Mother John Marie
While working on a Ph.D. in medieval literature at Columbia University in New York City during the time of World War II and the Holocaust of millions of Jews – God’s Chosen People – I had a profound faith loss! There was a religious Sister in my Dante class and I went to her for help. Seeing her deep faith, I asked her to pray for me. One day in my room I went down on my knees and wept as the Lord came to me, restored my faith profoundly, and drew me back to the Church and its Sacraments. The Lord Jesus Christ became the center of my life. Soon I began to make private vows as a religious Sister, and in 1972 as a Franciscan Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How would she express her life as a religious?
Living the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and our promise of fellowship in the Spirit keeps me fervent in the loving presence of the Lord whose faithful presence and grace enable me to grow deeply united with Him and my Sisters in our Franciscan Community, Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Words of encouragement:
Try always to remain faithful to the Lord through prayer, the Sacraments, the Scriptures, and persevere in whatever you feel that He is (or has been) calling you to do in your life. His grace is always sufficient. He will enable you – if you will let Him.l until He reveals Himself.”
Growing up in a small town in Nebraska, Linda was not afraid to be different from her peers. The vibrant faith of her family was the ideal setting for the seed of a religious vocation to grow. She was not afraid to practice her faith, or to open herself to a vocation as a religious. She was 19 when she answered God’s call.
Linda Kay Lukasiewicz was born in Grand Island, Nebraska and baptized a few weeks later. She was the second of four children, and her family lived on a farm in Farwell, Nebraska.
A combination of many influences led her to respond to a religious vocation. She attended a Catholic school until the sixth grade in a neighboring small town, where a favorite priest and religious sister greatly inspired her. They taught her how to listen to the voice of God through reading the Scriptures, how to impart God’s love, and especially how to be a happy servant of God.
During her grade school years, both of Linda’s parents made a Cursillo. There were noticeable changes in their faith as a result of their Cursillo retreat experience, and this also had an impact on their children. Her parents became more spiritual and both lovingly served in their parish church.
Another source of great inspiration to Linda was her grandmother, who exemplified the Christian walk. From her grandmother, Linda learned a deep prayer life and how to have faith in God.
At age 17, Linda began to hear of and experience charismatic prayer meetings and Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was in this time of preparation for Confirmation that Linda received a call in her life. She began to hear the Lord’s voice leading her in the direction of religious life. In her heart, she knew she needed to respond. There was always that voice that spoke to her heart, beckoning her to come. In the process of discernment, she immersed herself in the Sacraments and sought counsel from a couple of priests and religious. She had incredible support from her parents and her family. Saying ”yes” to the Lord in the religious life was a fulfillment of her baptismal call.
Soon afterward, Linda heard a religious sister speak at her parish church. This sister was speaking at Full Gospel Businessmen’s breakfasts and charismatic conferences. Linda went forward for prayer from this sister. When Linda told her about her vocational call, the sister told her about the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and gave her a community brochure. Linda came to the Disciples at age 19, and received the name Sister Lucy as a novice. She professed her first vows in 1984, and her final vows in 1988. She was elected Superior General for six years on January 21, 2002.
Mother Lucy’s greatest joy is praising the Lord and bringing people to a deeper realization of a great God who has a plan for their life. Her heart says, ”Lord, I am your servant. I have come to do Your will.”
Sister Ana Chiara
4th Counselor, Vocations
Marie always believed that she would grow up, get married and have six or seven children. She loved children and, put frankly, loved living in the world. She enjoyed Bar-B-Ques, city league volleyball and hosting themed dress-up parties.
Returning to her Catholic faith, though, after several years of searching for God within other Christian faith traditions, Marie found that in the deepest part of her heart something still remained unsatisfied. She hungered for something more, that friends, family and even her faith could not completely satisfy, but she didn’t know what that “something” was. That is, until one Sunday evening after the youth Mass at her parish she heard a 14 year old girl say, “I’m going to be a nun.”
Never having encountered somebody discerning the religious life, Marie was intrigued and asked to speak with the young girl.
3rd Counselor, Pittsburgh Convent
Raised in a loving family, Sr. Angela was led to join the Catholic Church through the influence of a young man she was dating. Through prayer, the Lord led her to Consecrate her life to Him.
Heidi Wagner was born in New York and raised in a loving family, although they did not practice the Christian faith or believe in a personal God. In college she dated a Catholic whose family was strong in faith. Learning the rosary, she had a hunger to learn more about Jesus. The mother of this family was always ready to answer her questions.
As a youth, Heidi wanted a belief system to help her make sense of the world, and learning about the Catholic faith gave her joy. She learned about good and evil and about making choices. Soon this spiritual mother contacted a priest for Heidi’s instruction. On opening her heart to God, all the aspects of her life began to fall into place. At 18, she was baptized, confirmed, and received first communion.
Soon after baptism, Heidi felt drawn to daily prayer time and mass. Her motherâs sudden death from a cerebral hemorrhage called for an active trust on Heidiâs part. This trial helped her have a more eternal perspective, that life on earth is passing.
In college, Heidi got involved in Newman Center retreats and made private retreats. She wanted to give her whole life to God, to draw as close to Him as possible. She found fulfillment in bringing others to a close relationship with God and eagerly read books on religious life and prayer.
After graduating from college at age 25, Heidi did volunteer work with Covenant House in New York and Panama. On a retreat in Panama, the Lord confirmed his vocational call to her as she heard His words to her, ”Heidi, will you consecrate your life to me?” Although she sensed that God would give her the freedom to marry, Heidi knew that the religious life would make her the happiest. She sees her consecration as a prayer for her family to come to know God.
Through some American friends living in Panama, Heidi heard about the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she entered the community in 1988. As a novice, she received the name Sr. Angela, and her gifts in music match her name. Her prayer for her family began to be answered when her older half-brother, who was put up for adoption at birth, was able to locate his sisters a month before Sr. Angela’s final profession day. Sr. Angela and her three sisters met their brother for the first time at that ceremony, with much joy and tears.
Sister Anna Sophia
Albuquerque Charistmatic Center
She comes from the central part of Mexico, a beautiful place close to the sleeping volcanoes in Toluca, Mexico. After being part of a youth prayer group and having participated in several National Youth Charismatic Conferences she saw those Sisters that had a cross hanging on their belt, she picked up some literature but did not have the courage to talk to them. The thought was haunting her, she could be called to be a Disciple. The next Conference was coming, she made up her mind she needed to find the Sisters and share with them her desires. During the Conference she looked at all the vocational stands and was so disappointed the Sisters were not there. At the final mass she gave God and ultimatum: “if you really want me to become a Disciple this is your last chance.” The bus with all from her prayer group was about really to leave, she got out to get a snack and as she was crossing the street – there before her eyes – two Sisters Disciples were crossing the street, too!
After the excitement of seeing the Sisters, she shared her desire to know more about them. The Sisters gave her the contact information and she left. That was the beginning of God’s response and her heart jumped to know that He was leading her on the way that will bring most joy to her heart.
She is currently in temporary vows and is serving in our house in Mexico.
Amarillo House Superior
For any school-aged child, moving from one home to another, and having to change schools and friends can be very difficult. Raised in a military family, Pam attended four different elementary schools and three high schools. For a time, she drifted from the Lord and her Catholic faith. The Good Shepherd sought her and brought her back.
Pam Birdsall was born in Battlecreek, Michigan, the eldest of three daughters. She attended Catholic schools and was taught by sisters from different religious communities.
Pam first thought of a religious vocation through the example of the sister who taught her in the third grade. Later, her eighth grade teacher, Sr. Stella Marie, helped keep her faith on course as she neared adolescence.
Entering high school, Pam strayed from God in her mind. She was trying to find her own place in life, instead of doing what others told her to do. At the time, she was attending high school in Germany, and would attend a second high school there before graduating from Roosevelt High in San Antonio, Texas. She attended mass during these years as an obligation.
After high school, Pam worked in sales and did other office work. She continued the pattern she learned as a child of moving to a different location every few years. An uneasy restlessness filled her soul, and she left the church and the practice of her faith. At the time, she was working as a teacher’s aide in an elementary school. Her life began to deteriorate, just like the Scriptural house built on sand.
After ten years of being away, the mother of the teacher that she aided evangelized Pam back into the church. She invited Pam to attend prayer meetings, and Pam soon received the grace of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Pam felt the embrace of the Lord, and she went to Confession as soon as she could.
This same friend encouraged Pam to think about a religious vocation, and initially Pam resisted the idea. Over time, the Lord began to speak to Pam of the call that was with her since grade school. She spent much time in prayer at the Poor Clare Monastery in Roswell, New Mexico.
