in loving God. This is a lifetime's journey.

Secondly, because faithfulness cannot be measured by how long I live in a convent. Faithfulness cannot be measured in quantity but in quality. Every minute is a time to continue to try to live as a faithful companion of Jesus. God's love is always new every morning. My vows to the Lord are also renewed every day. Therefore, every day I say, 'I have just begun'.

As it says in Psalm 85:11, 'love and faithfulness will meet.' God’s love will meet my faithfulness, and my love will meet God’s faithfulness.

Today I joyfully give thanks to the Lord for God's faithful love in my life and for God's call. I give thanks for the love and faithfulness of those who have journeyed with me: my family, close friends, fcJ communities around the world, those whom I have met in my ministry and those who have supported and challenged me to grow. Thank you. May God's blessing be with all of us so that we too may live in love and faithfulness to God.

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'I am, among all, most richly blessed...'
Agnes Samosir fcJ, Indonesian

Photo of Agnes with some students.I was born in Banjarbaru (South Borneo) on January 30th 1969. I was the third child of five children of Mr. Victor Samosir and Mrs. Mariani Marpaung. The seed of my vocation began to appear when I joined an altar girl group, an organist group and "Ascensio" children's choir under Fr. A. Soetanta, SJ, at Fransiscus Xaverius Parish, Tanjung. Priok, North Jakarta. The seed grew more and more when I was at Ursula High School, studied at Sanata Dharma Teacher Training Institute (now a university) and was involved in Christian Life Community (CLC). This precious experience encouraged me to join the FCJ Society, which name was still foreign at that time.

During the time of postulancy, novitiate, and temporary profession, I passed through a curving road which brought me to an understanding of life as expressed in Henry Viscardi's reflection:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all, most richly blessed.

It is this understanding of life which encouraged me to be courageous enough to say "YES" with all my heart and mind to the call to be a faithful companion of Jesus for my lifetime.

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Hidup ini Luar Biasa
Anouska Robinson-Biggin fcJ, Inggris

Photo of Suster Anouska fcJ.Apakah kamu merasa bahwa hidupmu sekarang ini belum cukup, bahwa ada sesuatu yang hilang dan kamu tidak tahu apakah itu tapi kamu yakin bahwa hal ini ada hubungannya dengan Allah? Apakah kamu merasa bahwa orang lain hidupnya sudah baik, tetapi kamu perlu membereskan hidupmu?

Saya merasa seperti itu. Waktu itu saya sudah menjadi sarjana, sudah punya pekerjaan, rumah, kucing, anjing – segala yang menurut kata dunia bisa membuat saya bahagia, tetapi ada satu yang hilang…Allah!

Saya merasakan hasrat dalam ini untuk lebih mengenal iman Katolik saya ketika saya berumur 16-17 tahun, dan selama beberapa minggu saya bertemu seorang pastor secara teratur untuk membantu saya menemukan keindahan Gereja dimana saya pernah dibaptis beberapa tahun sebelumnya.  Saya tidak pernah berpikir bahwa pencarian ini akan mengarah kepada hidup religius – ketika saya mulai memikirkan hal ini, semuanya terasa begitu menakutkan dan ‘bukan saya’,  Saya mengunjungi dua kongregasi, satu apostolik dan satu kontemplatif.  Awalnya saya merasa baik, aspek komunitas baik tetapi kerasulannya bukan untuk saya.  Ketika mengunjungi biara kontemplatif, para suster di sana sangat ramah tetapi itu bukan tempat ‘saya’.

Saya piker setelah dua kunjungan tersebut maka hidup religius bukan untuk saya, saya telah memikirkannya, mencari dan tidak menemukan dan karenanya pencarian selesai, saya akan kuliah, jatuh cinta dan menikah. Tetapi Tuhan punya pendapat lain.

Saya telah jatuh cinta, pasti, tetapi pernikahan bukanlah jalan dimana saya akan merasa bahagia dan utuh.

'Oui' - 'Yes'!Saya sudah lulus dan wisuda lalu bekerja, tetapi tetap saja rasanya ada sesuatu yang hilang. Allah sedang membentuk saya untuk siap mengatakan ’Ya’. Akhirnya saya mencapai titik dimana saya tidak bisa kembali, saya pasrah pada Tuhan. Saya telah mencoba mengendalikan, kerja ini, hidup begitu, memilih ini, meninggalkan itu – tetapi tetap saja ada lubang ini, dan rasanya makin besar dan makin sulit untuk diabaikan.

