Come Follow Me!
Praise be Jesus Christ
Good evening my dear holy people. I was very hesitant to accept the invitation to give my testimony because of the difficulty to speak the English language. I’m not very proficient in speaking English and I find myself very limited. But I am inspired by this year of faith even if I am a little bit nervous. If I have to speak then, I will speak in the name of faith.
I came from the Philippines. I was sent here last year to share the life of my Irish sisters. I received a very warm welcome and I feel very at home with my new community. I would like to express my gratitude for the very warm welcome I received from all of you too. My parents were catholic but not very devoted except my Mother who brought me along with her to the church. There were two children in our family, my brother and myself. My Father was murdered when I was 18 years old. My Father’s tragic death was the saddest and most heart breaking moment in my life. I lost a father. I understand and sympathise with those who had the same experience as I had.The pain and the anger takes time to heal.
I was baptized by an Irish Columban Missionary Priest who was assigned in our small town and the first organization I attended in the church was Legion of Mary which was founded in Ireland. So, no wonder I’m here. From the beginning Irish People become part of my journey in life. When I was five years old my family migrated to the southern part of the Philippines because of the constant conflict of Muslim and Christian and other rebel groups. Everyday we heard of killings and many died in our small place. We lived in a very small house near the railway station. So every time the train passed our house shook. I did not experience the pain of poverty because as a child I was content to play with my brother and children around and to have parents at my side. After two years we returned to our home town. I went to University and graduated as a Pharmacist.
My Mother knew that I was attracted to the Religious life. I told her I wanted to be a nun and asked her consent, I was refused and she used to say if I pursue my desire she will marry again. Both of us, my brother and myself did not want our Mother to remarry. I did have a boy friend but the thoughts of having a life partner for myself did not excite me. I was advised to discern my vocation “ well it might be only a passing whim”. I discerned for years and asked God for a sign but there was no sign given except the sense of emptiness. Every time I visited a Church or chapel I heard the same responsorial psalm “If today you hear the voice of the lord, harden not your heart”. That passage struck me and I found myself confused and my heart was restless. I asked a priest to direct me, he brought me to a Poor Clare Monastery for a retreat and there I found myself very much at peace and happy.
I applied to the Poor Clares without my Mother’s knowledge. One week before I entered I asked my mother’s blessing, she cried, sobbed, closed her room door and for days she did not talk to me. I received hurting words from my relatives, that my heart was made of stone, that I had no compassion for my mother leaving her alone. I suffered in silence. The day before I left home I knocked at her door, she opened it and we embraced each other crying. I saw my Mother’s eyes swollen with crying. She let me go. On the day I entered the Monastery my Mother, Brother and relatives accompanied me. Later my Mother was extremely happy about my decision. As a Poor Clare I am just an ordinary sister in our community in the Philippines and here in Carlow. Our main apostolate is prayer. Outside of prayer my office or work is to do dishwashing, cleaning and I love doing gardening and cooking also.
Dear friends, there is nothing extraordinary in my life but in this very ordinary life I professed I always encounter God. God is truly present in every event in life and God speaks and reveals Himself to us in a very ordinary way in our lives. My great experience of God’s revelation to me was when I walked in the garden one day and I heard the dog barking under the tree. He came out with a big crow in his mouth and proud to show it to me. I immediately pulled the bird from his mouth and raised my hand to protect him from the dog who jumped so high he almost pulled the bird from my hands. The bird’s feet was tied with a nylon thread and a fishing hook in his mouth. Once inside the convent I wrapped my hands with cloth because he kept on biting me. With the help of a sister I released the hook from his mouth. He resisted, the more he resisted the more he suffered because the hook had lacerated his mouth and blood flowed out.