Pam was earnestly seeking the Lord for inspiration for a community to enter, and she did the hard work of reading about communities and writing to them. It was at the prayer meeting that her inspiration would get clearer, as the leader of the prayer group did not give his usual teaching, but instead read an article on praise from Praise Him! Pam contacted the Disciples the next day, and she entered the community in 1984, at age 33. She received the name Sr. Anthony as a novice, and professed her first vows in 1986 and her perpetual vows in 1990. She encourages all that are discerning a vocation, ”If you are struggling with life and wandering, the Lord is always going to take you back, and then, hang on!”
Olive Branch Convent, Pittsburgh
I felt the call to religious life at the age of seven, but I did not fully understand it. I just knew I would never get married. As a child, I was very inspired by the lives of the saints and I wanted to do something great for God!
When I was 18 years of age, again I sensed God’s invitation to religious life but I was not ready to respond. Instead, I went to college to become an Occupational Therapist. Then I got a job working with children with learning disabilities.
I enjoyed my career but I felt something was missing in my life. Soon, I met the man I thought I would marry. At the same time I met some Sisters from Prayer Town, Texas. For the next three months, I experienced spiritual confusion. I decided to take time apart for a retreat to discern God’s plan for my life. During that time, God spoke clearly to my heart saying, “As for you, you will be happier as a religious than married.”
I trusted that convicting word and took the step in faith to join the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, after 30 years of religious life, I can say God has been very true to His promise. I have never been happier!
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be continually in my mouth.”
In elementary school, May and a young classmate wanted to show their love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, so they both walked on their knees from the church door to the tabernacle as a sacrifice. Her cousin saw her from the choir loft and told May’s mom that her daughter might have a vocation. It was at age seven that the idea of being a Sister came to her young mind.
Josefa May Flores was born in Manila, Philippines, the third of four children of a devout Catholic family. Her Catholic education nourished the faith instilled by her parents, and being taught by religious Sisters influenced her greatly. May found solace in prayer at church and in school.
After twelve years of Catholic school, May was not prepared for the secular environment of the public university to which she transferred. She describes this time in her life as a ”testing of my faith. I was sidetracked and drawn to the world and its allurements. Yet the hand of the Lord was always there, and during this trial, He gripped my hand even more tightly.”
After her college graduation with a degree in Psychology at age 22, May worked in a government office. A co-worker invited her to a prayer meeting. Although the Charismatic expression was new to her, she was drawn to Mass and prayer more than ever.
May attended a Life in the Spirit Seminar, and after receiving prayer for a deeper release of the Holy Spirit, she felt her vocational calling again and wanted to reconsider it. She experienced the trial of losing her job, and she asked the Lord to find her a good position while she discerned her religious vocation. It was during this time of being without a job that May saw an advertisement for our community in New Covenant magazine. She wanted to work for a few years while she discerned her vocation. She did not want to enter religious life just because she did not have a job, as it may have seemed that she entered to escape being out of work. The Lord answered her prayer for work when a former manager called with a job offer as a human resource officer in a government office. Then later on she made the decision to move to Texas to enter the community in 1992. May received her name Sister Catherine as a novice and professed her final vows on October 4, 2000. The scripture passage that describes her response to the Lord is Psalm 27:4 ”One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”
Her greatest joy as a Sister is in being at the Lord’s service through the community’s apostolate. She finds a joyful challenge in living and working with Sisters of different cultures and temperaments.
Raised in the Protestant Church, Barbara spent eleven years growing in love with the Lord and the Catholic faith before she entered religious life. She exemplifies the truth that God leads us in most unexpected ways. Being a religious sister was hard for her to imagine.Barbara Bushnell was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the only child of older parents. Born in a Catholic hospital in the shadow of the archdiocesan Cathedral and baptized in the Presbyterian Church, she began her Christian journey.
As a child, Barbara’s mom taught her to pray, and her dad helped her see God’s grandeur in creation. Wanting to draw closer to God at age eight, she asked her mom if she could attend Sunday school. This was a new step since her family did not attend Church regularly.
During her high school and college years, Barbara struggled with her faith. A deep longing for God was in her heart, and later through the university’s Catholic community, she met the Lord in a profound way through a roommate’s influence. Though she did not enter the Catholic Church, she attended daily mass and spent time praying in church. After earning her degree in elementary education and teaching in Colorado, she became a part-time member of the Sacred Dance Group of Boulder, an interdenominational praise and worship dance ministry, proclaiming God’s word in a visual way through movement.
Her desire to serve the Lord totally grew, so she left education and became a full-time member of the dance group. While ministering in England, she privately vowed chastity in the Anglican Church. The seed of a religious vocation was blossoming, and she made retreats at convents and monasteries. Drawn to the silence and solitude of contemplation, her union with God deepened.
While ministering with the dance group, she met the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and stayed at their facilities. Barbara was attracted to their simple life of prayer and solitude, and was taken by the vibrancy of the youthful, charismatic sisters. Their openness to the use of the arts in evangelization excited her due to her dance experience.
Barbara began making annual retreats with them, and she entered the sisterhood after joining the Catholic Church in 1985. It was difficult for her to leave her aged parents, especially as her mother was ill. She received the name Sister Cecilia as a novice, and this name reflected her great love for music. She professed her first vows in 1987 and her perpetual vows in 1991. A reflection that gives her strength to live the trials of religious life is this: ”Love makes its vows on days of joy. Love keeps its vows on days of sorrow.” She encourages young women to seek God’s grace for whatever vocation they are called to live.
Sister Christine Marie
Born and raised in the Twin Cities, MN, I am the oldest of 3 children in my family. My earliest memories growing up are of my parents reading bedtime Bible stories, and attending Mass each Sunday and on holy days. I am blessed to have Catholic parents and a Church community who taught me about our faith, and about my vocational options. As a girl, my Mom taught me to have a daily prayer time, talking with Jesus, beginning 5-10 minutes each day, and Dad encouraged me to read the Bible. As my relationship with Jesus grew slowly, I remember praying for a life of adventure and mystery, and asking, “Lord, I will enter the vocation you want for me, only let my heart desire what You want.”
My faith came alive more fully during high school after attending Discipleship Week retreats hosted by NET Ministries. During college, as I took a year off from school to serve with NET myself, we ended up at Prayer Town for one week, helping the Sisters with service projects, because our retreats had been cancelled. That week I felt at-home during the prayer meeting, and working with the Sisters at Prayer Town, and joining one of their retreats. It took several years more for me to realize I was being called to religious life.
Through my involvement with St. Paul’s outreach Household program, community life became important to me. During their formation program on discernment, I felt the Lord telling me it was time to get serious about my discernment. I prayed the boldest prayer I’ve ever prayed, “Lord, if you’re asking me to discern religious life, I will, but I need the money, the opportunity where I won’t miss too much school, and an open invitation.” That very evening the phone rang and a Sister invited me to a Come and See retreat that fit exactly into my Spring Break! I received the money I needed from my Dad, and was set to visit. I had, however, a list of hesitations why this couldn’t work- “How can I live a healthy life if the Sisters live off of donations? Will I be able to exercise? How can I use my gifts? Isn’t it just boring to sit and pray all day?”
During my short stay at Prayer Town, the Lord answered every one of my doubts with assurance that I had a completely mistaken idea of what religious life was. He would provide for each of these needs. But most importantly, I felt a deeper peace in prayer than ever before, and the Lord seemed to say, “This is going to be your new home.” I went home feeling overwhelmed, but certain of my next step. I found a spiritual director, moved into a discernment house with other women also discerning their call.
I made plans to pay off my student loans, and spent my last year in the world working again in the faith-filled environment of NET, bringing my discernment full circle. The Lord gave me such clarity that I was certain I was following His voice. Religious life has been the greatest adventure and mystery I could have asked for! Jesus has called me to be His Bride, and fulfilled the deepest desires of my heart.
Mexico House Superior
Elsa’s family did not have the means for her to be a kindergarten teacher. Instead she worked in a technical career to help financially support them. She had a strong experience of the Lord at seventeen and decided to follow a religious vocation.
The youngest of five children, Elsa Mendoza was born in Monterrey, Mexico. She was baptized as an infant, and received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation when she turned nine.
As a teenager at seventeen, Elsa went through a time of great personal struggle. She questioned her existence and asked, ”Why am I here?” In desperation she cried to God, ”If you exist, please do something to help me!” Shortly after this, a friend invited her to a prayer meeting with the words, ”You will find there what you are looking for.” She attended this prayer meeting, and it was there for the first time that someone shared personally with her about Jesus. In prayer she realized that Jesus was her Savior. A sense of joy and freedom made her feel different, as though she was no longer the same person. She received prayer for the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of prayer in tongues.
This deep conversion experience was followed by a desire to be a lay missionary. Elsa had the experience of seeing other young people preaching and sharing their faith in Jesus, and she wanted to be like them. At twenty-one, she joined a covenant community ”Shalom,” where she attended prayer groups, sang in choirs, and participated in park evangelization.