Saat merayakan Paska bersama teman-teman, pada Malam Paska, saya tidak bisa tawar menawar dengan Allah lagi. Dengan bercucuran air mata, kagum atas semua yang telah Allah perbuat, saya mendengarkan diri saya berkata ‘bukan kehendakku melainkan kehendak-Mulah yang terjadi’ – penyerahan diri ini membuka pintu-pintu air, akhirnya saya dapat mengatakan kepada diri saya dan orang lain bahwa Allah adalah pusat hidup saya, bahwa hidup saya akan berpusat pada Allah dan Gereja, sebagai seorang religius, walau belum tahu dimana, apa dan bagaimana. Sebenarnya dimana, apa dan bagaimana-nya tidak terlalu mengganggu saya, Allah akan mengurus itu. Yang perlu saya buat adalah berpasrah dengan sepenuh hati, dan ketika melakukannya saya merasa sangat damai.

Dengan rasa damai ini saya mencari di internet, saya tidak punya gambaran nyata mengenai hidup religius atau adanya macam-macam kongregasi, tetapi Allah bekerja melalui internet dan membimbing saya ke halaman www.fcjsisters.org ini.

Sekarang usia saya 26 tahun – Allah bekerja dengan lambat tetapi selalu efektif dan tidak pernah menyerah! Saya menghadiri aksi panggilan di suatu akhir pecan dan dalam pertemuan pertama itu saya tahu bahwa saya telah menemukan bagian yang telah lama hilang. Jika hidup saya seperti empat potongan jigsaw, selama ini saya telah hidup dengan tiga bagian, tetapi tiba-tiba saya menemukan bagian yang keempat dan saya tidak akan pernah melepaskannya lagi.

Kesempatan bertemu para suster yang telah memberi hidup mereka kepada Allah, penuh semangat hidup, dalam cinta, bahagia, dari bermacam-macam usia, telah memberi inspirasi kepada saya untuk berbuat yang sama. Saya merasa bahwa saya dapat menjadi seorang sebagaimana Allah memanggil saya, dan menjadi utuh.

Saya menjalani dua tahun didampingi sebelum mulai postulansi, dua tahun masa pertumbuhan, memperdalam hasrat dan menguji panggilan Allah. Saya selalu merindukan pertemuan-pertemuannya dan setiap saya pulang, saya merasa ada bagian dari diri saya yang tertinggal. Walau demikian, menunggu justru merupakan hal yang diminta Allah dari saya pada waktu itu, sehingga saat masuk awal sebagai postulant, lalu menjadi novis dan sekarang masa sebagai suster berkaul kekal menjadi saat penuh rahmat.

Usia saya sekarang 31 tahun, telah banyak tahun berlalu sejak pikiran awal tentang hidup religius pada umur 16-17, tetapi Allah selalu bersama saya dalam proses pencarian, dan saat ini pun bersama saya setiap hari membimbing saya dalam menghidupi persahabatan yang setia dengan Putera-Nya, Yesus.

Apa yang menarik saya untuk menjadi seorang FCJ?  Yang menarik saya sejak awal dan hingga saat ini – 5 tahun kemudian adalah HIDUP! Dalam diri suster-suster FCJ baik yang tua maupun yang muda, selalu ada semangat yang hidup dan dalam cinta.

Kami kontemplatif dalam aksi – dipanggil untuk menjadi sahabat-sahabat Yesus dan menjadi sahabat satu sama lain serta bekerja di dalam dunia, berada di tempat dimana Yesus berada. Harapan dan hasrat yang kami bagi dalam mencoba menanggapi dengan cara kami kehausan Kristus di dalam dunia memberi inspirasi kepada saya untuk menanggapi, dalam kerasulan saya sebagai seorang guru dan dalam seluruh kehidupan saya.