The hook was removed and I put him in the shade so that he could fly but I was not content with the small area of the shade. I held the bird in my hand, went outside and set the bird free. He flew and soared very high as if he owned the universe. Dear friends, we are like that bird hooked by our own worldly cares, worries, ambitions, pride etc, in other words sinfulness. Why? Because we allowed ourselves to be shaped by the wisdom of the world not by the wisdom of the gospel and the very heart of the Gospel is love, a love that preserves and promotes life and goodness, a love that sees the needs of our brothers and Sisters.
When God tried to change our lives and uprooted what is not good in us we resisted. Like that bird the more we resisted the greater we suffered. We have one common call for all of us. That is to be holy. God wanted to set us free so that we can soar high to holiness of life. Let us allow ourselves to be shaped by God’s love and allow ourselves to be transformed by His Word which changes our lives. In that encounter with the bird God revealed Himself to me. The compassion that I had for the bird, the desire to heal and give him life so that he will not die, the protection from the dog, setting him free and lastly I did not see the bird as bad but a tiny helpless creature that needs to be cared and loved. That spoke about God himself. We are helpless creatures that needs love and care.
Lastly, I will tell you a little story, a girl entered a monastery. As a postulant she encountered many difficulties. She was introduced to much hard work which she never did at home. One day all the sisters in formation were assigned to clean the house. They had been cleaning for months in preparation for the coming seminars for all the sisters from different monasteries and the old house was the last to be cleaned. She went ahead to do the cleaning, scrubbing the floor to make it shine, sweeping all the dirt. She was nearly finished and there was no sign of the sisters coming to help. Her heart was heavy exhausted with much working and she begun to pity herself, crying, sobbing, and complaining to God.
When she was about to gather the droppings from the different kind of big crawling insects suddenly she saw before her eyes different sparkling coloured precious stones like jewels at the same time as the droppings. How it happened she did not know, she cried with joy and delight and did not know what to do. She carefully gathered it all in her hands and put it on flower pots. That event lasted only for a few minutes. Then she saw her sisters coming. Dear Friends that postulant was me. From the first stage of my formation I was graced by God. There was a purpose why my sisters came late. If they came I would not have experienced such a great grace. There is nothing that we suffer that God gives no value to. Everything is precious and treasured in his heart.
With our Holy mother St Clare I say “”Thank you Lord for having created me
Its a Great Life
Sister Anna Maria, formerly Francie O'Neill from Bracknagh, Rathangan, Co. Kildare speaks fondly of her many years within the order and recounts why she took the decision to join.
What I remember most is that I started to pray early in life. Noticing that, my mother would often say ' Francie will be a little nun ' but when I got to my teen years I used to say Francie will not be a little nun. I loved the dances, I was never so happy as twirling around at every dance, so much so my poor mother used to hide the dance posters destined for our shop window. I came to a sudden halt when my father was threatened with a serious illness, my prayers increased. I was devastated. I was now 25. At prayer one evening in the church, I felt a call to God. I realised then something was going on all the time in my head but I had not been listening.
I and my sister used to visit Graiguecullen, where my uncle was curate. He always said to be sure and visit the Poor Clares and it was this, that put the Poor Clares into my mind. When I told my family, they were up in arms at my decision, protesting that I was to delicate for that life !! But I stuck to my guns and entered and I never looked back.
It's a great life. How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me.
I Thank You Lord
Both my father and mother came from a farming background. I grew up on a country farm and so was always very close to nature and the various sounds of animals and birds. I was the eldest of eight and christened Mary Christina.
My childhood was delightful and I recall it with warmth. There lived an elderly lady near to us who treated me as her little queen. This lovely lady brought me to school and spoilt me continuously. Shortly after making my first holy Communion, my school closed and I went to another further from my home. It meant long walks across fields before reaching the road. My sister was with me at this stage. I remember how we loved to arrive at school early, long before the teachers, so that we could play games.
