I could never thank you enough, O Father

A Sister reflects on her 25 years of Religious Life at a Celebration of Thanksgiving in a Philippines parish

In the greatness of His love, the Lord has called me even before my existence.  Since then, He has always taken the initiative.  He led the way to where He knew was best for me.

It was in this parish that God started to inscribe my vocation story.  It began with my encounter with a Daughter of Divine Zeal. The sister, whom I first met, looked at me with a smile and from that gaze we became friends.  From that friendship, the Lord slowly and clearly manifested His plans for me.  This discovery filled me with unexplained joy, although it was coupled with many questions deep within me. I was caught in a crisis, but what resounded in my mind were the words of Jesus: “Pray, the harvest is great…” remembering that when I was a child, my mother taught me how to pray the Rosary and to offer that prayer for the Pope and for the sanctification of priests. Without knowing it, my mother was already enfleshing the charism of our congregation, in which my family, I believe is practicing until now.

FDZ Sister with choir
As a young woman, I had plans for my future.  But my plans were not in accord with God’s plan for me.  Instead, I strongly felt a call from Him and indeed the invitation of Jesus to “follow me” prevailed. And so, armed with courage, I left home notwithstanding my parents’ contradictions.  It was a great detachment on my part.

When I got into the convent, I discovered many things about myself. I was confronted with challenges and the consequences of my “YES”. Humanly speaking, it is difficult to give oneself totally and exclusively to God, He asks for a continuous self-giving and renouncement, even in the most ordinary things and events of daily life which at times seem useless. In my journey, I was always consoled by the invisible presence of the Blessed Mother, whose guidance and protection I always felt. I would turn to her anytime – in good times and in bad, in joy or in difficulty. She assisted me to find people who helped me to understand my nothingness and to hold on to the goodness of the Lord. They have sustained me in my journey of uncertainties and fears. They strengthened my hopes and fortified my commitment with love.

Today, to think about the journey I have had over the past 25 years of my religious life makes me feel such awe, wonder and deep gratitude. If it was only me, surely, I could make it alone. But the persistent love of God and His faithfulness has sustained me through all these years. Today, all I can say is “I could never thank you enough, O Father!”

In my limited words I still want to say thank you Lord for everything that you have provided to me, for your faithfulness and unfailing love that has sustained me throughout these years, and I ask you the grace of holy perseverance and a faithful response to your daily invitation until you will call me to my final encounter with you. Let us keep going Lord. With you, I am not afraid to go forward.

It is also right to say thanks to all the people who have been God’s instruments in my vocation. I want to remember at this moment the late Rev Mariano Pacis for being my spiritual guide; I thank Dra. Rebecca for all the help she gave me; I offer particular thanks to God for my parents and family, relatives and friends, and my religious family who sustained me with all the support I needed during my journey. And for this celebration of thanksgiving, I express my heartfelt thanks to all the celebrants,… and to all of you who are here to share my joy of God’s Faithfulness; to the choir whose angelic voices made us all feel delightful; and to all of you behind the scenes, who worked so hard and sacrificed so much to make this celebration solemn and successful. I invoke God’s blessings upon each one of you and your families.

Daughters of Divine Zeal at various stages of their Religious Life
With my thanks uttered and unuttered, I place myself in the hands of our Loving Father. And being a Daughter of Divine Zeal, through the intercession of St Hannibal Mary Di Francia and of Mother Maria Nazarena Majone, I pray that “Rogate” may be diffused in the whole world and that the Lord will heed our prayer and send many more vocations in the Church.

Before I end, I would like to pose a few challenging words to the young people present here today, mga ading, have you ever thought of what to do with your life? Or have you ever listened to the voice of the Lord who tells you which life is best for you? Start to think about it and please don’t forget to encounter the Lord in prayer… it is only in prayer that He meets you and speaks to you. Have a good conversation with Him. You know, it feels good to listen to Him and respond to His invitation. I say this, because I have experienced it myself. I was 28 years old when I heeded my call. I tell you, don’t be afraid to respond to His call for He takes the initiative and He sustains each one whom He calls. His grace is enough to take you to the life He prepared that is best for you. Take the challenge, OK? I wish you all a very good day! Thank you.