Apa artinya menjadi seorang FCJ?  Mencintai dan bergantung sepenuhnya pada Allah dan Putera-Nya, Yesus – tanpa Allah saya bukanlah apa-apa dan tidak akan mampu berbuat apa pun. Segenap diri saya adalah hadiah dari Allah. Keterbukaan pada semua yang menemanimu sepanjang perjalanan, para suster dan pemimpinmu, Tuhan telah bekerja melalui mereka, dan akan terus berbuat demikian membantu saya menjadi Sahabat Setia Yesus sebagaimana yang Ia dambakan. Visi, melihat dunia sebagaimana Kristus melihatnya menerima bahwa kita tidak dapat menghilangkan penderitaan orang lain, tetapi kita dapat melibatkan diri secara lebih sadar di dalamnya,
dan menjadi sahabat bagi mereka. Energi! Kami merupakan sebuah kongregasi internasional yang kecil tetapi kami bekerja di seluruh dunia, dalam kesatuan hati dan budi Butuh tenaga dan keberanian untuk hidup dalam pelayanan kepada Allah, kepada saudari-saudarimu dan kepada dunia, tetapi hidup ini luar biasa.  Allah hanya meminta hati yang terbuka, sehingga Ia bisa menggunakannya dan seperti kata-kata dari pendiri kami:  “Allah akan menuntun saya; Dia akan mengerjakan segala karya ini sendiri.”   Allah sungguh menuntun saya, saya memberikan jawaban ‘Ya’ saya kepada-Nya tanpa tahu akan dibawa kemana oleh-Nya, tetapi saya bisa mengatakan bahwa itu menjadi perjalanan terbaik yang pernah saya lakukan dan saya menyukainya! Semoga ini akan berlangsung lama!

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Sungguh tak terpahamilah cara Tuhan mendidik dan menyelami hati
Franciska Yohana Sri Winarshih (Inez), Indonesian

Photo of Sr. Inez, fcJ.Saya tidak dibesarkan dalam tradisi Katolik karena Bapak ibu saya penganut Kejawen (agama tradisional Jawa). Keluarga besar ayah saya kebanyakan beragama Kristen Protestan sedang dari sisi ibu mereka adalah muslim yang taat.  Pada saat kelas lima SD, mulailah saya sholat dan berpuasa sebagaimana layaknya anak-anak yang lain tanpa ada yang menyuruh dan menuntun. Saya kira itulah benih kerinduan awal untuk berrelasi dengan Tuhan Pencipta.

Lulus SD, saya melanjutkan sekolah  ke kota (Solo).  Kakak saya (yang sudah menjadi Katolik) mendaftarkan saya sebagai siswi beragama Katolik.  Jadilah saya masuk kelompok siswa Katolik tanpa ide apapun mengenai Agama Katolik.  Tidak ada yang menyuruh atau  mendorong, sama seperti saat saya mulai mempelajari Agama Islam, saya memutuskan untuk ikut katekumen.  Saya dibabtis saat kelas tiga SMP.

Saya cukup setia dengan doa , namun menjadi suster -  itu jauh dari angan-angan.  Saya ingin bekerja di luar Jawa, memiliki banyak uang dan mengunjungi tempat-tempat baru dan asing.  Saya suka perjalanan.  Kelak terbukti bahwa dengan menjadi suster, saya menembus batas-batas wilayah dan mengenal budaya berbagai negeri.

Selepas  SMA saya melajutkan kuliah di Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB). Pada saat di perguruan tinggi inilah sejarah panggilan saya dimulai. Ada dua peristiwa penting yang menjadi titik tolaknya.  Saya mulai bertanya dalam hati, ”Tuhan , mengapa Kau ciptakan aku? Kalau hidup memiliki tujuan, apakah itu? Kalau hidup ini Kau kehendaki dan ada tujuannya, bagaimana saya harus mengisi hidup agar bermakna?”   Peristiwa penting yang kedua terjadi ketika saya mengikuti misa minggu panggilan. Diakhir homili ada pertanyaan ini:  ”Tuhan memanggil, siapakah yang akan menanggapi kalau bukan saya?”  Sepulang dari misa, saya menyadari pertanyaan ini sepertinya untuk diri saya sendiri. Heroik, itulah yang saya rasakan. Ada dorongan  untuk menjawab, berkorban dan hidup secara berbeda demi Tuhan. Saya mulai berangan-angan, apa jadinya kalau saya menanggapi ini?

