Sister Kateri Pablo Vasquez-Weber – Novice
The first time I consciously thought about religious life was during a National Catholic Youth Conference in Louisiana in 2008. At the end of one of the speaker’s talks he said to all the youth present, “All those who feel called to religious life, come up to the stage so we can pray over you.” I didn’t know exactly what was happening inside my heart, but I knew and I felt that I had to walk up to the stage. I was embarrassed because I had never considered myself someone who could be called to something like that, and I wasn’t sure of what my peers or friends would think. I that time I had just finished my sophomore year in high school.
After that moment and after returning from that youth conference, my life did not make a dramatic change, although I continued being involved with the youth ministry at my local parish. I kept learning more about my faith, and gradually drawing closer to our Lord, but this thought of becoming a nun never became more than a passive idea in the back of my mind. I was not running away from it, but neither was I actively pursuing it. I was at a standstill when it came to praying about and discerning possibilities for my life, and hearing which one God had for me. I understood as much as I could that the Lord might be calling me to be a nun or a religious sister, but I wasn’t aware of discerning or what it meant to ask God to share with me His Plan for me. From time to time I would mention this idea of becoming a nun to a spiritual mentor or to my close friends of the same faith, but no real fruit came from those conversations because I never took my vocation into prayer before the Lord. He had something to tell me, but I didn’t know how to listen.
I graduated from high school with the idea of becoming a religious sister being more forgotten than remembered, due to peer, familial, and societal pressures about dating and marriage, but I was clear about one thing: growing closer to God. From my experience on yearly youth retreats from my home parish, I knew I had found something during my time being served by my peers and serving the Lord on those retreats. I had found God to be a river that never runs dry, and I could never tire of drinking from it. I had finally found what I never knew I had been searching for.
It was on an undergraduate fall retreat at the university I chose to attend, Boston University, put on by the Catholic Center at this university, that I heard and felt again a stirring in my heart about discerning a religious vocation. This retreat occurred at the end of September of 2011, in the first semester of my sophomore year in college. What was different about this moment was I had grown a lot spiritually after one year at Boston University. Through meeting with one of the campus ministers a lot of healing and teaching was brought into my life, and what I would say was one of the most important things that happened was that I began a prayer life. I began talking to God, praying to Him, sharing with Him my sorrows and desires, and as time went on during the summer of 2011, I learned how to listen to Him, and be with Him, accepting Him and Loving Him when he wanted to share with me His own Sorrows and Desires. This was possible only through many hours before the Most Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. I had to learn how to still my own thoughts and heart, so I could hear and feel His thoughts and His Heart.
So during that fall, I was more formed spiritually, and had a beginning grasp on Listening to Him. That was all He needed. It was during one of the talks that the speaker said, “So, you know that thing that you don’t want to talk about, and every time it comes into your mind, you just push it out, but then it just comes back even stronger?” I felt at that moment within me a message from Jesus of, “Let’s talk about this again,” referring to discerning a religious vocation. That fall semester I was going through a time when I decided I preferred marriage because I would be able to marry a man and live the dream I thought I had always seen fulfilled all around me, in family, in peers, and in the media. However, on that retreat I decided to begin a serious and official discernment of what my vocation was.
The next thing I had in mind to do at the end of that retreat was to begin going on discernment retreats. Through a friend, I heard about a discernment retreat for the new community that Mother Olga was founding. The retreat was in mid-October, just a few weeks after the end of the Catholic Center retreat I attended. I decided to go on the retreat to really begin a sound discernment of religious life, and I unexpectedly found myself in a sea of peace and simplicity the entire time on the retreat. I felt as if I had no place else to be. I learned about Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the ministry of presence, and our role as Children of God to accept and to love unconditionally each one of our neighbors. I felt like I was hearing about something that had already been forming within me, and I saw it taking flesh in this new community. I wasn’t putting on a different skin with this community, but living deeper in my own skin.
However, that spring of 2012 I had already arranged to study abroad for one semester, and so Mother Olga and I discerned that it would be best for me to continue with that plan and take advantage of that opportunity of an intense discernment. God absolutely took that time to form and mold me—I would actually call it a spiritual “boot camp.” Throughout my semester abroad both Mother Olga and I received confirmations from the Lord about my entering into this community, and so when I returned to Boston after the end of my semester abroad, I was officially received into the community as an Aspirant.
Sister Faustina Kolbe Burda – Novice
I grew much closer to God following what doctors acknowledged as an unexplained healing. I hemorrhaged when I was 12 and lost a third of my blood supply. My mother prayed for Our Lady’s intercession to heal me. That experience strengthened my faith and my family’s faith – I realized God had a plan for me.
I knew if I followed God’s will I would experience true happiness and I felt God calling me to attend Boston University. I had a strong desire in my heart to help people and following my 2007 graduation I began my Master of Public Health degree while working at the American Cancer Society. It was also during undergrad at BU that I met Mother Olga and she became my spiritual director.
