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Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart, OP

Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart, OP

Last year, the Vocation Promoters circulated a letter to all the priests and religious communities reminding us what John Paul II said on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2000, to labor so that every priest, every consecrated person, rediscovers the beauty of their own vocations and witnesses it to others." I thank Fr. James Hughes and Fr. Mark Schwab for this challenge to help you discover the beauty of your own calling. I am so privileged to share my vocation with each one of you. My name is Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart, a Dominican Contemplative Nun.

I was born in 1962, in the city of Sta. Maria, Bulacan, Philippines. It is about 28 km Northeast of Manila. I am the eighth of nine children. There are five boys and four girls in our family. I managed to survive, by the grace of God in a rowdy atmosphere. I guess that is why the Lord called me to a contemplative order. One of my oldest sisters died when she was an infant and my other sister died of bone cancer when she was 11 years old.

My grandmother and my grandfather on my mother's side took care of the younger children while my parents took care of my sister who spent most of her life in the orthopaedic hospital. Grandmother was my first "gardener" who planted the seed of vocation in my childhood. Even though, the thought of being a nun came a little later. I remember kneeling next to her saying the rosary and the Angelus. She mumbled the rest of the words since they were in Latin. It made an impact on me aware of the presence of God. The lighted candles and her favorite statues became an image of God's abiding presence. Glimpses of God had been there all my early life so that I was convinced at the age of five that I will become a nun. Our parent's house up to the present is only two blocks from Immaculate Conception Parish. I was baptized, confirmed, and received communion there. Looking back, I have a lot to be grateful for growing up in the Philippines where religion is part of everyday life.

God's mystery began to unfold when I went to Sacred Heart Academy for two years in high school. The IHM sisters and the Diocesan Seminary were giving vocation talks in our school. The sisters had some brochures that they handed out to us. Since the brochures where written in English and not in Tagalog my mother tongue, the word Contemplative caught my eye. I remember asking one of the sisters what the word meant. Well, I knew right away that God was calling me to a life of contemplation. This was in the late 70's. Two persons who influenced me especially were my Aunt who is a Daughter of Charity, and my first cousin in his late 30's, who decided to give up the Business profession to become a Diocesan priest. Our friendships and love for God nurtured our longing to follow our divine calling.

In the meantime, my oldest brother had received a job from Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Company in Detroit, Michigan. This blessing from the Lord gave him the opportunity to petition my parents and his siblings to come to United States. While I was pursuing my vocation by reading the lives of the saints like St. Teresa of Jesus, I had dared to sneak one weekend to go with my friend at the Carmelite Monastery in Manila. The plan to enter there did not come about. The next thing I knew I was to leave my homeland and go to Michigan (where milk and honey flow in the winter time) to be with my oldest brother and father and get my education there. It was August 1, 1978. 1 remember going to Mass before my departure, praying and trusting in God to show me the way if He really wants me to be a nun.

When I got to Michigan, I then found out that my parents were not happy that I inquired about entering a monastery. I knew that I had to continue my high school and I hoped to go to medical school to be a Dentist. I guess I was pleasing my parents more than I thought. I took a part-time job as a Medical Assistance and Lab Technician right after high school. When I got to my second year of College, the Lord had a big surprise for me. I took a course on Medieval Study and did a paper on St. Thomas Aquinas. The seed that God had planted all along began to sprout and blossom before my eyes. Our class also had a young speaker in the spring semester. She was a former postulant in the Farmington Hills Monastery. Because of her health problem, she decided to leave the monastery. I could not believe how God places people in my life to remind me of His calling. Going to Sunday Masses was not enough for me. I began to ponder the longing in my heart to serve God. This was in the summer of 1983.

One weekend, I decided to attend a charismatic prayer group not knowing what God has in store for me. Well, have you been slain by the Holy Spirit? I had to tell the group my desire to enter a monastery. The Charismatic leader promised that she would help me inquire into the different Contemplative Orders in Michigan. The first place that we went to was the Farmington Hills Monastery. There was no question in my mind that it was the place for me. I also visited the Carmelites in Detroit. However, the grills and black curtains prevented me from choosing the monastery knowing that it would be hard for my parents to accept my life-long choice. I know that being locked up in the monastery for the rest of my life will haunt them. It was the grace of the present moment!

During my discernment, the thought came to me that if I did not pursue my vocation then, I could lose it. I made my aspirancy in the Dominican Monastery for a week in July inside the enclosure. I entered the following September and started to embrace the Dominican Contemplative life. I had a year of postulancy, two years of novitiate, then I made my first profession in 1986. Did I have a struggle before I made my final commitment to be a nun? Absolutely! The sacrifice and pain of not bearing my own children came to the fore. Also the morning before I asked our Council for Solemn Profession, the thought of not being able to have an intimate relationship with a man that I can love and cherish on this earth became unbearable. After facing it squarely by prayers and deep thinking, God had given me the grace to embrace the celibate life.

Do I have any regrets? No, I do not. I can now say that God has gifted me with sisters and brothers beyond my circle of friends in order to love them with my heart and His heart.

My life as a Dominican nun had been an adventure.