When I left primary school I went to boarding school. In my fifth year I strongly considered a vocation to religious life. I was also at that time studying hard for my Leaving certificate examinations. In sixth year a number of Sisters from different congregations, particularly the Missions, came to my College. I was captivated by one congregation in particular. They were from Pakistan. I remember fondly the lovely habit they wore. I showed some of the literature and photos I had of these Sisters to my mother. Upon hearing about my intention of entering a congregation for the foreign missions, my mother said ' I do not think your Daddy would like you to go on the Missions '. I decided thus to consider a congregation who had teaching as their only apostolate. Eventually, I joined and after Novitiate I was trained as a primary teacher in Carysfort Training College. I was very happy and loved teaching but after some years I became aware that God had other plans for me. It was then I came to an enclosed order, the Poor Clares.
Every day I thank God for calling me to this way of life. I consider that my farming background, my love of nature, my experience as a teacher, to all have helped me in being able to live life to the best of my ability and I praise and thank God daily for my vocation. I have no regrets and would follow the same path were I to begin life again. I would encourage any girl who feels God is calling her to religious life to give herself wholeheartily to this way of life. My everlasting gratitude to God for my wonderful Parents.
I Thank the Lord Every Day
From as far back as I can remember I never wanted anything else except to be a nun, where that came from I am not sure. I did have an Aunt a nun in a Missionary Order, she was allowed home every seven years, she was home when I was very young. I have a vague memory of her holiday that year and I feel my wanting to be a nun came from that time. It remained with me right through National School. One morning the teacher announced that two nuns would visit the school in the afternoon, " hands up anyone who would like to be a nun ". I reasoned it out this way - yes I'd like to be a nun but if I put my hand up these Sisters will bring me to their congregation and God may not want me there, I am too young now to know where God wants me so I will keep my hand down. Don't think for a moment I was a Holy Mary, far from it; I was absolutely full of life up to all sorts of tricks and jokes. It remained with me through Secondary school. On my last year in Secondary school when I returned in September ( I was a boarder in Secondary ) I knew I would have to make a decision on what I was going to do. So one evening I went down to the Church to pray about my future, I still felt a calling to the religious life but wondered if I should do nursing as a career for a few years. I was perfectly free to say yes or no to God's call, deep down I knew I would never be happy unless I did God's will."In God's will is our peace" [ Dante ]
So at this point I knew God was calling me to religious life and I said no to nursing. As to where God wanted me I left that decision for another day. At the end of February or the beginning of March we had our 3-day Retreat, so one evening I went down to the Church again to see where the Lord wanted me. Simply in my own words I told the Lord I was prepared to go wherever He wanted me. I knew of the apostolate and work of four different orders, so I placed each of them before the Lord one at a time and His answer to each of them for me was no, so now I was going to have to write to other Orders and find out about their way of life. Then the Poor Clare's came to mind but they were not for me and I did not have them on my list !. Then I said I better do this right and put them before the Lord and then I can go and write to the other Orders !. I placed the Poor Clare way of life before the Lord, not thinking I was going to be stopped in my gallop when I heard Him say I want you there. My reaction was no Lord I could not stay behind four walls for the rest of my life and His answer was if I want you to stay I will give you the grace to stay. I had no answer for that. I said I would answer and at that moment I was filled with indescribable peace and happiness.I thank the Lord everyday for the grace of my vocation, for recognising His call and answering it, " You did not choose me, I have chosen you. " [ John 15 ]. With the Psalmist we sing " the Lord is faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds ". We cannot emphasise enough the importance of prayers and openess to God's will.
Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II put it beautifully." What are you seeking ?
What is God whispering to you ?
The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ" [ Benedict XVI ]
"Jesus makes himself known in silence and in prayer. In that intimacy you will be able to hear the invitation of the Good Shepheard ! Follow me" [ Pope John Paul II ]
Bloom Bloom Where You are Planted
In my teenage years I was so absorbed with my own personal affairs and fascinated by wordly things, I did not pay much attention to my inclination to join a religious order. A religious Sister who had an apostolate in our area and who came regularly to our home for lunch had a good influence on me. God in his own time began to bring out the seed of my vocation which He Himself had planted when I was in my mother's womb. Things happened in my life and the guiding Hand of God is always at my side. My Confessor was a Franciscan and God used Him to guide me to join an enclosed Order of Saint Clare.