Saya mulai memikirkan seandainya saya menjadi suster.  Tuhan mulai mengacaukan pikiran dan hati saya.   Hasilnya adalah jiwa yang  gelisah.  Saya ingin mengusirnya pergi namun saya tidak sanggup.  Kiranya keluh kesah Nabi Yeremia persis menggambarkan dengan tepat kegelisahan saya “ .... maka dalam hatiku ada sesuatu yang seperti api menyala-nyala, terkurung dalam tulang-tulangku.  Aku berlelah-lelah menahannya namun aku tidak sanggup (Yer. 20 :9).  Tuhan membimbing saya langkah demi langkah bagaikan seorang guru mengajari muridnya.

Setelah lulus dari perguruan tinggai, saya memerlukan waktu dua tahun guna merenungkan dan menimbang panggilan tersebut.  Dari buku petunjuk gereja saya tahu ada banyak sekali kongregasi. Namun satu – satunya kongregasi yang saya kenal waktu itu adalah salah satu kongregasi  Fransiscan.  Pikir saya waktu itu, ”Memang ada beda signifikan antar kongregasi? Bukankah mereka semua berjubah dan tidak menikah?”.   Ach naifnya saya!  Belakangan saya tahu bahwa setiap kongregasi memiliki karisma dan spiritualitasnya masing-masing.

Dalam keraguan dan kecemasan akan kebenaran pilihan saya, saya mengetuk pintu biara salah satu kongregasi Fransiskan. Saya sadar betul bahwa tidak akan ada tanda maupun jawaban pasti dari pencarian ini namun yang saya tahu adalah saya mengikuti dorongan hati terdalam dan yakin Tuhan akan menuntun saya.Tiga tahun saya jalani pendidikan postulan dan novisiat. Saya merasa pada saat itulah saya mulai mengenal Tuhan di dalam hidup saya dan saya menanggapi-Nya dengan penuh semangat. 

Saat itu adalah saat saya dikelilingi dan dibantu para formator terbaik. Saya diajari bagaimana mengenal diri dan mengenal Tuhan, menambal yang luka maupun  merangkul kelemahan. Beberapa pengajar adalah imam dari Serikat Yesus (SJ).  Dari mereka saya mengenal Spiritualitas Ignasian dan salah satu di antaranya adalah semangat Magisto be more. Saya belajar mengabdi-menghormati-memuliakan Allah melalui kehidupan sehari-hari yang sangat sederhana, dalam hal apa pun. 

Kaul pertama terjadi tahun 1992.  Perutusan pertama saya adalah belajar lalu mengajar.  Pada tahun 1996 masa kegembiraan saya sebagai Suster fransiscanes pun berakhir. Saya tidak diterima untuk memperbaharui  kaul. Artinya saya harus meninggalkan kongregasi yang sudah bagaikan ibu bagi saya.  Sangat gelap, itulah gambaran saya akan masa itu.

Jika merenungkan kembali peristiwa itu maka saya menyadari bahwa saat itu merupakan titik terendah sekaligus titik balik di dalam hidup saya.  Tuhan yang sangat mengenal saya hendak menuntun saya ke tempat yang baru – yang dikehendaki-Nya.  Pada saat itu saya belum mampu menangkap maksud hati-Nya maka saya menggerutu, berulang kali, dan dengan sekuat tenaga.  Kemarahan saya  pada Tuhan tak terlukiskan .  Saya merasa dikhianati.  Itu terjadi selama tiga tahun.

Tiga tahun tersebut, yang saya isi dengan kuliah lagi sambil bekerja,  sungguh masa yang sangat berat.  Persis umat Israel yang marah, kesal, lelah, menggerutu, menuntut dan mengikuti kemauan sendiri, itu pula yang terjadi pada diri saya.  Ada banyak sekali pertanyaan dan tak satu pun terjawab.  Namun  setelah dua tahun berdiam diri, Tuhan mulai angkat bicara.

Ketika terjadi gempa di Bantul tahun 2006, suster-suster FCJ membantu masyarakat mendirikan kembali rumahnya.  Caranya adalah dengan memilih bahan-bahan dari rumah lama yang masih bisa dimanfaatkan dan menambah bahan baru yang diperlukan.  Fondasi dan tiang-tiangnya dibangun dengan cara baru dengan harapan akan tahan gempa.  Itu jualah yang dilakukan Tuhan padaku : membantu saya membangun bangunan baru dengan bahan lama yang telah menjadi puing namun masih bisa digunakan, dan dengan fondasi yang lebih kokoh.

