Wanna Be A Sister or A Nun? – A Tribute To The Women In Our Lives Who Have Entered The Religious Life
This blog post about women who have consecrated themselves to God is relatable, something that is close to my heart and to the other members of the family as well, for sure. It triggers a memory about the good times we’ve had with our “TitaSisters” (how we fondly call the two younger sisters of my father who have chosen to enter religious life), as well as the other nuns, sisters and the women who have likewise dedicated their lives to God (my once-upon-a-time Opus Dei friends), all of whom have helped in a way mould us, particularly in terms of spiritual/value formation. Growing up, we have always been reminded by our two TitaSisters of our Sunday duties and other matters about the faith even if their places of assignments were far away from us.
Based on accounts from my father since some of us in the family weren’t born yet or were still toddlers/youngsters then, his two sisters left their homeplace for the city to attend further studies. After graduation, they decided to enter the convent to follow their dreams. Such decision to enter religious life was not a surprise to their parents at all because they had a hint that their young ladies in the house had already this idea in mind to become a nun or a sister. I understand they have experienced having suitors but did not proceed with this tack as marriage life was not really their cup of tea, so to speak! They did not join the same religious congregation, although the older went ahead and the youngest followed a couple of years thereafter. They have lived separately, far from each other, and that was one of the sacrifices they had to face. Despite the challenges however, they were bent on fulfilling their dreams because their love for God and to serve Him (which was conceived in their minds even when they were still young) was greater and equally important than their love for each other. They knew from the start that this was what God wanted them to do. The older sister, Sr.TitaAmor, joined the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS) where she became at one point the Directress of the Congregation’s Center for a certain advocacy. She is still living with the RGS community but is currently faced with health problems; while the youngest, Sr.TitaRosario (we fondly call her Tita Yingying) joined the Daughters of Charity (DC), unfortunately she died 3 years ago (Please offer a prayer for both of them). For so many years and decades, our two TitaSisters persevered and overcame the challenges of being a Sister. They loved being with their respective communities and stayed with them for so many years and decades until their retirement days. Apart from the perks of being a sister (spiritual aspect and the academic side of it, e.g. trainings and seminars here and abroad), their journey as religious women afforded them with many opportunities such as the privilege to serve God’s people through teaching, management and administration, and most all their service to the less fortunate (materially and emotionally poor), the orphans, the unwed mothers, and they were happy with all these undertakings because of their passion as social workers – all for love and glory of God.
During our childhood days, both of my TitaSisters would constantly write letters to my father, sending us rosaries, novenas and other sacred mementos for everyone in the family. They have also helped us in other remarkable ways. This was probably their means to ease the pain and the homesickness as they missed their family very much. Apart from my mother, my TitaSisters and the other consecrated women whom we have encountered as we go through life were instrumental and likewise the reason behind our knowledge about God, our Catholic faith and teachings of the Church.
However, just like the clergymen, the consecrated women even with their deep spiritual immersion are likewise facing various challenges along the way, of being part of a religious community. Being a sister or a nun is not at all easy, there would be changes in the very context of their life as the same would primarily be a journey of faith and trust in God’s providence. Unlike us ordinary women, a full fledge nun or sister will take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (according to the evangelical counsels based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church), to which they will have to live with it. Once one enters the sisterhood or the nunnery, she will have to follow the policies and regulations of the community and undertake the day to day duties, e.g., daily masses, daily prayers or the Divine Office as they call it, etc. I can only surmise that there maybe times that they could not do things they like, and their personal needs and preferences will have to be sacrificed in favor of the community needs. Their personal decisions and interests would have to be based on what is beneficial for the entire community. It would be hard for them to undertake something outside the halls and walls of the congregation’s convent without the permission of the Mother Superior or the Directress-in-charge. Human beings as they are, there could also be misunderstandings among themselves and temptations and these are some of the challenges they have to contend with. But they can easily overcome the same through prayers by listening to the voice of God, and constant practice of the virtue of humility. However, even with these challenges, the result is worth the effort. By obeying the precepts of God and the Church, there will always be great joy waiting for them, of becoming a servant of God, whom they are called to be. The mere thought that they were courageous enough to respond to God’s call with a humble heart make them admirable and worth emulating.