She was twenty-five when she came to Prayer Town for a retreat with some others from Shalom. Elsa was seeking God’s will for her life, but she didn’t have a desire to be a Sister or think it was for her. She prayed, ”Lord, I don’t want to be a nun, but if you want me for Yourself, please put the desire in my heart and help me.”
Over the next year as she continued her job at a bank, the Lord put this desire in her heart. She returned to Prayer Town to participate in a retreat for women interested in religious life. In January of 1987 she joined our community receiving the name Sister Clara as a novice.
Sister Clara struggled with the challenge of learning English and adapting to the American culture and food. But she persevered with God’s grace and professed her final vows in 1993. She says, ”The grace of God has brought me to this part of my life. With that grace, I am enabled to be faithful to Him. When God calls, He will give the grace to carry you.” May these words of Sister Clara encourage all who seek God’s will for their life.
At age 18, during her last year in college, Martha was praying to know God’s will for her life. She prayed that she would be able to find a job where she could openly speak of her faith, and for a boyfriend who loved God as much as she did, or even more. The Lord Jesus was preparing her to say, ”yes” to His proposal.
Martha Susana Tamez was born in Monterrey, Mexico, the oldest of three children. She grew up in a devout Catholic family, and was influenced by her grandmother’s love for singing at Mass, and her grandfather’s leading the rosary. Her parents were very involved in the parish, and this taught Martha to want to participate in her parish.
Martha had a deep love for God, which was nourished in her family life. Her faith and love grew as she entered her teenage years and got involved in the youth choir and the youth group. These groups gave her a chance to express the faith and love for Jesus that was so dear to her. The sacrifice of walking eight blocks to Church began her journey of belonging more and more to the Lord. As a child, Martha did not consider the religious life, but rather thought that married life was her calling. Her parish strongly emphasized the role of the laity after Vatican II, and she wanted to follow this state with her life.
Martha started University studies in Industrial Engineering and Systems at ITESM in Monterrey as a sixteen year old. Her desire to love and serve God led her to become a member of Shalom covenant community through the influence of a friend. She was a member of the choir and participated in liturgies, retreats, and park and street evangelization.
After college graduation in 1989, Martha cared for her mom, who had a hurt back. Shalom members led a retreat for families, and Martha was deeply touched by the Lord while serving on this retreat. She was praying more fervently to know God’s will for her life. During the closing mass, the Lord spoke to her through the Scripture in John 11, ‘Jesus loved Martha . . .’ He filled her heart to overflow with His love, and Martha knew that Jesus was calling her to the religious life. She got in contact with the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ through their mission house in Monterrey.
Martha entered the Disciples in 1990, and the Lord provided for her family’s financial needs and her mom’s health needs as a sign of His providence. She received the name Sr. Damiana as a novice, professing her first vows in 1992 and her final vows in 1998. A Scripture that expresses her life is Psalm 108: 3-5, which says, ”I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O Lord; I will chant your praise among the nations.” Sr. Damiana is a witness that the love and truth of God sustain her, and she has given her life to proclaim this to the nations.
Sister Elizabeth Ann
San Damiano Convent, Mission Advancement
I was a Protestant until age 25 so I never discerned religious life. I had thought about becoming a missionary but opted for a career as a professional bass player and orchestra director instead.
I met Sister Rita, DLJC at the post office one day and a beautiful friendship emerged. I did volunteer work for the community and one day the Lord placed it on my heart to question my vocation. Eventually my desire for worldly things diminished and my sole desire became to be closer to the Lord. Then I read in a book “sometimes we don’t know our vocation until we meet
the person or the people we are supposed to spend the rest of our life with.” I found the people then discerned my vocation.
Most Special Moment
My wedding day (the day of my perpetual vows) included a moment where I was lying prostrate on the floor during the Litany of the Saints. One of my young nephews was close by and I heard him ask, “Mommy, is she dead?” On the contrary, I was very much alive! The scripture “the life I live now is not my own but Christ living in me” (Gal. 2:20) became very tangible. Yes, I was dead to self and rising to new life.
Words of Encouragement
In order to know with understanding what is, we need to also know what is
not. We know real joy when we have experienced sorrow. We know we are called to marriage when we know we are not called to religious life and vice versa. It is more than head thoughts. We must step out of the boat and actively seek the Lord’s will. Our call in life strengthens when we discern all vocations through prayer and growth in virtue.
Sister Gabriel Mary
New Mexico House Superior
I was blessed to have grown up in a large, devout Catholic family. The seed of my religious vocation was nurtured by parents who sent me to a Catholic elementary school and who made sure I attended Mass every Sunday. During high school, college, and my teaching career, my heart’s desire was to get married and have a large family. However, through many different experiences as time went on, I slowly realized that God was calling me to religious life. I finally surrendered and said “yes” to religious life. God led me to this Community and here I still am today.
“Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come follow Me and I will give you rest.” and “With God all things are possible.”
Most Special Moment
During the Mass when I made my perpetual profession of vows of poverty, chastity and obedience before my family, my religious community and my Church community.
Words of Encouragement
Pray, pray, pray. It is very important to have daily prayer time and to be faithful to keeping that time of prayer every day. I would encourage young people who are discerning and/or living out their call to find a spiritual director or a vocation director who can help guide and support them as they discern their vocation. Also I would like to encourage them to find others in their age group who are also discerning their vocation so that they can have fellowship with each other and encourage each other in their vocational journey.
Sister Grace Maria
“When I found Him whom my heart loves I took hold of Him and would not let Him go.” (Song of Songs 3:4)
I was brought up in a Catholic family in Bombay, India. My mother’s greatest desire was to make sure that we learned from youth to stay close to the Lord for she believed that it was only with Him we would be able to survive in the world. We went to Church not only on Sundays but during vacations she encouraged us to go to Mass daily. The Lord and I got on well until I left high school, but it was after entering college that my love for Him grew dimmer and dimmer. It was being choked by the ways and allurements of the world. Ambi-tion and self began to take leading roles in my life.
After graduating from college I got a good job in a travel agency-just what I was seeking for. Then there came a phase in my life when I had “everything” I desired, everything that I thought would make me content in life. But, soon there came a sense of emptiness, and then I grew dissatisfied. All that “glittered as gold” lost it’s glitter, appeared tarnished and unappealing.
I was in this state when the Lord came to my rescue. I attended a charismatic retreat and experienced the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. My life was wonderfully turned upside down, inside out. “He touched me, and Oh! The joy that fills my soul. Something hap- pened and I know, He touched me and made me whole.”
His light shone in my life. He filled my emptiness and gave me a brand new life. The joy and peace that flooded my heart was something I had never tasted before. It was the pure joy of the Holy Spirit.
With this awakening of new life there came a desire to be holy and pure and a great hunger for scripture. The Bible, which had been just a “high school textbook” on the shelf, became my one and only favorite Book, and as I devoured it the Holy Spirit began His cleansing work, bringing a desire for conversion and repentance. I began to see sin as sin, especially unforgiveness, selfishness, self-righteousness, and so on, and then began the emptying and purifying of my heart by the Lord’s Divine love. The Eucharistic celebration and the sacraments became more meaningful than just an habitual practice.
This new found life through the love of Jesus was too good to keep to myself. I wanted to share it with all. I began sharing it first with my family, and gradually I saw the doors closed to the Charismatic Renewal open. Soon there were five of us who had opened our hearts to Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. When I began sharing the treasure in my place of work, the Lord provided us with a place in the office where we had prayer meetings on Fridays during the lunch break.
As I opened my heart to Jesus each day and drank of His sweet love, I yearned for Him more and more. “I found Him whom my heart loves.” The desire to be a Sister, which had been there when I was seven, came alive again.
In India, I saw many good religious communities serving the Lord by taking care of the sick and the poor, and of the educational and social needs of the people, and so on. My heart longed to reach out to the spiritually starving. I wanted them to experience what I had found–the fullness of life in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. I was looking for a Charismatic religious community. On making several inquiries I was told that there was no such religious community. But, Praise the Lord! –the priest who had introduced me to this personal relationship with Jesus told me that there was a charismatic religious community which he once visited, but it was on the “other side of the world” -in a little town called Channing in Texas, U.S.A. On hearing this I was excited, but it was too far away. I wished it was at least a little closer to Bombay for I thought that would, make it possible for me to enter.