Sr M Corazon Villanueva, fdz
Philippines

Called to be ministers

There are times in life when one feels excited, inspired, burning with zeal about one’s life and commitment. There are moments too when one seems to be dragging oneself upon waking up until bedtime! This can happen in both our human and spiritual life. Times of retreat, recollections and the like are saving moments… more so during this time of our Annual Retreat, where the Theme was “With Christ Reviving Our Apostolic Life”.  This was indeed timely as we had just concluded the school year. In the seemingly resting period, it was an occasion to be recharged and revived.

Sister reflects

To sit, to reflect, to remember, to pray…

We are grateful for the opportunity the Congregation gave us and for the place, it may not have been be perfect but the coolness of it mattered a lot! It was a providence one after the other, the venue and the Retreat facilitator! Fr Mars was the right person at the right time. He is our brother as we have the same Father!

Personally, as we were led back to the origin of Religious Life and our call, I came to appreciate more and more God’s call for me to the Religious Life. I remembered the person (Benedictine Sister) who was instrumental for me to recognize God’s call. Then the call to be a Daughter of Divine Zeal… dramatic and unique, from not wanting to finding myself belonging to this beloved Congregation. How the call is sustained day by day is so amazing.

FDZ Sisters - Philippines
One thing that really touched me during this retreat was the thought that Fr Mars mentioned: “We are called to be ministers to others sanctification”. This made me think a lot and of course encouraged me to renew all the more my “YES” to Him. There was a time when discouragement slipped in, when I realised my unworthiness and sinfulness, However, Fr Mars made us realise that among the twelve apostles, one was a traitor – a denier and a skeptic. God calls us in spite of knowing our weaknesses, so we can be close to Him, always near Him, giving us His special attention because He wants us to be ministers for others sanctification. We have our models to imitate, our beloved Padre, the beautiful teachings of our present Pope, Francis, our Mother General, Mother Teolinda Salemi and the example and guidance of our Blessed Mother on how she lived her vocation… Her “FIAT” was from the beginning up to the end… she never changed!

Sr Rosemarie Borreta, fdz
Philippines

Goodbye Delegation, hello Province

Welcome to our new Our Lady of Divine Zeal Province

The day has come to bid goodbye to the Our Lady of Divine Zeal Delegation and to welcome the Our Lady of Divine Zeal Province. 

On 01 June 2014, we began a new chapter in our history, as a congregation and as a Delegation.  The ROGATE has grown and flourished in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, thanks to our Sisters who planted the seed and watered it.  Yet, we all acknowledge that it is the Lord who has made it grow.

This day was a celebration of the old and the new, a difference not immediately perceptible and therefore the need to take time and be silent.  And this was what we did during the first day of our being a Province:  To ponder, to PRAY.  A liturgy of the Word was sent to all the communities of the circumscription to be celebrated at their convenient time.  We rejoice, we believe, we entrust… these sentiments were the theme of the liturgy and of the day.  The icon of the Trinity was used to help us in our reflection.

Sharing of Sr Bernaden Faderanga on the Journey of the Delegation

Sharing of Sr Bernaden Faderanga on the Journey of the Delegation

In the Philippines, within the community of Marikina, in the Seat of the Province, together with the community of Urdaneta, the liturgy of the Word was celebrated at 9:00 am, led by Sr Juanita.  When this was finished, Mother Elna met the community of Urdaneta and read to them the decree of the canonical erection of the community with Sr Juanita Pineda as the first Superior.  At 10:30 am, there was the celebration of the Eucharist presided by Fr Odair Novais, fmi.  It was a special celebration to thank the Lord for the erection of the new Province and to ask for graces and guidance for the journey ahead.

The day continued in an atmosphere of joy and celebration. There was a cake specially designed for this event.  On that day, all the members of the Province prayed the Prayer to the Holy Spirit to ask for enlightenment for the consultation which would start the following day. The prayer was printed in a card distributed to all.