Photo of Sr. Inez.Setelah dua tahun proses membangun kembali, saya menemukan bangunan hidup saya lebih indah dari pada yang sudah-sudah.  Kata kuncinya adalah: ”Senantiasa berjalan dan tidak membiarkan diri berhenti karena putus asa. ”  Itu  menjadi awal hidup baru saya. Saya mmperbaharui lagi  hubungan dengan Tuhan dan pada saat yang sama dipulihkan oleh-Nya.  Iman saya menjadi lebih sederhana.  Lebih jujur.

Pada akhir kuliah,  sepertinya sudah jelas bahwa saya akan hidup melajang.   Tuhan menggelisahkan hati dengan mempertanyakan CARA saya dalam mengambil keputusan : yakni dengan  sepihak, tanpa mengikutsertakan Dia.   Rasa itu sungguh menyesakkan  hingga suatu kali saya menemui rama pembimbing rohani, seorang Yesuit. Beliau mengatakan begini ”Kegelisahanmu itu barangkali  karena kamu berdiri di tempat yang salah”.  Olehnya saya diberi kartu nama Kongregasi Suster FCJ. Tentu saja saya tidak dengan segera menanggapinya.  Saya merasakan ketakutan  dan kecemasan untuk masuk ke dunia yang sama kedua kalinya. Penundaan berlangsung  berlarut – larut hingga pada akhirnya saya menulis dan mengirim surat perkenalan kepada Suster Barbara FCJ di Jogja.  Bulan September 2001, pertamakali saya berkunjung ke biara FCJ di Yogya.

Dua tahun saya bolak-balik Jakarta-Yogya-Jakarta menggabungkan diri pada kelompok yang disebut d’Houet, yakni kelompok para perempuan yang berminat mengenal FCJ.   Dua tahun pun berlalu, masih tanpa keberanian membuat keputusan.  Dalam keraguan mengambil keputusan,  Sr. Marion bertanya apakah saya siap menjadi postulan.  Serta merta  saya menjawab ”Ya.”  Hati saya terasa hampa berisi kecemasan.  Namun setiap kali menengok ke dasar hati terdalam, saya merasakan ketenangan, damai.  Saya masih menawar,   ”Tuhan, berilah saya suatu tanda.” Di dalam doa Tuhan menjawab, ” Kamu tidak akan diberi tanda. Sekarang tanyakan kepada dirimu sendiri. Apa yang paling kamu inginkan dari hidupmu?  Apa yang kamu harapkan dari hidupmu?  Apapun yang kamu pilih akan Kuberkati.” 

Saya mengikrarkan kaul kekal pada tanggal 3 Januari 2010, bahagia, bangga dan terberkati menjadi suster FCJ.  Cara Tuhan mendidik dan menyelami hati tetap tak terpahami.   Perjalanan saya untuk sampai ke tempat ini berliku-liku namun keindahannya tak terperikan. (More...)

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Who am I?
MaryAnne Francalanza fcJ, Maltese

Photo of MaryAnne with an FCJ companion from Indonesia.My name is MaryAnne Francalanza and I live in the British Province. I come from Malta - a little island in the Mediterranean Sea. I travelled from Malta to England to meet the FCJs. I contacted them first on the internet:-) I studied Mathematics at the University of Malta and did my teacher training here in the UK. I taught Mathematics at an 11-18 Catholic School in Hounslow and enjoyed it immensely. There is something very life-giving in working with children. It is both a huge responsibility and a great privilege.

I never would have imagined that my journey with God would bring me here - and yet it feels like home. I had been growing in an environment of Ignatian Spirituality for a number of years, having worked closely with Jesuits in Malta and I felt that this was the way I had to take to find myself more and be the best person I can be.

I was attracted to the FCJ society for several reasons. I was looking for Ignatian women whose lives are rooted in God and whose work is a continuation of Jesus’ mission. I was looking for a group of people who embrace the world with all its joys and sorrows, and are not afraid to ‘live fully’. I was looking for a place where I could use the gifts God has given me for God’s kingdom, and where I could do this with like-minded people who journey together. For me, the FCJ Society is this place.