He gave me a Praise Him! newsletter, and after reading it I couldn’t believe it–this was just the kind of community my heart was looking for! I remember Mother John Marie’s article on prayer: “When you’ve lost that loving relationship, probably you look to the “professionals” for a new technique. There are many. Some contemporary experts on contemplative prayer are quite eclectic, often confusing the faithful by trying to bring Zen and Yoga techniques, mind control and transcendental meditation right into the Christian Community. . . . The Jesus-centered person who is filled with the freely given Spirit has no need of non-Christian techniques.” Alleluia! I knew I would be happy in this religious community which had no need for Zen, Yoga, mantras, and so on, but who knew and followed the one and only way to the Father: Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
For the Lord, distance and time were no problems. In July1985 the Lord began His preparations, and in three months prepared me to leave everything to follow Him. It wasn’t so easy to take this step, but trusting in His amazing grace, which is sufficient to do everything He asks of me, I launched out in faith to abandon all to follow Him. I remember His words to Me–” Do you love me? Do you love Me more than these?—-“these” referring to my family, country, job, friends. And I said, “Yes, Lord, I do love you, I love you more than these!” Other desires did clamor strongly nearer the surface of my nature, but I knew that deep down in the core of my own being I was so shaped that nothing could fit, fill, or satisfy my heart but only Jesus Himself. I knew my heart belonged to Jesus. It was so beautiful to see my family, who loved me dearly and found this separation hard, encourage and support me to answer this call to religious life in a distant country.
During this time of preparation I wanted to see where this place “Channing” was on the map. I found Amarillo but couldn’t find Channing on any of the maps. Finally, the manager of the company I worked for gave me a great big atlas, the size of a dining table, and there on the map of Texas I found this tiny little dot marked ”Channing.” My heart leaped with joy. I found what I was looking for on the map.
But, my greatest joy was on September 29th, 1985 at 4pm. when I entered a winding dirt road called “The Holy Way” that leads to Prayer Town Emmanuel. I knew I had just touched holyground, and I sensed such an overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit hovering over this land where joy-filled, smiling Sisters who loved the Lord very dearly, lived. This was like a dream. I was now actually on the other side of the world in Channing, Texas. Jesus is faithful! He took care of every minute detail to bring me here on eagle’s wings to become part of the Franciscan family of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, “whose primary purpose as a conimmity is to offer a sacrifice of Praise,” which is the most important service one can offer before the throne of God. What an honor it is to be called to join the heavenly host who sing His praise eternally, beginning here on the earth that which we will continuously be doing in heaven.
“One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek; To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
So, here I am on my way to perfection. “My entire attention is on the finish line as I run toward the prize to which God calls me–life on high in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)
I am striving with my Sisters on the narrow and rough road to answer the call to holiness and “am racing to grasp the prize if possible, since I have been grasped by Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:12)
My one desire is to follow the Lamb joyfully wherever He leads me, embracing the cross which is His precious gift of love to me.
” I am my Love’ s and He is mine, And this is His desire, That with His beauty I may shine, In radiant attire, And this will be when all of me Is pruned and purged with fire.” (From a. poem in Hinds Feet in High Places, by Hurnard, p. 177)
Sister Juana Teresa
2nd Counselor, Mission Advancement Director, San Damiano
Born in Seoul, Korea, Sister Juana Teresa grew in her Catholic faith by the help and encouragement of her mother and grandmother who were newly introduced to the faith. As new born babies in Christ they are filled with great zeal and love for God. Even as a little child she knew that God had a unique and special plan for her life. Her becoming a Sister was a response of love.
It all began at the family baptism. Helen Chung was three when she was baptized along with her mother, grandparents and infant brother. Even at this age she knew that God had a special and unique plan for her life. Later, when the family moved to Paraguay due to business, her father also sought to be baptized. Her mother’s involvement in the Legion of Mary, and her grandmother’s love for Jesus and Mary helped her to know that God could speak to her, and she could answer, ”I am His.” Following her baptism she developed a close relationship with Jesus.
Helen was ten when the family left Korea for Paraguay. There she attended a convent school. During her first year as a teen she desired to join the convent inspired by some of her friends who were novices. However, her mother saw her daughter’s desire as something that would have to wait, believing her to be too young for this.
Once again the family immigrated; this time to live closer to relatives in Canada. It was difficult for Helen to leave her good friends behind. She finished her last two years of high school at a Catholic school in Toronto, Canada where she received the sacrament of Confirmation. She had another deep and personal encounter with God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The loneliness she felt at leaving her friends helped her to seek God even more. Again she felt the desire to become a Sister. She got involved in a youth Charismatic prayer group in her parish and had friends who went to Pentecostal churches.
At age eighteen, Helen attended a Charismatic Conference when she asked the Lord to confirm if He was calling her to a religious vocation, because she felt so unworthy of it. The Lord honored her prayer when Bishop Sam Jacobs, the conference speaker, said in his talk, ”No one is worthy, but it is God who calls us.” When she heard this she wasted no time in responding to his altar call for vocations and knew that it was God who was calling her to be a Sister. She began to follow this call by visiting different religious communities in Canada and the U.S. During this process she learned about our community. In 1991 Helen attended a conference where Mother John Marie was speaking. She fell in love with the way of life she saw lived by our Sisters.
In October of 1992, she came to our community and received the name Sister Juana Teresa when she entered the novitiate in June of 1993. She made her perpetual profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in October 2000. She joyfully exclaims, ”It is worth it all to leave all for Him! We must courageously follow God’s will until He reveals Himself.”
Raised in a large Catholic family, Rosita was blessed with the foundation for a strong faith. Although her family was poor, her parents instilled in her the value of an education. After her accounting course, Rosita made the decision to be a Bride of Christ.
Rosita Gapasin was born in Paniqui, the Philippines, the seventh child of eleven. Her family’s strong faith influenced her greatly. She was baptized at 2 months and confirmed a few months later. Her father had a small business to provide for his children’s education.
Rosita first thought about a religious vocation when she met sisters at her parish at age seven. Traveling lay catechists taught at her public school, and soon she received her first Communion. Her family did not have transportation, so they would walk the forty minutes to early mass on Sundays. She was always eager to go to mass, especially during the special liturgies of the Christmas Novena and Holy Week.
Taught by Dominicans in high school, Rosita challenged herself to get good grades, and she graduated as salutatorian. She wanted to be able to help her family by her education. Her time was also given to working with her siblings in the family business. After high school, Rosita studied accounting at the University of the East in Manila. Although her life was so fully into studies, friends, and other activities, her faith was not as strong as before and she felt empty inside.
At 18, her vocational calling and her faith were re-enkindled when she became involved in a Christian communities program on campus. She experienced the grace of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. A Scripture she received was, ”Come now, let us set things right.” (Is. 1:18) She was touched so deeply that she was hungry for more of God and attended many retreats and outreaches.
At this time, she began to visit different convents in the Philippines. At 20, just a semester before finishing her accounting course, she joined the Dominicans who taught her in high school. It was hard for her to leave the university environment, but God was calling her to dedicate her life to Him and with that call to serve others. Her joy was in teaching catechism in rural areas, as she had been taught.
Rosita learned about the Disciples through Praise Him! In 1984, while on a visit with her family in North Carolina, she came to visit our community. After discerning, she left the Dominicans and entered the Disciples in 1985, receiving the name Sr. Juliana as a novice. She rejoiced to be able to express her charismatic gifts more freely. She professed her first vows in 1986, and her final vows in 1990. Sr. Juliana shares, ”God’s call demands a radical and generous response, but He gives the grace to respond and persevere.”
Faced with the struggle of having cancer since birth and the loss of her eye, Sharon’s young life was very challenging. This was a difficult time for her and her family. The Lord’s healing was with her, and she came through this trial to seek God in a real way. Her desire to become a Sister was a response of love.
Sharon was born in Montreal, Quebec, in Canada with a cancerous tumor in her eye. The doctors did not discover this until she was four years old. At the tender age of four and a half years, her eye was surgically removed. Chances were great that the cancer had spread to her head and other parts of her body.
Sharon’s childhood was a time of many doctor’s appointments and a number of surgeries related to her eye. Until she was twelve she lived with a great fear that she would die from cancer. Then to her relief the doctors were confident that the cancer had not spread to other parts of her body.
Sharon’s mom, Mrs. Cahill, entered the Catholic Church when Sharon was four years old. Her parents’ worship at Sunday Mass taught Sharon the importance of her Catholic faith. She always thought and wondered about God and holiness. She found herself attracted to people that were living holy lives.
This attraction caused her to ask God if He was real. She was nineteen when He revealed Himself to her in a deep and personal way. She fell in love with God as her Father, and then came to know Jesus as the Son of God.
After experiencing God’s great love for her, Sharon wanted to dedicate her whole life to God in some way. She considered either getting married or becoming a Sister. Receiving spiritual direction helped her recognize that the Lord was calling her to religious life.
Sharon came to the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1989. She received her new name, Sister Kateri when she entered the novitiate and made her perpetual profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in December of 1998.