I went on retreat in February 2008 and in adoration we ‘Touched the Garment,’ which is taken from Luke 8:43-48 where the hemorrhaging women touches Jesus’ cloak and is healed. This particular passage always meant a lot to me because of my own healing experience. As the priest and Jesus in the Eucharist stood before me, I touched the garment that was touching the monstrance. I felt this overwhelming sense of unconditional love like I had never experienced before. I also felt like I was truly touching Jesus’ cloak – the realization that I was in the true presence of Christ. I cried and was so moved by that moment of divine grace. While I continued to pray I heard a voice from within me, but was not my own, say “I want you.” I knew the “I want you” meant He wanted me to follow a religious vocation so that I would completely belong to Him and no one else.
I was upset and began to argue with Him – I had other plans of doing holy things to serve the Church. I was going to get married, have children, and be a strong Catholic voice in healthcare. Part of me wanted to forget about the experience, but it was so strong that I couldn’t let it go.
I met with Mother Olga and she was also surprised by my experience because we never talked about religious life before. She also shared with me that Cardinal Sean O’Malley had recently asked her to consider forming a new religious community. I know there is no such thing as a coincidence and that God’s hands are in everything, and this was very providential. Mother Olga gave me a discernment workbook to help me pray and recognize God’s will for my life. The book suggested some lifestyle changes such as the rosary, fasting, daily mass, and cutting out media and increasing silent time in order to better hear God’s voice.
God continued to call me closer to Him during the following three and a half years of my discernment, but there were many moments when I tried to push Him away and reasoned that I needed to “experience more of life.” I took up salsa dancing and dated. In February 2010 I realized I really needed to walk with the Lord during Lent – I had maintained, and still do, the lifestyle changes recommended in the discernment workbook. He spoke to me in the silence and it was time to give more attention to my discernment. Our relationship deepened and He continued to draw me into Him.
In May 2011 I went on my first discernment retreat with Mother Olga and other young women. I knew I had to take more serious steps and finally told my parents about my discernment. In June I spoke with Mother Olga and learned the community would live like the Holy Family did in Nazareth and focus on bringing Jesus’ loving presence to the world through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I felt filled with the Holy Spirit and on fire. This synced with my own spirituality and my desire to be a Catholic presence and serve people. Following a second discernment retreat in October and after much prayer, I discerned it was time to apply to be an Aspirant with the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth community.
I have felt drawn further into the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth’s charism and spirituality and that God has confirmed my vocation call. Even when I see other beautiful vocations and religious orders, Peter’s words come to my heart “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” and I have truly drawn closer to the life-giving Christ with the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth.
Sister Guadalupe Karol Quinn – Novice
I was raised Catholic and have generally always believed in the teachings of Christ and His Church, but Senior year of college was a time of dramatic change in my relationship with Him. I lived in an apartment dubbed “The Lodge” with 3 women from the campus ministry. Inspired by Acts 2:42-47, we prayed together daily, lived simply, shared a family meal once a week, and invited women from the campus ministry to stay with us for the Triduum, fasting and praying together. The two years I lived at the Lodge were among the most joyful, purifying, transforming years of my life. We loved each other as sisters and called each other on to holiness. During that time I found my home in Christ, in His Sacred Heart, and consecrated myself to Him through the heart of Our Lady. Not only did the Lord draw me into a deeper conversion through that experience, but He also planted seeds of my Vocation and specifically of the charism of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth.
After graduation I worked as an Engineer for about 4 years. There were many things I enjoyed about my job, but I felt a growing restlessness and sensed that God had something more in mind for my life. Through prayer and discernment, I discovered that He was calling me to full time ministry and took the big step of quitting my job and becoming a missionary with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). As I sat in the Chapel at my first week of summer training, I was overwhelmed with peace. I could say for the first time that I was doing God’s Will. It was an amazing gift that allowed me to dive deeply into the mission. Part of my commitment to FOCUS included a fast from dating relationships for the first year.
In January of my first year on campus, I went on a weeklong retreat at the Theology of the Body Institute. The question of Vocation quickly came up, and in my prayer that week I experienced Jesus, the Bridegroom, inviting me to Himself. As the days went on, I realized the deep desire I had in my heart to respond to His invitation, to be united with Him in Consecrated Life. His call and my desire continued to grow in the months that followed. That summer my Spiritual Director and I determined that it was time to visit communities. At that time, I also found out that I was going to move from serving at the University of Connecticut to serving at Boston University for 2011-2012. I knew that Mother Olga had served at the BU campus ministry for many years but didn’t realize why she was leaving. (I had met her for the first time at the TOB retreat that year.) My Spiritual Director told me she was going to start a new Religious Community.
By the end of the summer I was felt discouraged after visiting communities and not feeling called to any of them. I decided to contact Mother Olga. We had a very peaceful conversation and agreed to meet up once I moved to Boston. That Fall I went on a discernment retreat with her. Throughout the course of the weekend, I felt a continuous peace and docility of mind and heart. As details were shared about the charism, prayer life, formation, and apostolic work of the new community I felt more and more at home. The Community’s devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts resonated deeply in my heart and Bl. Charles’ ministry of presence and hospitality reminded me of the Lodge. In my prayer I felt that Jesus was holding out His hand to me and asking if I wanted to come with Him on a journey, the adventure of entering this community. It was a strong contrast to the visits I had experienced with other communities where I had always tried to fit myself into the mold. I came home peaceful, joyful, and excited. Through prayer and spiritual direction I made the decision to apply for Candidacy and it has been an amazing time of grace ever since.