I started my two-year novitiate year in September 2001. It was a blessed time full of new challenges and insights. There were moments of joy and of pain, but I discovered some very beautiful things inside me, and realised that I still have a lot to learn.

But if I had to start again - I wouldn’t change a thing!

I made my first vows in 2003 and you can read a little about my ceremony by clicking here.

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The Quest for God
Ann McGill fcJ, Canadian

Photo of Ann in a reflective time.Because consecrated religious women and men are explicitly about “the quest for God”, religious life is intended to be “a sign” which can and should inspire others to live their own particular calling. It witnesses also to God’s presence and love in the here and now, while at the same time, pointing to our ultimate “homeland,” the heavenly city that God has prepared for us.

Yes, God chooses whom God wills, and God takes the initiative in an individual’s life. Just as with Abraham and Sarah and so many others who have gone before us, we are all called by God to walk in faith, to trust God’s promises to us, to set out on the journey even when we do not know the destination. As Religious, we are called to make the relationship with God the primary and defining relationship of our lives. We are called to make Christ our First Love. And I think it is really important to emphasize this, that our lives are primarily about Love, about being the face of God’s love and compassion to our world, whether that be through the ministry of prayer as in the monastic communities, or through more active involvement in response to the needs around us.

God’s invitation may come in the form of an interior inclination to a deeper spiritual life. It may come in the form of a question or comment by someone who knows us well. There is no limit indeed, to how God may awaken a person to this sense that he or she may be gifted in this way.

Typically, at first, people tend to doubt, deny or try to turn a deaf ear to the little whisper of God that stirs this unsettling ‘’something’’ in their heart. They may consider themselves not holy enough, not good enough, too young or too old, too sinful, etc. Most often, the communication from God is not anything as dramatic as St. Paul’s encounter with God on the way to Damascus, but just God speaking to us where we are in the circumstances and ordinariness of our lives and our relationships. Nevertheless, I believe, each of us is given our own little “burning bushes” or “annunciations” if we have eyes and ears and hearts to perceive them in the routines of our days. That is why regular prayer, and reflection on our experience, is important for the development of a sensitive heart, so that we can catch this still small voice of God amid the busyness of our lives.

In my own case I felt this secret desire from my pre-teen years, and it was sparked mainly, I believe, through reading the stories of “foreign missionaries” in magazines that came into our home monthly. Like many people today, I had no personal contact with sisters, brothers or priests, apart from seeing the priest at church and occasionally when he visited the school. After finishing my education I had an office job, which proved to be very unsatisfying. I was involved in the social activities and relationships of that time and place and while that was fun, it left me wanting more. God was tugging at my heart.

In an effort to placate this persistent little voice I decided I would become a Nurse, thinking that that is a good thing to do with my life - I will be helping people. That was indeed a very positive and growth filled time in my life. But after several years of various kinds of nursing experience in various parts of the UK, the opportunity arose for me to go to Canada. So off I went, again thinking that being in a new country, meeting new people would satisfy this nagging little yearning for something more. Well, I came to Canada and lived in Calgary. I had my job, an apartment, car and all the trappings of singles in those days. I had a close circle of mainly outdoor type friends with whom I loved to hike and backpack and ski on a regular basis. I was active in the local parish. I was still close to my family. Life was good, but you know there was still this sense in me that something was missing. It was a persistent nagging sense of dissatisfaction with my life despite all that I had and all that I enjoyed.

I did a lot of spiritual reading and a lot of praying. I used to feel so frustrated with God, wondering why God was keeping God’s plan for my life so secret and mysterious, when all I wanted to do was live out “God’s will” in my life. Eventually I found a very helpful Spiritual Director and that’s when things began to move. It felt good to have someone to talk to about this turmoil that was going on inside of me. And I discovered there were several other people like myself, considering a religious vocation. After a couple of years of personal and group prayer, discussions, discernment, visits and live-ins with various religious communities, I was still sitting on the fence. Then one day I was walking in the park with a Sister and talking about my life when she stopped and turned and faced me and said “Ann McGill when are you going to stand up and be counted?”