Although it is common to think of a religious vocation as a life of sacrifice, Sr. Kateri states, ”I did not think of my vocation to be a Sister in terms of sacrifice, but as a natural reply to God’s great love for me.” Sister Kateri has been blessed with an exceptionally beautiful gift for music.
God surely was present in Sister Kateri’s young life through the trial of cancer. He faithfully brought her through that trial with His healing, so that she could live her life as a bride of Christ in our community.
New Mexico House
Despite the good example of her parents who took the whole family to Mass each Sunday, Norma’s faith came alive after she was baptized in the Holy Spirit. It made all the difference in the world!Norma Casas Nava was only two weeks old when she was baptized and confirmed! Her parents put a high priority on attending Sunday Mass together as a family. This caused her love for God to grow during those early years.
As a teen, Norma’s perspective of religious life was that it didnât do much good for humanity. She was twenty years old, and a student at a Catholic university when she received prayer for the baptism in the Holy Spirit that radically changed this perception. She began to grow in a deep and personal love for God. Her friends wondered about this experience. They could not understand the change that had taken place in her. Even though they distanced themselves from her for a time, eventually all of them received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and formed a strong and vibrant youth group.
Two years later, while in prayer, Norma sensed the Lord saying to her, ”How would you like to follow me in the religious life?” Her initial response was hesitation. She talked about this with a priest, who advised her to let the call mature before making it known to others.
For the next year Norma struggled as she bargained with the Lord about this call that she felt. She found it difficult to pray. A certain restlessness in her spirit bothered her. Looking back on this time she realizes that she was running away from the Lord. Feeling that she was risking her own future happiness if she continued to hesitate, Norma decided to visit a cloistered convent that had perpetual adoration. She asked the Lord if He really wanted her to be a religious. In prayer, she was led to Sir. 2, ”If you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” With this she concluded with confidence that the Lord still wanted her to live the religious life.
She began to prepare by looking into religious communities, breaking up with her boyfriend, and asking the Lord for guidance. In 1992, Norma attended a large Charismatic youth conference in Queretaro, Mexico where she met some of our Sisters evangelizing, preaching, and leading worship. She wanted to join them right away, but the Sisters began by writing to her over the next few months. Norma entered our community in early 1993. She received the name Sister Magdalena when she became a novice. She is a gifted artist and uses that God-given talent for His glory.
Sister Marguerite Marie
Olive Branch Convent, Pittsburgh
During my junior of High School I encountered God’s love for me in a powerful way. After that I decided to follow Him and I became very involved in my youth group. This opened the way for me to go on a retreat called “Going Deeper”. It was on this retreat that I began to desire to live for the Lord completely and to be His. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. On the last day of the retreat, after Mass was over, the Friar who was celebrant invited anyone who was discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life to come forward. Deep in my heart I felt this tug, but I had no clue what religious life was because I never met a Sister in my life. So I ignored the tug, however, the tug never ignored me.
Senior year continued, I graduated and chose to go to St. Francis University in Loretto, PA. The Lord took my hand and led me again to attend the Freshman retreat. It was here that I met some Sisters who were present to us during the retreat, shared their testimonies, and a little about religious life. Also, one of the staff members of our campus ministry was a Sister, so I was able to ask questions and observe what religious life is. I had no excuse now, I couldn’t ignore the tugging of my heart.
During the course of my freshman year, I was introduced to the Charismatic renewal through our prayer group on campus. Once again, I experienced the tremendous love of God in my life, in a new way which opened my heart even more to the call. I kept asking the Lord to increase the desire of my heart if He was really calling me to be a religious, and if not to decrease the desire. Throughout the remainder of my first semester that desire continued to increase and so I began to seek out different communities.
It was May of 2007, that I made my first visit to Prayer Town. The first evening walking around the grounds my heart just was on fire, and I felt like I was at home. I never experienced such peace before, I had a strange feeling this was the community God was calling me to. However, I needed to finish college. It was very agonizing to have to wait another three years, but in those three years the Lord really lead me to deepen my relationship with Him and to prepare me for entering.
August 25, 2010 fresh out of college, I followed the Lord and entered the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. God fulfills every desire of our hearts, we just have to be patient and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” ~St. Pio will until He reveals Himself.”
Sister Maria Crucis
Vicar General, Librarian
She entered the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1993 from Stow, Ohio. She was raised in a loving Catholic family. She has a large and loving extended family for which she is very grateful.
Prior to entering the community she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in library science. For 20 years she was part of a lay community which emphasized the renewal of Catholic family life and evangelization. The focus was to have Catholic families who
are “saints, missionaries and the stuff martyrs are made of.”
Before coming to the community she attended one of the community’s “Come and See” vocation retreats. At the “Come and See”, Mother John Marie, the foundress, gave a talk in which she said she could only promise the cross to those who entered. She also said tell everyone everywhere the story of the cross. It spoke to Sr Maria Crucis and Mother John Marie later gave her the name which means “Mary of the Cross.”
Household Assistant Prayer Town
I would like to speak primarily about the call of God in my life, focusing on the abundance of His mercy towards me while Our Lord waited for my response to His invitation of love.
I was born in Leon Guanajuato, Mexico, as the youngest of eight children. Even though I grew up in a Catholic family, the idea of consecrating my life to God never crossed my mind. In addition, as a Catholic “barely” I lived my faith.
For many years I lived feeling that I was far from everything since I did not know the Lord. All my life l searched for the meaning of God´s love for me. When I was 21 years old I started working for one of my uncles who owned a famous restaurant and worked as an administrator. Meanwhile, my heart began to fill with things of the world; friends, fashion and things that separated me more and more from God.
As time passed, one day a cousin of mine organized a surprise party for my birthday at the restaurant. He invited many people including people from the bank where I used to go every day. In that bank there was a particular person who usually helped me. This person came to the party and in the middle the music, laughter and fun, he came to my table and told me that he wanted to tell me something very special. I expected everything except the phrase that he used: ”God loves you and He has a plan for you. Do not be afraid.” This annoyed me a lot because I thought that God was not part of the plan at that particular moment. Nevertheless, that phrase entered into the depth of my heart without knowing it since my heart was still distracted with things of the world.
I asked this guy to leave the party, but he insisted on telling me about God to the point of making me a bet. He knew that I liked music. So he invited me to Church for Mass where there was a chorus that played and sang excellent. I told him that I had never seen anyone singing better than the chorus from my parish. I accepted the bet, and I went to Mass just to be the winner. It was not the bet, it was not the music that won, was God who trump. Because God knew that I was going to realize that I needed a friend, I needed a Savior. The Lord began to work in my heart.
From that time on, I really believe that in that particular moment was when God started fighting for me as my savior. He triumphed on my bet! Later I received an invitation to belong to this choir, but before saying yes, I attend the life in the Spirit seminar. This deep experience was followed by a great desire to grow in a deep and personal love for God.
In 1993 I attended a large Charismatic youth conference in Monterrey, Mexico. In the conference where I met some of the Sisters of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ evangelizing, preaching, and leading worship.
During the conference we had the Holy Hour it was the deepest moment for me although I was with my boyfriend, I knew that I wanted be happy and I searched for something more than just to be with him. So, at that moment it was when I asked the Lord to show me the path that made me fully happy and where my desire to serve Him was foolishly profound. I felt the Lord gently calling me to serve him: calling me to love through a religious vocation. Afterwards I experienced some fears and I also was scared to tell anyone at first, including my family. I prayed for the strength to remain faithful to respond to God’s call for one year, and the Lord listened to me. He gave me the courage to do His will.
Once the discernment matured, I began to contact the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ asking them for a process to join the community. In the course of time God´s desires for me surpassed my own, and He continues to lead my beyond my own plans to the heights of his great love.
Sister Marie Fidelis
The Ark & The Dove, Pittsburgh
Growing up in Maryland, I loved to spend my summers at the beach and my winters skiing in the mountains. During the school year, I spent my time in sports practices, learning the piano and harp, and (of course!) going to the mall with my friends. God didn’t have much of a place in my life, and if you had asked me at that time who Jesus was, I don’t think I would have been able to give you a clear answer. A religious vocation certainly was not on my mind. I had a heart full of ambition to save the world from every form of suffering, and my misunderstandings of God made me feel that I was often working against Him and at times didn’t even believe that God existed.
When I was 16 I had an encounter God that changed everything. On a youth retreat at my parish, Jesus in the Eucharist spoke to my heart: “I am the truth that you are looking for.” In that moment, the Holy Spirit touched my mind and my heart with grace. God gave me infused faith to believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, that He died for me and rose from the dead so that I could live. I knew everything in my life had to change. If God was real, I wanted to give my whole self to Him for His service.