Incidentally, Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for this month of February are meant for religious sisters and women who have consecrated their lives to God, specifically:
- “encouraging them to continue to show courage amid difficulties, even if it means pushing back against the church they serve faithfully”.
- calling on them “to discern and choose what is best for their mission in the face of the world’s challenges that we’re experiencing.”
- expressing gratefulness to these women for their mission and their courage, and that they may continue to find new responses to the challenges of our times.”
It would be good to note that the Holy Father offered his prayers for the consecrated women on the same day of the World Day of Consecrated Life, in recognition of the roles played by men and women in religious life such as the clergy, the nuns and sisters in the Catholic church.
Thus, the Holy Father’s call for us to pray for the consecrated women ( including those religious women under the lay and clerical apostolate and organizations, e.g., Opus Dei women) is understandable and laudable considering that these women have played a vital role in our faith journey .
Unfortunately, it has been observed that there is a dwindling number of people joining the priestly and religious vocations, including the consecrated women throughout the world, more so here in the United States. Quite a number of the existing consecrated women, sisters and nuns are in their senior years and can no longer be physically present and actively participate in the service of the people (except for praying for us all). However, as reported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops USCCB), there is hope and good news as shown in one of the report’s findings that there are young men and women considering the vocation of either priesthood or in any of religious women congregations, it is imperative that we pray for the consecrated women (and the clergy as well) that they may be able to do their duty diligently and faithfully. We have to pray also for the youth, particularly those who have the calling to serve God, that they may be able to properly discern, truly accept and fulfill their obligations in their chosen religious vocation.
As previously stated, both religious men and women play a critical role in our spiritual and faith journey. Religious people are perceived to be more closer to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and since they are more closer, they have been given the task to lead us more closer to Jesus as well. In so doing, to become a nun or to be consecrated to God is no easy decision, not to mention the said enormous mission and responsibility put on them. They act in effect as Ambassadors of God on earth. As mentioned earlier, the consecrated women have to take an oath of many vows: celibacy, poverty and obedience. Isn’t that a lot to sacrifice and to give up? But they have to do it in order to be effective in their duties, all for the love of God. Hence, they are expected to be holier than us, more humble, more patient and more generous, among others.
As Filipino Catholics, this is where the religious people need us, to understand and pray for them. May we, as followers of Christ, be able to encourage them to be strong in their vocation, so that they may be able to fulfill their duties to lead the people to God, especially the wounded and scarred. In his video message, the Pope said that without the presence of religious and consecrated women, the church “cannot be understood.” Just like the presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the temple, the consecrated women and those in the religious life are also called to present themselves to God and the service of God’s people. So, let us continue to pray for these people, thru the intercession of the Blessed Mother, to be brave enough to accept the mission and consecrate themselves to the service of the Lord. Let us thank these women who have helped and trained us, and let us congratulate them and continue to pray for them that the vitality and joy of their vocation be experienced by all whom they meet. Indeed, to be a sister or a nun or a consecrated woman, is a calling, a mission and a journey of faith.
Our Aunts had a great life with their respective religious communities even if challenging and can be difficult at times. But isn’t it the same thing with other vocations such as marriage, single blessedness, or any walks of life – there can be hard hits too. As the old adage says, life is not a bed of roses! But if you, YOUNG GIRLS AND TEENS, feel in your heart that you have the calling to serve God for life, GO FOR IT LADIES! Start to discern abou it. That would be the best response to God’s call. Pursuing this dream and investing your time with the Lord would grant you enormous graces and extraordinary possibilities, particularly in your spiritual life.
p.s. In honor of my two beautiful and loving Aunts who have joined religious life with happy dispositions in their quest for holiness, and to keep their legacy alive in the hearts and minds of the rest of the clan. Prayers for courage, physical healing and strength for our dear Sr.TitaAmor and prayers for perpetual light and eternal rest in the Kingdom of God for the soul of our dear Sr.TitaYingying. Amen.
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