Well, that did it! Being confronted like that by someone I loved and trusted freed something inside of me. It freed me to take the next step. And there are many steps from the time one applies to enter a community to the time one makes final commitment. It takes several years and there are many supports but also challenges along the way. I remember saying to myself after that first formal step that “at long last I am doing what I have always wanted to do.”

There are great “storms” swirling around us in our church and world today, and some may feel like Religious Life and the Church and all of us are “perishing” in various ways. But the Spirit of Jesus is still with us and says to us “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” As the disciples in the boat being lashed by the storm, we too are called to invoke and trust that the power and the Spirit of Jesus will Shepherd us through these turbulent times. As I was thinking about this the words of poet Christopher Fry came to me:

“The frozen misery of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move...
Thank God our time is now when wrong comes up to face us everywhere.
Never to leave us until we take the longest stride of soul we ever took.
Affairs are now soul size, the enterprise is exploration into God.”

Yes, we do live in turbulent times but we are not alone. We are called individually and as church to a radical openness, trust and dependence on God. As the poet says, we may be being called to take the longest stride of soul we ever took.

God is a patient, faithful, gentle but persistent God. If you or anyone you know is sensing that God may be inviting you to become a brother, sister or priest, I encourage you and them to seek out someone who can accompany you and guide and help you along the path as you discern your way forward.

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A Dream
Rita McLoughlin fcJ, English

Rita McLoughlin fcJ.I don’t often remember my dreams but the one I had after a Sunday retreat in my school, surprised me so much that I couldn’t but remember it! The FCJ Sisters were doing the washing up after dinner, including my FCJ class teacher and I think it was Sr. Philippa Maston, head of another FCJ school in Middlesbrough, who suddenly said, ‘So, are any of you going to be FCJs?’ I hadn’t even thought about it and did not answer. But that night I dreamt that I said ‘Yes’! I was flabbergasted and it set me thinking. Although I was only 14 at the time, this was the beginning of my journey to becoming an FCJ. However, I passed through many phases and feelings, at one time wanting and another time resisting the idea.

The FCJ who taught me Religious Education inspired me and helped me to grow spiritually. I even asked her one day to teach me how to pray, but I never told her what I was thinking about being an FCJ, because I knew somehow that once I did, I would have made up my mind and that was a bit scary.

I came from a very faith-filled family. We said the family rosary each evening together and went to daily Mass most days. We were involved in parish organisations and as children were encouraged to make God the most important person in our lives. Between my family and the teaching and example of the FCJ I had come to know, I was growing in my understanding and love of Jesus. He was coming so much more alive for me as a real person and I wanted to give him my life in return for all he had done out of love for us.

I avidly read the shorter and the long life of Marie Madeleine d’Houet, and I was fired by it. I found her so courageous, so determined, a woman of such faith and love whose greatest desire was to do what God wanted. I was excited and ‘hooked’! But I sent away for vocation material for other congregations as I thought I should not just fall into the FCJs because I was at school with them. But I didn’t feel as attracted to the other congregations about which I read and eventually came to the conclusion that if the FCJ way of life made the sister I knew such a committed, loving and generous person, it was good enough for me!

But this was not the end of my struggle. Sometimes I wanted to go along with the idea that God wanted me to become an FCJ and for other periods of time, I felt a great reluctance to doing it. I felt the attraction to choosing my own career and perhaps getting married.

One evening, just before I went out to see a film, I was in my bedroom and out of the blue came the conviction that I had to try and see if God wanted me to be an FCJ. I knew at that moment that I would never be happy unless I took this step. By this time I was in 6th form and finally admitted to the FCJ sister who taught me that I was thinking of becoming an FCJ. So although I applied to university I was also taking the first steps along the road to becoming a postulant and after leaving school in July went off to Broadstairs, Kent, in the following January.

Forty-nine years later, I have no regrets! But it’s been a long journey to much greater maturity than I had at 19 years of age, a journey to a deeper faith, an understanding of how sharing in the mission of Jesus and service are central to being a Faithful Companion of Jesus.

I am still fired by Marie Madeleine’s vision as we come to understand it and live it in today’s world. She was a woman of outrageous hope, and that is what our recent FCJ documents have called us to be and what I want to be! Marie Madeleine has come so much more alive for me in the last ten years. Her life as young woman, wife, and widow, mother and religious, seems to be able to speak powerfully to me and to those whom I meet in my different ministries. So I am very grateful for that dream many years ago, a dream which did come true!