I wanted to learn how to be authentically Catholic in everything, to learn how to pray and read the Bible, to have a personal relationship with God. I chose to study Theology and Catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where I was immersed in a Catholic culture in every aspect of my life. There, my faith flourished, and when I was 20 years old I began asking God what He would have me do with my life. I was seeking to know my vocation and respond to it generously.
“If you would be perfect, go and sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come, follow me.” (Mt 19)
These words that Jesus spoke to the “rich young man” 2,000 years ago echoed in my soul as I searched for God’s plan for my life. Through daily prayer, discernment with a spiritual director, and visiting various communities, I knew beyond doubt that Jesus was calling me to come and follow Him. But, just as the rich young man in the Gospel “went away sorrowful, for he had many possessions,” I too hesitated to respond to Jesus’ call. I, too, was clinging to my many possessions as a fleeting source of fulfillment. Could God really make me as happy as my designer jeans, my best friends, and the perfect image of popularity I had created for myself?
As I meditated on the “Rich Young Man,” I felt sadness at that man’s response to Jesus. How could he walk away from the call of His Savior, His Creator? And what sadness I would feel if I chose my possessions over my Lord! Although we do not know what happened to the rich young man, I am thankful that God gave me the grace to learn from him, and to respond to Jesus’ call with generosity.
After graduation in 2012 I “sold all that I had” and decided to follow Jesus. I entered my community after my graduation, and have great joy and fulfillment in living as a Bride of Christ!
Sister Mary Gianna
Nursing, New Mexico House
“You will show me the path to life …” (Psalm 16: 11).
Sister Mary Gianna never imagined God would call her to religious life. She was not raised Catholic, or any religion. It was during some of the most difficult moments of her life, after surviving the tragedy that took place at her high school, that she came to believe in God and that He had a plan for her life.
Jenica Thornby was born in Houston, TX to loving parents. At the age of three, her and her family moved to California, and then to Colorado at the age of 11. She is the youngest of two. At her birth, she was given the name Jenica, which she would later come to find out means, “God is gracious.” However, growing up without any faith at the time, she struggled with some of the most basic questions concerning human life, including what life was about, who she was, and what she was living for.
Jenica’s life changed forever when she was 16 years old. She was a sophomore at Columbine High School on April 20th, 1999, the day two of her schoolmates opened fire killing 12 students, one teacher, and wounding 23 others. Jenica narrowly escaped being in the library, the center of the tragedy, when an inner prompting urged her to leave school that day just minutes before the shooting, instead of going to the library to study as she normally did. She wondered, “What made me leave school that day? I always went to the library.” She remembers being told, “God must have a plan for your life!”
Immediately, she believed God existed, but not really knowing who this God was and how to deal with everything that happened, and still wanting to fit in, she turned to many other things. Yet everything only seemed to leave her feeling more empty, longing for more. One thing after another happened, and by her senior year, she hit rock bottom. She felt she had lost all hope.
It was during this most difficult time of Jenica’s life, that she was led to Saint Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, where a wonderful faith community reached out to her. Among them were two exceptional youth ministers, Kate and Jim. Kate shared with her about a God who passionately loved her. As Kate shared the message of the Gospel with her, she felt God’s love pour through Kate, and she realized that all her life she had been longing to know God and His love. She came to know the words of Saint Augustine, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Jenica decided she wanted to become Catholic and give her life to Christ. She wanted to discover what God’s plan was for her life. Jim suggested she go to Franciscan University where she would be immersed in the Catholic faith. During her freshmen year, she went through RCIA and was welcomed into the Catholic Church on March 30, 2002. She was baptized, confirmed, and received first Holy Communion all at the Easter Vigil.
Over the years, Jenica has thought a lot about the terrible tragedy that took place at her high school and how God has worked in her life. The story of Rachel Joy Scott has significantly impacted and inspired her life. Before Rachel’s life was taken, she was asked by one of the gunmen if she believed in God. Jenica was amazed how passionate Rachel was about her faith and wondered what she would have said. Jenica came to realize that just as Rachel was able to say “Yes!” and die for Christ, she can say “Yes!” and live for Him. As Jenica has said “Yes!” to God and His plan for her life, she has been deeply amazed how He has led, guided, and worked in her life.
During the year of 2006-2007, Jenica had the opportunity to spend a year with NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries, traveling across the country putting on retreats for middle school and high school students. Her team leader encouraged her to be open to religious life. She told her she was open, but felt God was calling her to marriage and family life. Deep down she knew she did not need to worry about her vocation. She believed God, in His timing, would allow everything to fall into place as she continued to say “Yes” to Him and remain faithful to Him.
During the summer of 2008, Jenica experienced a deep healing and an outpouring and release of God’s love in her life. She had a sense this was going to be a great year. One day, she was sitting in Mass, at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, in Saint Paul, MN, and prayed that God would help her enter into Mass in a way she had never experienced before. God answered her prayer. It was during Mass, at one point, she looked up and felt so profoundly God’s presence before her. She felt He was calling her to be His bride, to love Him with an undivided heart, and to lead others to experience His love. From that moment on, her desire was for religious life.
As Jenica took time to discern where God was calling her, she felt called to a religious community that was Franciscan, charismatic, contemplative, and missionary. While visiting the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, in Prayer Town, TX, she experienced so much peace and felt she was home. She felt this was where God was calling her to respond to His grace and calling.
Before entering religious life, Jenica spent nine months at the Emmanuel School of Mission in Rome where she continued to go deeper in her faith and had opportunities for mission in Italy, Scotland, Ireland, and France. From there she entered the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ on August 25, 2010. She received the name Sister Mary Gianna, after Our Lady of Grace and Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, as a novice and made her first profession of vows on August 10, 2013. Sister Mary Gianna continues to be amazed at God’s great love and mercy, and how He continues to work.
Sister Mary Justin
Retreat House, Ministry
Growing up in Tanzania, Africa, I felt a call to religious life. Since I was still 12 years old, I knew I had to wait. I began discerning more seriously when I was studying at a university. With much prayer and the help of spiritual director, the Lord made it clear that He was calling me to become a Franciscan. I came to know which community God was calling me to join. He connected me with someone who translated for the Sisters in their mission to Tanzania in the previous year. Through her help I was able to contact the community and entered in 2007.
Words of Encouragement
I want to encourage those who are discerning their call or already living outtheir call to:
• Detach yourselves from your own will. It may be difficult because we tend to cling to our own will, but with God’s help, this is possible.
• Be completely open to God’s will in your daily lives and in the future. We are at peace when we do His will.
• Immerse yourselves in prayer, seeking to know His plan for your lives. This may take time but, God does not delay. He has a perfect time for everything. Persevere in prayer, wait for the Lord, and be stouthearted. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”(Mt. 7: 7)
• Seek the help of a competent spiritual director.
• Go to different sources of information like websites and others and make an actual visit – convent, seminary,etc. in order to properly discern your vocation in life. God is pleased when we diligently seek His will.
Sister Mary Magdalene
Born in Hawaii of Japanese heritage, Stephanie Takazawa would journey from her Catholic upbringing to a loss of faith and back home again through the grace of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. She has presevered as a bride of Christ through many trials.
Stephanie’s grandfather was one of the first Japanese men in his Hawaiian village to become a Christian. Despite persecution, he sent his daughter to a Catholic school, and this daughter, Stephanie’s mom, decided to become Catholic during high school. Stephanie’s dad also converted to the Catholic faith as a young adult. When Stephanie was 3, the family moved from Hawaii to Chicago, where she attended Catechism classes, and later Catholic schools from the 5th grade through high school.
During her college years, Stephanie questioned her faith and searched for an understanding of God by attending every denomination’s worship service. Soon she decided that God did not exist. After college, she worked successfully as the Vice-President of a marketing research company, with a small independent business of her own. She had her own car and house, yet none of these things seemed to matter. Faced with many trials, she desperately said, ”God, if you exist, do something!”
Stephanie received the grace of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in answer to this prayer. Eager to read God’s word in the Script-ures, her faith seemed so alive to her now. Her journey back to God took six years. ”I realized that faith is a choice. Without God, the choices that I made did not give me the inner peace and joy that I was searching for.” An acquaintance gave her a book of an Episcopalian priest’s testimony, and soon she was returning to the Catholic Church and looking for a Catholic prayer meeting. A friend’s invitation, ”I feel led to invite you to a prayer meeting” was all it took to get her there.
After meeting the Lord personally and feeling His touch, Stephanie wanted to give everything she had to Him. It didn’t dawn on her that the Lord was calling her to religious life. While she was attending prayer meetings, Stephanie made a retreat. At the end of the retreat, she knew that the Lord was asking her to make a total response with her life. The Lord led her to talk to the retreat leaders, who knew about our new, emerging religious community. Soon she met some of the sisters and entered the community in 1981. Receiving the name Sr. Mary Magdalene as a novice, she professed her temporary vows in 1983. Sister has served the Lord faith-fully in many ways, ready to witness to her Catholic faith. 1987 was the year for her final profession of vows to her Lord.
