The expression “God speaks to us through people and the ordinary events of life” sums up the reason why I am a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth today.
My journey to religious life began in my family, where prayer and weekly Sunday Mass attendance were a priority. For several years my older brother, two younger sisters and I, together with our parents, prayed the rosary as a family and, at times, rather reluctantly when favourite television programmes competed for our time and interest.
At seven years of age I remember being in awe of a young Sister of Charity whose kindness and gentle manner motivated me to stay behind after school hours to clean the classroom, carry sister’s bag to the convent or just chat for a while. At that time I recall a strong desire within myself to be just like her…God was at work!!!!
The story of my call to religious life would be incomplete without mentioning the role Mary played. While trying to discern my life’s direction at the ripe old age of twelve, I turned to Mary for guidance. Having heard about the weekly novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which was held in our parish church every Thursday evening, I decided it was time for me to do some serious praying. Like most other people who attended the novena I wrote my weekly letter to Mary, deposited it safely in the box in front of her picture, and waited for an answer to my prayer.
Since my family background is Polish, I attended Polish classes, joined the Polish girl guides and participated in many Polish cultural activities. A highlight of the year for our family was to attend the celebration of Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel in Marayong. This was a highlight because it was one of the few times we had a ‘family’ outing. The celebration at Marayong consisted of an outdoor Mass, procession and a picnic…in a truly rural setting. The attraction for the children was not so much the Liturgy but rather checking on the turkeys and other animals on the property.
These annual visits brought me in touch with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Up until the age of 12 my desire was to become a Sister of Charity. However, God had other plans.
During the summer holidays, at the age of 14, I was invited, by a very zealous sister, to spend a two week holiday at the orphanage at Marayong where I helped the Sisters look after the few children who remained in the Orphanage during the Christmas vacation period. Here, once again, I experienced the kindness of the Sisters and enjoyed the company of the children.
At the end of the two-week vacation period another invitation was extended to me…to become an aspirant (affiliate) with a group of four girls in Brisbane, in February. What an unbelievable answer to my prayers!!!!! Without any hesitation on my part I broke the news to my parents. My father was not too keen for me to leave home at such a young age, but my mother was happy for me to go.
All this took place over 50 years ago!!!!!
During my life’s journey God’s ways have been sometimes mysterious, but never dull.
As I reflect on these past forty years it is easy to see God’s hand leading me…sometimes to places I would rather not go…but never alone.
I thank God and the congregation for the numerous blessings and opportunities which I have experienced in being able to continue and deepen my relationship with God, and serve God’s people …….the children, families and the elderly…and so… the journey continues…..praise God!!!!!
Sr. Helen Tereba
My name is Sister Rosanne Sinclair. I have been a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth for more than 30 years now. I first met the Sisters the day I started high school at Holy Family High School in Marayong, N.S.W. I was struck, from my first days there, by the way that the Sisters related to us and reached out to us as “real people”. It actually felt like they enjoyed being with us and I soon began to sense that there was something special in the way that they treated us. My life in community has been a coming to understand the source of what I felt, when in school with the Sisters, back in those days.
The heart of the message handed on from generation to generation of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, by our Foundress, Blessed Frances Siedliska, is that each and every person is important in the scheme of things. Each one of us is part of the human family and as such, we possess a dignity that is to be recognised and respected. This is the challenge of our life...this is the challenge of my life as a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth… to reach out to each person, in their uniqueness, as a valued member of the human family and as part of a basic family unit...each person is first and foremost a member of the family of God. This vision of Blessed Frances has given my life meaning and purpose in a way that enables me to walk through the joys and sorrows, the celebrations and the commiserations of everyday life. All in all, I guess it gives me perspective for my life. This sense of perspective is pure gift.
Many people have asked me over the years if I regret giving up being married and having my own family in order to be a religious sister. As the years pass, I can answer with deeper and deeper conviction that I honestly believe and feel that I have been given far more than I can ever give up. I have a loving family in which my mother, my sister and five brothers, together with their respective families, continue to love and support me despite the business of their own lives. I have been blessed to know my own Sisters living in a number of countries and here in Australia. I have been blessed by being invited into the lives of many people with whom I have worked, studied and lived during my life in community. Most of all, I have found a loving and faithful companion in my God. It doesn’t mean I don’t have my bad days and my times of doubt…but, in the end, if life is meant to be lived….God has certainly given me an amazing life.
As I gaze upon the story of my own vocation it seems that it was only yesterday when I began this journey. It has been like a dream, so far beyond my reach and comprehension. God in His goodness and Love, made me realise and understand the meaning of His wonderful call, a call to Life, Love and Service.
It was the 3rd of February 1998, when I went from Iloilo to Manila in the Philippines, together with the pious group named the Missionaries of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Composed of 2 women and 3 men, the purpose of the group in going to Manila was to study and learn about Mission. Luckily, we met Sister Gemma Pepera, the Regional Superior of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth at that time. Upon hearing that Sister Gemma belonged to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, we asked her if she could give us a seminar about Mission.
Through God’s intervention I believed, that was the starting point in my life to discover my own call to Nazareth.
On May 17, 1998 I entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, based in Manila, as an Affiliate. Through the help of Rev. Father James Ferry, MM who was vicar for religious and confessor of the Sisters in Greenhills, Manila during that time and up to this present moment. Everything was new to me, even in eating, sleeping, talking, doing things and praying, but I was certain that God invited me to this journey, no matter how unusual the things around me appeared. I remember reading a book, in which it was discussed how Jesus said: “Come, taste and see”. That is what it felt like to me in those early days.