Now I am a fully professed Sister and am so happy through all the ups and downs of life. I have no regrets, no turning back because I have found the treasure, the treasure of all treasures !Bloom Bloom where you are planted!
I have called you by your name (Isaiah 45)
Why did I decide to become a Poor Clare nun many people have asked?
It is difficult to give a clear-cut answer." A vocation is something between God and the human soul, a calling so loud and clear that we can't mistake it and have no peace until, willing or unwillingly, we open the door of our inmost heart and consider the invitation person to person. In my own case, I had no idea as a child what Poor Clares were. I was born and raised in Cahir, where there are no Poor Clares anywhere near. But one day an older sister mentioned them to me while she was doing up my hair. She usually had a story to tell me at a time like that, to keep me quiet. I was about 7 then and my sister about 15.
I remember her words clearly - she said that the Poor Clares were always praying for people and for the whole world and so were helping to save it.
This really made an impression on me. I always wanted to help people, so I thought this would be a wonderful way to do it. When the hair-do was finished, I ran up to the Sacred Heart picture in the kitchen and told the Lord I wanted to be a Poor Clare in order to pray for the world. For a few days I was full of joy - but then it was all forgotten." Life went on in a happy carefree manner for myself, growing up with my parents, brothers and sisters. I enjoyed the simple pleasures like going for long walks along the bank of the river Suir or climbing the Galtee mountains.
The Lords voice was clear
"My preference for playing cowboys and climbing trees with my nearest-in-age brother and his friends - frequently arriving home with torn dress and scuffed shoes - seemed to worry my father a bit as he said to me now and then " where will you end ? I always gave him a grin and said ' In Heaven .' He must have wondered would I ever keep on the straight and narrow." But all the time, my wish to be a member of the Poor Clares was hidden somewhere deep inside my sub-conscious. I remember once while in primary school, the Sister who was teaching us was called out of the room and we were talking among ourselves what we would be when we grew up. When it came to my turn, without thinking I said ' A Poor Clare '. It caused great laughter and for days after that they called me the Poor Clare. I was very annoyed about it and promised myself that I would never again mention that name to myself or anybody else. However, try as I might to push those terrible Poor Clares out of my mind, as childhood turned into teens, the call grow more and more insistent. That inner struggle went on, the good Lord drawing me and I resisting, ' kicking against the goad ' as Saint Paul would call it. " Once morning during a Mission in the local Parish Church, I arrived into the church during the sermon which followed the 7 a.m. Mass. I sat into a back seat; the sermon was on matrimony. During the course of it the priest just said that matrimony will be the vocation for the greater number, that only very few are called to the Poor Clares or Carmelites. The Lords voice was quite clear as I heard ' that is your vocation.' I pleaded with the Lord, told Him that I would do anything He asked me as long as He left me in the world and didn't ask me to be a Poor Clare. The only thing I knew about the Poor Clares was that they were enclosed and the thought of being locked up forever really frightened me. But I knew I was faced with a decision. So after much prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, I got sufficient courage to say: Lord if you want it I'll do it for you. I wouldn't do it for anybody else - but on one condition: that I'll die young - otherwise I couldn't face it. From that moment on a tremendous peace decended on me and I never doubted my vocation again.
Entering the Poor Clare Monastery
When she entered the Poor Clare Monastery in Graiguecullen on June 13, 1940, I found a warm welcoming community where I felt at home immediately.
"As for my fears of being locked up, they all evaporated and I never felt the enclosure to be anything else but a blessed space whose horizons stretched to the very limits of the earth - and beyond. I felt terribly happy from the start. I had left my home and family but really felt this was what I wanted and where God wanted me. I felt a great sense of peace and contentment."