Sister Mary Thomas
Temporary Professed, Maintenance
Always attracted to the religious Sisters she met as a child, Lynne started asking questions about their life, as a fourth grader. It wasn’t until her senior year in high school that she had the courage to tell others about her own calling.Lynne Windfeldt was born in Denver, Colorado, the oldest of four children. Baptized a few weeks later, her parents raised her in a strong Catholic home. She attended two years of Catholic school, as well as CCD classes, yet her parents were the primary ones to educate her in the faith.
After receiving her First Communion a year before her class due to her mother’s instruction, Lynne knew that God had a special plan for her life. She found herself attracted to Sisters and willing to ask them what their life was like, but she never dreamed that it was for her. Lynne saw herself as a tomboy, one who didn’t get along well with the other girls her age. She loved hiking, skiing, and rafting, and often she got herself into dangerous situations and accidents. The Lord through her guardian angel protected her in many life-threatening situations, and these events also confirmed God’s special plan for her life. The pastor of her parish was a close friend of the family’s, so Lynne felt free to ask many questions about Jesus and the Eucharist. Lynne continued to grow spiritually from her mom’s guidance and from retreats and bible camps.
By Lynne’s teenage years, her father’s restaurant business was very prosperous, and the family was well off. For some reason she couldn’t explain, Lynne was not happy about new clothes like other girls her age. Material things did not appeal to her. Even in the innocence of her high school years, her sister and friends began to associate her with the religious life. While watching ”Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” a movie about St. Francis, she was moved by Francis’ simplicity and love of poverty. One night before graduation, her high school youth group began a discussion about what each student wanted to do with their lives. It was then that Lynne’s date to the prom said that he wanted to be a priest, and Lynne said she was going to become a nun. That summer, she began visiting convents.
Lynne met the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ when she was twenty-two. She came to visit the community in 1985, where she received special teaching on the Holy Spirit, and later prayer for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. She entered the community in 1986, receiving the name Sr. Mary Thomas as a novice in 1987. She professed her first vows in 1988, and her final vows in 1992. She does not see the religious life as a sacrifice, but rather as an exchange of nice gifts from God for greater ones. A quote from St. Thomas Aquinas that sums up her life is ”God alone satisfies.” She ‘counts everything as loss’ but her Lord, Jesus Christ.
Sister Michael Marie
Sisters Medical Care
Originally from Vietnam, Sister Michael Marie came to the US when she was in high school. Her family ended up in Oklahoma City in an area with many other devoutly Catholic Vietnamese. She and her family overcame many obstacles, including learning a new language and culture. Her strong faith is evident.
Sister Michael Marie is a temporary professed Sister. She serves our Community as head of the kitchen. In addition, Sister works with the Vietnamese youth in a local parish, Our Lady of Vietnam in Amarillo. Her smile and joy are contagious.
KDJW Catholic Radio General Manager, San Damiano Convent
As a teenager, Maureen found growing up exciting. She learned from experience that the attractions of the world left her feeling empty inside. Her childhood love of God and religious life was restored when a peer in high school shared about a personal relationship with Jesus.
Maureen Grady was born in Chicago, Illinois as the oldest of four. Her family lived eight blocks from the church, and since they didn’t have a car, they walked to Mass together. She attended CCD classes given by the parish’s sisters.
Maureen had an aunt who was a religious sister, and when she was around sisters, Maureen sensed a special presence. When she would walk into a convent, she felt God’s peace. She first thought about a vocation after her First Communion.
During her teens, Maureen was distracted from her devotion to God. She went so far as to find ways to avoid going to Mass, and this weakened her relationship with God. She found that missing Mass to escape this empty feeling only made the emptiness worse, not better.
When Maureen was seventeen, a Christian friend talked to her about a relationship with Jesus. As Maureen was from a Catholic family, she did not want to leave the Church. What this young friend succeeded in doing was helping her thirst for God again. She found herself opting to take the longer bus route home as it drove right past her church. Her love for God was rekindled as she prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Even her involvement in golf, tennis and glee club could not compare to her renewed love for the Lord.
When Maureen was a senior in high school, her mother met a priest involved in the Charismatic Renewal. Her mom received a healing through the prayers of this priest. Maureen and her mom and sister began attending prayer meetings, and soon Maureen received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. A word from the Lord given as she was prayed over was, ”I want to be with you always.” She realized that the Lord was expressing His spousal love for her. She worked for an insurance company in downtown Chicago after graduation as she began to look at a religious vocation. She was involved with the prayer group as a member of the core group, serving on the Life in the Spirit Seminar team.
Maureen learned about the Disciples through a prayer group friend, even though she had not mentioned thinking of vocation to anyone. She met some Disciples at a Notre Dame conference, and by August of 1980, she entered the community. She received the name Sr. Miriam as a novice. She professed her first vows in 1982, and her final vows in 1986.
At the age of 13 I felt God calling me to be a Sister. This happened during a visit to the Blessed Sacrament when I was taking the high school freshman application tests. I had never thought of religious life before. I always wanted to be a nurse and a mother with many children. I don’t know how to describe what happened in that chapel. It is hard to describe religious experiences sometimes. But, I know God squeezed my heart there and I came out knowing that I would be a Sister. God nourished my call during frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
How would she express her life as a religious?
I have done many things and worn many hats as a religious and God has always been there to give me all of the graces I needed to do the work at hand. God is always so faithful.
The most special moment in her life of religious consecration:
The most special moment in my life as a religious was when I made my public,
life-time commitment taking the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience and our covenant commitment of Fellowship in the Spirit. My giving of myself totally to the Lord was sealed and signed, and I keep that document on my wall where I renew my commitment frequently.
Sister Raphaelle Marie
Sr. Raphaelle Marie Condon, DLJC hails from beautiful Kennebunk, Maine. She was born on March
9, 1985 and is the eldest of four children. Sr. Raphaelle Marie was raised Roman Catholic, but admits, “I
didn’t really know anything about my faith. For example, if you had asked me when I was in high school,
why we stand, sit, and kneel at Mass, I couldn’t have told you the answer. I didn’t understand the
significance of what we believe and what we do as Catholics. Also, I really didn’t know God. I prayed when I
needed something, but I definitely didn’t have a personal relationship with Him.”
At the beginning of her college experience at the University of Maine, this led to a falling away from
God and the faith of her childhood. “I thought that I knew what was best for my life and could make all of
my own decisions about how I wanted to live…I was wrong. I ended up making a mess of things,” she says.
“I stopped going to church and that began what was to become a huge downward spiral in my life. Having
the freedom to do whatever I wanted didn’t make me happy. In fact, nothing that the world promises
would make me happy actually gave me any happiness.” After experiencing a feeling of hopelessness over
the meaning and purpose of her life, she finally turned to God. “I prayed, “God, if You exist, and if You care
about me at all, help me. Just put me where You want me.””
Deciding she needed to make a positive change in her life, she transferred to St. Francis University
in western Pennsylvania. It was there that she had a radical “reversion” back to the Church. She met the
Franciscan T.O.R. Friars who run St. Francis University and the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of
Jesus who were a presence on campus. Sister says of meeting them, “I saw something in them – a joy, a
peace, a love, a purpose – that I didn’t have in my life…and I wanted it. I said to myself, ‘These men and
women know that God exists and that God loves them, and they don’t question it. It’s a reality for them! I
want to know God like they know God,’ and it was as if faith – like a sleeping lion – awoke inside of me! It
was then that I began to throw myself into everything that Campus Ministry had to offer.”
Sister describes how the Lord touched her life by saying, “And, each new event that I went to, was
like a new encounter with each Divine Person of the Holy Trinity! I encountered the Father’s love when I
went back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after ten years of being away; I encountered Jesus in the
Word at Bible Study and in the Eucharist at Daily Mass and Weekly Eucharistic Adoration; and I
encountered the Holy Spirit and His transforming power when I went to our weekly prayer meetings and
experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (for more information on that, see Fr. Reniero Cantalamessa’s
book Come Creator Spirit). Later, I even encountered Our Lady, and realized that I had a Mother in heaven
who loved me, as I learned to pray the rosary and consecrated my life to Jesus through Mary in the nine-
day consecration of St. Maximilian Kolbe! Mind you, I was twenty years old at this point and had never read
the Bible, or gone to daily Mass, or a prayer group, or prayed the rosary, and I didn’t even know what
Eucharistic Adoration was! So, it’s never too late to develop a personal relationship with the Lord and never
too late to come back to Him after spending time away from Him. He will always take you back. And
knowing God and having that personal relationship with Him, gives you a peace, a joy, a love, and a purpose
in life that the world can never give.”
