“I’m a Religious Sister – I haven’t a husband.” “No,” said one of the men, “you’re married to God.” “You’re not allowed to get married” proffered another. “It’s not like that,” I objected, “I chose this,” which resulted in a lively discussion, and then one of the men made the final question: “Would you do it again?”
This takes me to the topic ‘Why did I become a Religious? Why did I stay?’ I grew up in a family where things of our faith were part of life, where Marist Brothers were regular visitors to our home, and where many of the Dominican Sisters who taught us were also friends. Despite all this I had no desire to follow them and when there were prayers for vocations at school I didn’t join in because I was fearful as to where they might lead. But later there was no silencing the small inner ‘voice’ I felt was from God and there came a day when my response was “Yes Lord…”
And why the Sisters of Compassion? I happened to visit the Home at Island Bay and was taken by the ordinariness…a Sister playing with small children on the floor, another comforting a crying baby.
Over the intervening years I have been living and praying with my Sisters in communities in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific;
- Teaching in Māori schools on the Whanganui River;
- Looking after pigs and helping with the hay on our farm at Jerusalem;
- Empowering Aborigine women in western New South Wales to run a Child-care Centre;
- Studying scripture and spirituality, education, the social sciences and counselling;
- In chaplaincy in Arohata Women’s Prison and on the staff of Catholic Social Services;
- Teaching ballet and art to disabled children;
- Helping the Coptic Orthodox Community in Sydney establish a Childcare Centre;
- In leadership within my Congregation and participant at the Oceania Synod in Rome;
- Working in Asia with our Caritas partners for the empowerment of the poor, especially women and children;
- Involved in the visiting and street programmes of the Compassion Centre and with other inner city agencies getting housing for the homeless and the marginalised.
All of this has been a wonderful varied mission but there is much more.
Sandra Schneiders, a modern Religious and Theologian writes that religious life is ‘a leap of faith, a great gamble on God.’ And a game of high risk for the stake is my whole life – for in a way it makes no earthly sense if God does not exist.
My life has become an adventure into love, a passion, an amazing joy, spiralling down into the mystery of God, a God search that consumes more and more of my being. It is not only that the love of God is the impelling force but I am endeavouring to give truth to Paul’s words ‘I LIVE NOT, NOT I, BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME.’
Would I do it again?
I would want to do no other.