My Journey to God: I Came and Saw
I am about to step out of the door. Suddenly, Jesus appeared just above my head. His feet are almost touching my forehead. “Do not go out,” he said. I get inside and close the door.
That was a dream. A dream that I can still remember vividly as it repeatedly visited me when I was a child – four to six years old. Looking back, I believe God had planted the seed of my vocation in my heart from that time onwards. Growing up, my mother taught me how much we are all indebted to God. My parents were born Catholic, however they studied the bible with other sect and my father was baptized in it when I was four years old. I learned from my mother the life story of Jesus here on earth and the reasons why the God the Father has sent Him here.
On my fourth year in high school, Sr. Luningning, an Augustinian sister inspired me to enter the religious life. My mother enrolled me in our Parochial School run by the Agustinian sisters. So, I was introduced to the full Catholic Faith. My interest in the Eucharist grew as I frequently attended the mass and Religion Classes as a requirement. I got interested in the way of living of the sisters running our school. I’ve got the impression then that the nuns are always almost perfect, like an angel – a miniature of Mother Theresa. In my senior years, I considered a religious vocation. I wanted to be a nun! I accomplished an application form for the Augustinian Missionaries of the Philippines (AMP) and was excitedly hoping to get the approval of my parents, by putting their signatures in my application form.
“Maybe, you don’t love us, and you don’t want to help us.” In silence, that was the message I got from my mother when I told her that I want to enter the convent. Asking for her permission was not easy considering my responsibility as the second child in a big family with nine children.
“We cannot see you anymore,” my late grandfather said. “When we visit you, we can only see your fingers.”
Of course, I love them and I still want to see them. Younger as I was, I followed my parents’ wish to finish my studies and help the family. But deep inside me, I already decided that I am not going to live the ordinary life cycle of a woman. I will live a different life, though I didn’t know how, then, yet. I silently asked the Lord to wait for me.
My parents instill in us the value of education and were hoping that all the nine of us will finish school. Considering our situation, I was thinking how will it happen? How my parents can send all of us to school? That started my desire to help the family in sending my siblings to school.
My college life was not ordinary. I took up Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering, as per the advice of my father. The course – fit for male – was not the one I really wanted. My first choice was Journalism and I was planning to continue to law proper. But I enrolled in Agricultural Engineering, anyway.
Young, curious and adventurous, I was involved with different school organizations. I became inactive in the practice of the Catholic Faith. Though in my heart, I always believe in the creator and in Jesus Christ. My attendance to the holy masses was limited only when there is an occasion and a mass is included in the program. But I am just blessed and lucky that I felt the Lord was not abandoning me. At some point, I was invited by other religion and studied their teachings.
During the first semester of my fifth year in Agricultural Engineering I decided to stop my studies due to the pressures brought about by my extra-curricular activities in school.
My mother always tells us, “You know what is wrong and what is right.” I didn’t hear anything from her when I decided to stop my studies, however, I clearly heard her resounding message, “You are responsible to all your actions.” I decided I will still get a degree. I can still help the family.
I may never fully practice the Catholic Faith, but I constantly talk with the Lord and ask for His guidance.
I went to Manila, found a job and helped my sister next to me finish her course. Then, I supported myself to finish my second course – Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.
My college life, the second time around, was a testimony of how the lord worked in my life. I experienced His Love and protection through the people He sent me and I met along the way.
In 2004, I was in a crossroad when I felt the calling again. I went to a convent in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The Mother Superior interviewed me and asked me to go back with the Letter of Consent from my parents, the next day. However, after a night of deep thinking, I said again, “Not yet Lord. Please let me continue helping my family first.”
So, I started my Job hunting with one solid prayer – that the Lord gives me a job where I can able to help my parents send my siblings to school. It was answered. And always, job hunting for me was easy. My desire to help send all my siblings to school deepened. I embraced the value of giving thinking that everything was just a gift from God and is intended be shared.
Furthermore, I was constantly looking for volunteering activities. Finally, I settled to become a supporter and volunteer of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. Looking back, I realize now that my mind is unconsciously telling me that I do everything for the glory of the Lord, but my heart is still restless and looking for something else.