On May 16, 1999, I entered the Postulancy period, It was a memorable experience for me to know, to learn, and to discover myself through different kinds of studies, processing, seminars, conferences, inside and outside the convent.
In the year 2000 I entered the novitiate period. As I recall, it was an amazing encounter with God, in the daily events of my life as a novice. Reflecting on the life of Blessed Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd (Frances Siedliska), our Foundress, I began to ponder just as she always pondered deep within her heart: “What is there in life that is truly great and magnificent?”
It was on May 1st 2002, that through God’s mercy and love, I made my first profession. I was filled with excitement, and anticipation for this new beginning and hope for the future.
“God’s ways can be so different from human judgements and prediction.” (Book of the hidden life).
Sr. Rita Marie Apura,CSFN
Religious life was not one of my options before when I was a child. Like every other girl I also had an ambition to finish my studies, help my parents and have a family of my own. Without knowing that God had a wonderful plan for me.
Growing up in a farm far from the town I did not had an opportunity to meet nuns. I did not even go to Mass every Sunday except during birthdays, Christmas, Easter and the fiesta of our Patron Saint. The only opportunity I had of learning about my faith is through our Catechism classes at school and through my parents’ own faith.
I had my high school in the town and there I met new friends. I always hung out with them, went to the disco, went to the city and sometimes went to see a movie even during class’ time. We always did mischievous things at school; like asking for a gate pass from the school principal telling her that we needed to buy something from the shop outside the campus, but then, after she would sign the paper we would add our friends name on it and give it to the guard so that my friends and I could go out together. I couldn’t understand why we enjoyed doing those things but at that time it was fun.
One time I met a friend outside the campus, she invited me to come with her for a gathering and so, I went. It was an annual convention of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Youth Movement from all over the Province. They were so friendly that I easily felt at home with them. So every time they meet in our place I was also there. The member in our place increases in number so; we decided to have our own activity twice a week. Since, most of us were students and the others were working during the day we usually had it during the night. We had Bible sharing every Tuesdays, intercessory prayers during Thursdays and later on our parish priest scheduled us to sing for the six o’clock Sunday mass. However, my family were not so happy of what I was doing. They were pleased to see me serving the church but not coming home late at night. They thought I was still hanging out with my old friends and went somewhere.
Maybe the only way they can think of in order to stop me is to give me a lot of duties at home so that every afternoon as I came home from school I already had a list to things to do. I tried to finish the chores quickly so that by the time they arrived from work I was already gone to our prayer meeting. I knew it was wrong but there was something that I was longing for. At first I thought I just wanted to be with them, I thought I just wanted to belong or simply just wanted to have friends.
Until one day I realize that I wanted to do something more than I usually did. I was happy of what we were doing but I felt it was still lacking. It was not anymore a matter of service but there was something beyond that. I wanted to commit myself to God without having an idea on how can I make it possible. All I knew is that God loves me and I wanted to love Him back. I prayed over it and sought an advice then, finally, I realise that maybe God wanted me to consider religious life. I entered the convent at the age of 17. That was years ago I am now a Final Professed sister of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Religious life is not perfect. I would not say that this is better than married life or staying single, but for me it is, because I realize now that this is my life. This is what I am called to do and this is what I meant to be. Every person has his/her own purpose that gives meaning to his or her own life.
Sr. Christine Marie Ramada, CSFN
Country of origin: Poland a beautiful country in Europe with a strong Catholic tradition. I was born on the 21st of June 1972, by the Baltic Sea in Gdynia, which is the north part of Poland. From 2009 also an Australian Citizen.
Family: is made up of mum, dad and my sister, who is four years older than me. My sister teaches Polish at a Primary School in Poland.
Family background: My dad worked in the shipyard in Gdynia. My mum brought up 2 children and then worked for a couple of years in the supermarket as a salesperson. Now both parents are retired and live with my sister. After I finished my High School I joined the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. While going through the process of formation and working as a teacher, I studied at John Paul II College and then University in Czestochowa. I completed my Master of Theology Degree in 1998.
When and why did you choose vocation: God knows best. What I tried and still am trying to do is to read His signs and respond to them in my life. For a few years I was really interested in becoming a missionary sister, but when it came to the final decision I was quite sure that it should be the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (which I knew from my parish). What attracted me so much to this congregation was the fact that I could be a religious sister who worked and prayed for families (which is our main charism). Looking back to my 18 years in religious life I believe God wanted me here and I find that each day is always a mystery of His ways in my life.
Where have you served: Back in Poland I taught Religious Education for 10 years in different schools – from Primary to Junior High School in various parishes. I prepared children and young people for the Sacraments, lead some children’s and youth choirs, prayer groups and drama groups. I also lead some retreats for children and families. Here in Australia I studied Diploma in Children’s Services and Certificate IV in Training and Assessments while undertaking different congregational roles at Holy Family Children’s Centre, For a couple of months I was a Special Religious Education Teacher at Marayong Heights – St. Andrew’s Parish.
Your ministry at present: I serve as a Sacramental Coordinator in Mary Queen of the Family Parish in Blacktown. My ministry to families is rewarding and enjoyable.
Sr. Grace (Grazyna) Roclawska CSFN