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Called to be a Faithful Companion of Jesus
Mary Rose Rawlinson fcJ, Canadian

Photo of Mary Rose enjoying a break in the mountains.In January 1960, when I told my mother I wanted to be a sister, a Faithful Companion of Jesus, she asked me what I knew about the FCJs. "Well", I said, "they wear mostly all black, they mostly all teach, and they never go home"!

This doesn't seem like very much to base a life choice on, but as I reflect back on those days, I realize that I knew considerably more than that.

I realized that becoming a sister was entering into a love relationship. From the witness of my parents particularly, I was aware that committed, faithful, love relationships depend on mutuality, openness, communication and trust.

I knew that becoming a sister was an expression of wanting to live my life for others, unselfishly. I knew I wanted somehow to be useful to God and available to serve God's people. My father asked me if it would be better to finish university first, to become a doctor or a teacher and then to offer that to God. That was tempting and I saw that it was a good suggestion. Still, I also had a strong desire to simply offer myself to God and let God use me how God wanted.

I knew that becoming a sister was about wanting to live for God alone. As psalm 62 puts it, "Only in God will my soul be at rest...". I realized that life commitment as a sister included not being married and not having children. That was not an easy decision to make and at times it has not been an easy decision to live!

I knew instinctively somehow that Eucharist would be essential to my life as a Faithful Companion of Jesus. Before I even considered being a sister, I had begun to go to daily Mass, usually to 7:30am at St. Mary's Cathedral so that my friends and classmates would not see me doing anything so holy or strange! When I was a child, our family usually went to daily Mass during Lent and then came home for breakfast together before school. I suspect the adventure and the joy of those early morning family outings contributed to my growing appreciation of Eucharist.

Although at sixteen I did not have many possessions to leave behind, somehow I had a sense that having things, even things like educational and entertainment opportunities of my own choosing, was not going to make me happy. I had a pretty strong hunch that the call of Jesus to "Come, follow me" would hold more than enough richness and possibility for me.

People have asked me, "But how did you know? How did you hear God calling you?"

Well, I certainly didn't hear a voice or get a letter from God! I considered possible ways to live my life: as a single woman, in marriage, as a sister. When I tried to pray, when I tried to ask what God wanted, the idea of becoming a sister persisted. I didn't get answers, just a simple, gentle, persistent sense of "Come and see!".

At first I said to God, "Well, life as a sister might be okay for some people, it probably is, but it's certainly not for me". But the idea did not go away! Then I said, "Well, okay God, maybe it is for me, and if this is what you want from me, I will be a sister, but not until I finish university." Still, the idea persisted! Finally, I said to God, "Okay, if you want me to be a sister, I'll do it, whenever you want, you show me the time!" I decided to ask to become a novice. I knew that if the Community told me I was too young and that I needed to wait, that would be a sign that God wanted me to wait as well!

I was accepted and many years later I am still grateful to God for calling me to this life, still happy to be living as a Faithful Companion of Jesus.

Today, our world is perhaps more complex. Certainly, our community would ask a young woman to have more life experience before making a decision to become a sister. Much has changed in the Church as well and in religious life in these thirty-eight years. Vatican Council II has had a big influence on all of our lives. FCJ sisters no longer wear mostly all black, they do many ministries as well as teaching, and they maintain healthy relationships with their families!

But the essential things remain unchanged. Religious life, FCJ life, is still a relationship of faithful, committed love. Eucharist is still at the heart of our apostolic, community lives. It is still a source of joy to me to be useful to God, to somehow know myself as invited to be partner with God, companion with Jesus, in God's ongoing work of creation and redemption. I still know that I want to serve God how God wants, to be useful to God's people how God wants. I still know that things do not make me happy, but being a loving, committed woman religious does!

Being a sister is not a choice I made once. It is a choice I make every day! Becoming and being a faithful companion of Jesus takes a lifetime!

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If you would like to know more
about the vocation to be an FCJ sister,
please click here.

"Untuk menyandang nama ini, Sahabat Setia Yesus,
            aku akan mempersembahkan segala yang kupunya – seluruh diriku."
                                                                                             (Marie Madeleine, Pendiri)