When I saw that my siblings are quite alright I felt my heart wanted to rest, in the Lord. Good salary and promotion did not inspire me anymore. I still feel the guilt of not pursuing all of my dreams for the family, especially to my ageing parents now, but I also strongly felt the need to give the Lord’s calling a chance, to come to the Lord and see what this life can offer.
How did I learn about the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii?
In 2011, I was working for an Advertising Agency in Makati. Though working for this industry could be exciting and fun, project deadlines could be really stressful and energy-draining. Communing with nature used to be my way to relieve stress and relax. I was searching in the internet for a place where I can spend the weekend to rejuvenate. All of the sudden Regina Rica appeared on my searches. When I clicked the link and read the content of the website, I got interested and decided to visit the place immediately.
So I was in Regina RICA. I passed through the Way of the Cross and was amazed with the Mahogany trees. When I reached the Pasilungan, I was happy to see that it serves only organic food and it cares for the environment as I am also an advocate of environmental protection. I ordered my food. I remember Sister Eppie was at the Pasilungan during that time and she advised me to go to the SULOD. I went up to the SULOD and really enjoyed the silence and peace especially that no other pilgrims were there yet. In silence, I declared that I will be a part of the place.
I attended the mass at the Kakahuyan and received the healing oil from Sister Matt. New comers are welcomed through the song “Welcome to RICA.” That’s unique and made my first RICA experience memorable.
I planned to go back but I became busy again and occupied with my workloads and other activities.
December of 2012, I noticed the lump on my breast. The succeeding three months were full of worries and uncertainties. I didn’t tell anyone at first. For me sickness is a sign of weakness and I believe I am strong all along. There were sleepless nights that I cried and asked what went wrong? I have never been hospitalized even a day in my life and I know I am healthy as I live a healthy lifestyle.
I started searching the internet about the matter and found out positive and negative statistics and documentations. I regained my composure. Now I have breast lump, so be it! Two doctors said the lump should be removed, however, for me operation is not an option. I decided if I will live for only five or ten years, I will live now serving the Lord.
In 2013, I chanced to see Regina RICA website again. I saw a mobile number and sent a message asking for possible employment opportunity. I decided I will resign from my current job and will grab the possible employment opportunity at Regina RICA. I found out that the number was Sr. Eppie’s. After several exchanges of messages, she invited me to come for interview on April 18, 2013. April 18 was Thursday and so there was a contemplative sit. I was advised to join the sit and was relaxed. Sister Eppie interviewed me afterwards, and now I am already a Postulant. The lumps are benign!
Still, I have no clear idea about my future in the religious life. What I know is I want to follow and proclaim Jesus through the ministries of my congregation. Several times, I still feel the doubts and insecurities in this new life but I also feel the embrace of Our Lady and the graces of the Lord.
I want to help heal and inspire people to live a meaningful life. I am not sure if these reasons are pleasing to God. But I can start from it, until my intentions are purified. I know the good Lord will continue to guide and bless me with His graces until the end.
The fear of the ‘unknown’ that could await a woman who acknowledges the call of the Lord could be overwhelming. But through the intercession of our Lady, I know God’s grace would be sufficient to banish the fear. I believe our Lady had led me to the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii and will show me the path to holiness. God has a plan to each of us. We are all called to follow Jesus. Sometimes, we do not understand or do not feel the fire for God in our hearts because we are always busy. Sometimes, we are faced with hardships and pains. But really, the Lord, as always, has His ways to appease us. I am really grateful for all the modular classes because it really helped me understand this unique journey to God. I am really grateful to all my modular class mentors for they served as the Lord’s instrument for my enlightenment. I appreciate the generosity of my congregation for letting me attend all the classes.
Serving the Lord does not need logic and so much thinking. It is just felt in the heart. And when we feel the seed that the God has planted in our hearts we can only asked Him for the gift of increased zeal to follow Him and to love Him.
By: Sr. Mary Irene Rafer at June 27, 2013
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