Seeing how good the Lord has been to us, he who never forsakes us, we are indeed grateful and are filled with awe.  Looking to the future may cause us to be anxious about what lies ahead, yet we need not despair.  The Lord is walking with us.  The Spirit of God continues to create new things with every step, with each passing day.  It was God who set us on this journey.  It was his grace that sustained us and we believe that he will always continue to guide us on our way, giving the provisions we need along our journey.  Let us look back with gratitude and move forward with confidence, hand in hand!

oldz-philippines

Welcome to our new Province Council

The proclamation of the Provincial Superior and Councillors occurred yesterday (Wednesday 16 July 2014), on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.   Congratulations to:

  • Mother M Elna Casimsiman fdz (Provincial Superior)
  • Sr Josefina C De Vera fdz (Provincial Treasurer)
  • Sr Erlinda Huelar fdz (Councillor)
  • Sr M Dolores A Acluba fdz (Councillor)
  • Sr Gladys Q Manuel fdz (Councillor)
  • Sr M Sheilah C Gomez fdz (Councillor)

We thank the sisters of the outgoing government for the dedication with which they served the Delegation.

Let’s just be natural

sisters-garden01On one of our pilgrimages, the last stop was at the Centre for Ecozoic Living and Learning. As the name goes, it is the place where I have learned many things about the natural way of living. While the guide was giving us a tour and explaining things, the first thing that came into my mind was that we have been too much used to technology and a high lifestyle that we forget the natural way of things.

As there were many of us on the tour, we were divided into two groups. Our guide showed us the different zones of the area. I have learned many things but these are the ones that have really been retained in my mind:

  • The worms, when they poo, can help fertilize the soil. When the guy picked up the worm, the general reaction was that of repulsion bu he said that we should not be afraid of worms because they are harmless. I think we all knew that but because we grew up reacting to worms with repulsion, we didn’t t even want to look at it. The colour of the worm turned blue when the guide handled it – he said that meant it was afraid. The feeling was mutual.
  • Our guide said that snakes were not dangerous. What he said was interesting – I believe that snakes are dangerous and just the thought of seeing one makes me shudder. I have only seen one at the zoo. It will take me some time to understand that, as the man said, snakes are really harmless.
  • One other reason to raise chickens was to fertilize the soil. They purposely put some chickens in a big cage and placed that on a plot of land. The man said that when the chickens scratched the soil, their manure on the ground would mix in and so fertilize the soil. It never entered my mind that when chickens scratched the ground they would help fertilize the soil. Now I know that chickens are more than just food.
  • Our guide brought us to the garden. It was full of vegetables and medicinal plants. Some of these plants were actually grasses but they were so useful.  He told us what certain sicknesses could be healed by each plant. As I listened, I remembered all the sisters who were diabetic, had high blood pressure, were anaemic or arthritic – all the sicknesses that occur when we get older.
  • While in the garden I saw native cucumber and all the other wild things that could be eaten. The guide just picked them and ate them raw, while explaining what good we could get from them.  And he let us taste them also. When I was back at the convent and saw some native cucumber, I picked some and enjoyed the astonishment of Chona who expressed surprise that I had eaten such a thing!

This was a trip that I certainly enjoyed and learned much. For such a place, we learned how to live with nature, to just be natural and return to the basic way of life.

Novice Gazel
Philippines

May people see Christ in her!

Being a psychology student, I have come across studies that have suggested that the incidence of depression is increasing. With the advancement of science and technology I find it ironic since life was supposed to become easier and comfortable, and people should be happier. However, it seems that more and more people are suffering from mental health issues. We often think that if we have all the luxuries in life, we will be happy. We feel that the lives of film stars are awesome whereas priests and nuns lead a hard and dull life. I have always wondered whether we have a distorted view of happiness. Is it like a mirage where we think if we move closer we will get there? Is this not just an illusion? Are we not looking for happiness in the wrong places?

sr-cora-divya
I have known Sr Corazon for almost two years. What I have noticed is her calm, childlike, innocent nature and her smile which never seems to fade from her face. I have never seen her in an unpleasant state. I have always found her happy and joyful. I think it is the absolute trust and reliance on God that strengthens you and gives you the courage to face life’s adversities. Every individual encounters difficult situations and I feel the communion with God is what differentiates people and their outlook towards life.

We were very happy and excited for Sr Corazon’s final profession on 18 May 2014. It was a special day for the girls in Madre Nazarena Student’s House (MNSH) and we were looking forward to it. Sr Corazon was shining with happiness and looked beautiful as the bride of Jesus. I remember the priest saying that she looked holy. That was indeed true. I could see that Christ has specially chosen her to spread his hope and love amongst people. He has chosen her to spread His light in the darkness. I sincerely hope and wish that Sr Corazon may be instrumental in helping people to find true love, happiness and hope in Jesus Christ. May people see Christ in her!