After opening her heart to the Lord and to authentically living her Catholic faith, she began to
discover her call to religious life. “I knew that, whatever I was going to do with my life, I wanted to do what
He wanted and that I couldn’t live my life without the Lord anymore. I had planned to be a professor of
history, but I knew that whatever God had planned, would be better than any of my plans,” she says. “So, I
prayed that He would make His will known to me, and with the help of my spiritual director, I discerned
that God was calling me to be a religious and a Franciscan. Truly, the lives of Sts. Francis and Clare are just
so inspiring to me because they gave up everything for love of Jesus. And, that is what I wanted to do, I
wanted to give my whole life to Him who gave His life for me,” she says.
After paying down her student loans after college, and with the help of the Mater Ecclesiae Fund
for Vocations, Sr. Raphaelle Marie was able to enter our Order in 2013. “I just give all the glory and honor to
God for His faithfulness and all that He has done in my life. He is so good,” she says. Sister made her First
Profession of the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience on August 20, 2016. And, God-willing, looks
forward to making her Final Profession of Vows in 2020. Of making vows, she says, “There is no greater
honor in this world. God chose me to be His own. It is humbling and it is a great gift. I am espoused to
Christ, Himself! Every day in vows is a joy because I live with the knowledge that I am totally His. Even in
moments of suffering, God gives the grace and there is a deep, abiding joy. I am so happy to be a vowed
religious now!” In her spare time, Sr. Raphaelle Marie enjoys reading, taking long walks, praying, singing
praise and worship music, learning and speaking foreign languages, spending time with our pets, learning
new things, and traveling.
In the midst of poverty in India, Rita’s life was marked with much suffering. Sickness, tragedies and the deaths of her father and older brother led her to a feeling of desperation. She was 19 when God intervened in her life through the Holy Spirit.
Rita D’Souza was born in Bombay, India, the eldest daughter and second of six children. Her mother’s strong Catholic faith led her to bring her children to Church. When there was no food at home and no way to get any, Rita’s mother would say, ”God will provide.” She had an incredible determination and ability to sacrifice for her children. This example strongly influenced Rita to also trust in God.
Because they were so poor, Rita’s mother made the sacrifice to provide a Catholic education for her children at a boarding school served by the Canossian Sisters. The Sisters strengthened the seed of the Catholic faith instilled by her mother. After high school, Rita worked as a secretary.
At 19, Rita experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit when she attended an outreach called the Miracle Crusade, led by a U.S. Protestant evangelistic group. Her life changed so radically that she became fully involved in the Catholic Church. It was after this event that she heard about the Charismatic Renewal. She joined a youth group in Bombay called ”Rock Revelations” that met regularly for the purpose of growing in faith, holiness and evangelization. This group conducted outreaches that drew thousands of people to accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior of their lives.
It was a big sacrifice to be fully devoted to this ministry, keep a full-time job and attend college besides, but the benefits far surpassed the sacrifices. As Rita shared her faith, she grew so much stronger in her love and commitment to the Lord. She also led a prayer group during lunch hour at her work place and started one in her parish.
At age 24, Rita desired to give her whole life in service to the Church. When she shared this with a priest, he told her that he thought she had a religious vocation, and the only community he would recommend to her was in Channing, Texas. This sounded outrageous to Rita at first, because she had no previous thoughts of religious life. She had not traveled outside of India before, having never even flown on an airplane.
The Lord began to work in her heart, and as she chose to answer, He confirmed her religious vocation through many little signs each step of the way. In September of 1985, she arrived at Prayer Town with another young woman from India, now Sister Joan. Rita received the name Sister Rita as a novice, making her first vows in 1987 and her perpetual vows in 1991. Her greatest joy is being a visible witness to reach out to people and offer them the best gift of all-JESUS.
Sister Stella Maris
San Damiano Convent, Director of Bishop DeFalco Retreat Center
As a young child I saw religious in habit, and as other girls thought of wedding dresses, I thought of habits. I saw such beauty and wonder. I was drawn to religious sisters. When I was 17 I had a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit and God’s powerful love. My response was to seek His will for my life. So I asked the Lord to show me. As I sought the Lord in prayer, the excitement I had as a child about sisters was enkindled and I was open to the vocation to the consecrated life. After discerning different communities I joined the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in 2006. The main draw to the DLJC was our charismatic spirituality and personal relationship with God.
Most Special Moment
One is, getting to see Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at World Youth Day in Australia as a novice. Secondly, is when I was lying prostrate during the Litany of the Saints during my final vows, before God, my Community, family and friends.
Words of Encouragement
What comes to mind is the scripture which says, “God is faithful,” He is the one who calls, if it is His will there will be grace upon grace. Do not be afraid. God wants your happiness.
As a teenager, Dianne’s love for music led her to join a Drum and Bugle Corps, where she was a drummer, a drum major, and later the drum line instructor. The Holy Spirit intervened in her life and led her to channel her love for music as a means to glorify God.Dianne Socchia was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, as the third of six children. She attended Catholic school until the eighth grade and Sunday Mass with her family. Confirmed at age twelve, Dianne’s faith was strengthened when she attended the Advent Novena services held prior to Christmas. The interior joy she felt while singing, ”O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and during solemn Benediction compelled her to make the sacrifice of walking to Church on those dark and cold winter nights. Her love for God continued to grow as she sang in the choir during the Solemn Latin Mass while in eighth grade.
After teacher’s college, Dianne taught in Catholic elementary education. As she prepared her seventh grade students to receive Confirmation, the Holy Spirit prepared her to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It happened while she attended a teacher’s retreat weekend. That Sunday she prayed in the secrecy of her retreat room, ”Holy Spirit, come into my heart and make me a strong Christian woman.” God’s love branded her heart and she wanted to belong totally to Jesus. Dianne was twenty-one at the time.
After two years, Dianne moved back to her hometown to teach and attended a large Charismatic prayer group, where she became part of the praise and worship team. While attending a leader’s session, she met Sister Frederica, who did missionary work with the Canadian Natives. Dianne volunteered to help Sister in the summers. Sister’s example as a single-hearted bride of Christ and her life of contemplation inspired Dianne, and the seeds of a religious vocation were sown in her heart.
On a visit to Madonna House, Dianne met a few Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. While on a hermitage experience, she read their Founding Document. These words of a call to conversion and mission, within a deep relationship with the Lord in prayer burned in her heart.
Dianne shortly resigned from teaching and entered the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in April of 1976, while they were in Littlefield, Texas. These were the founding years of the DLJCs, and she received the name Sister Therese as a novice. She professed her final vows in November of 1979. A Scripture that expresses her life is Philippians 3:10, ”I wish only to know Christ Jesus, and the power of His Resurrection, to know how to share in His sufferings by being formed into the pattern of His death.”
Sister Fatima (Sophia) grew up in a Catholic family and her Mom and Grand-mother taught her to love Jesus and our Blessed Mother, Mary. As a teenager she continued serving the Lord and the Church in a diversity of activities: teaching Catechism, going on missions and singing in the choir, but the center of her heart was not in Jesus, material and worldly things had that place in her heart. She had one foot in the world and the other in the Church.
Then she joined a youth group that was a part of the Charismatic Renewal, she discovered that it was possible to be totally faithful to the Lord—she knew she needed to make a decision between the world and the Lord Jesus Christ. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, she chose to follow Christ. She became more active in the sacramental life of the Church, going to daily Mass and her relationship with the Lord began to grow. As a result, she was able to listen more clearly to the voice of the Lord.
On a retreat, she met the Sisters and started feeling a strong attraction to Religious Life. Though she tried to ignore the calling for a year, the call continued to grow. While on a retreat, she felt like something was going to explode inside of her; she knew she needed to talk with a Sister and start vocational discernment with our Sisters who were at our local house in Monterrey, Mexico.
She realized that having everything the world says you need to be happy was not fulfilling her. Asked the Lord, “Why am I not Happy?”. She realized that she had stopped asking that question since visiting our Sister for a while. She was happy!
She came to visit Prayer Town and while she was in the Chapel she felt as if a magnet was drawing her to Jesus in the Tabernacle. She knew that this was the place where the Lord wanted her to be. She joined the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and entered through our house in Monterrey in August of 2017. Her entrance date was 100 years after the visions of Our Lady at Fatima, so when, as a novice she received the name Sister Fatima, it confirmed Our Lady’s part in her life.
She is still happy loving Jesus and her Sisters. Every day is a miracle and an opportunity to grow in that love. Her love for Mother Mary has grown as Sister acknowledges that it was Mary who has protected and guided her throughout her life that Sister might have an undivided heart for Jesus.
© DISCIPLES OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
A Franciscan Charismatic Religious Community