Divya
MNSH Resident
Australia

There is no turning back

As I am graduating from university soon, I started to search for jobs. It is not easy to find a good job. The idea of committing most of my time to a company is hard for me as in university, independent learning is encouraged. It feels like not only my university life, but my freedom is also coming to an end. While I am feeling scared to face the next step of my life, I remember Sr Corazon. The first thought that came to me about her perpetual vows is that there is no turning back for Sr Corazon to the normal life. However, Sr Corazon faced this with excitement and this kept me wondering. Living in Madre Nazarena Student’s House (MNSH), I witness how the Daughters of Divine Zeal sisters do things in the house, even the small things, with happiness. It is like they are carrying with them a secret that lay people don’t understand.

sr-cora-devina
After a job interview I had, Sr Floriana told me that whatever job I will get, the important thing is to be happy in doing that job. Because when we are happy, we are able to give and to help people around us, and to be able to do so is fulfilling the value of life.

And that’s when I got it. I realised that the secret is their special relationship with God. This secret makes them able to face every day life with radiating happiness. I myself can’t help being happy near them. By being happy, they are able to give themselves to serve other people around them. And by giving, they become rich in soul. Sr Corazon might live a vow of chastity, but that is okay because she has a special relationship with God. She might live a vow of obedience, but it makes her freer and happier. She might live a vow of poverty, and that is okay too, because she is already rich in soul that she can give herself to God and others.

Sr Corazon’s perpetual vow was on the 18th May 2014. During the Mass of this beautiful celebration, we were told about Sr Corazon’s journey till she finally arrived to this very special moment. At the very beginning of this journey, her parents did not like the idea of her being a nun. This has been a general issue faced by many parents of religious people. After the Mass, I discussed this with my friends, and one of them joked, “I would be totally okay if my daughter wants to become a sister. Well, if my daughter is a bride of Christ, then Jesus will be my son in law!” The statement sounded funny at first. But after I reflected about this again later on, I realised that the main concept behind the joke is very true. That Jesus somehow wants to connect with us through these special people He has chosen. Being friends with Sr Corazon, for example, means that I am a friend with a bride of Christ. Now the connection between me and Jesus seems closer! Through Sr Corazon and other religious people, Jesus shows how He wants to reach us from many different levels.

Devina
MNSH Resident
Australia

A grace-filled experience

On 26 January 2013 one of our communities in the Philippines decided to do the outreach program in one of the baranggay (village) under the Parish of St Michael the Archangel in Jala Jala, Rizal.

Sharing our gifts

Sharing our gifts

After Sr Gladys coordinated and visited the possible venue, the sisters, postulants and some of the Padre Annibale School (PAS) teachers joyfully travelled a long way that took us almost two hours to get to the convent of the sisters of Rural Missionaries of the Holy Trinity, where the outreach program would take place.  The Rural Missionaries had gathered the 125 children who would receive the goods as part of the sharing in the celebration our 125th anniversary of our foundation.  It was a touching experience to see the simple joy and gratitude in the eyes of the children.   They had such innocence and showed great interest while listening to the short Catechesis on the life of St Hannibal Mary di Francia and Mother Maria Nazarena Majone.  There were also some parents who had accompanied their children and participated in the program.

After the Catechesis, we celebrated the Holy Mass, officiated by Fr Gerald Metal, the Parish Priest of St Michael the Archangel.   Even in that short period of time, I could tell that what was happening would leave a certain kind of mark on the hearts of the children and adults – not just because they received gifts, but because there was a sharing of one’s presence, the moment of touching one’s life by listening and sharing in God’s love and joy.  I could not tell if they could memorize what I shared in the Catechesis but I was certain that God could reach and teach them the important lesson of our Christian Life which is Love for God and our neighbour.  Sharing with them the importance of praying for Vocations also challenged me to be more committed to live and propagate this.  Rogate is a prayer coupled with charity, and each Daughter of Divine Zeal is trying to live this in whatever apostolate or ministry we are involved.

After the gift giving, we had our lunch in a picnic grove and then left Jala jala at 2pm.  It was a wonderful and grace-filled experience for all of us.  THANKS BE TO GOD!

Sr Maria Luisa Luz, fdz
Philippines

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