We are born because of love – our parents love us but, above all, God is the One who loves us first. There is always a purpose as to why we are here. Each day is an unfolding mystery where the Author of life leads, assists, and destines us to a particular vocation that God has been calling us and forming within us, from the very beginning. And this is what has happened, and is still happening, to me.
Step by step towards God
Who am I?
I am called Cielo. I am the eldest among the 4 siblings in the family. Bernard is next to me, Gladys and Charito. My parents Ben and Socorro were both teachers.
I grew up on one of the islets in the southern part of Cebu, Philippines. It is called Camotes Island. It is a beautiful island: clean, quiet and peaceful. It is free from any pollution, busy streets, and crowded people. Only on Sundays and fiesta would you see people gathered together for celebrations.
Every Sunday in our town was busy because people attended Mass and afterwards they went to the market. Motorcycles were common in our place as a way of transportation around the island. But since the island has become more developed, we see other kinds of vehicles – when I was younger people used to walk from place to place. People’s way of living were farming and fishing. They farmed in the morning and went out fishing very early in the morning or later in the evening. It was indeed a simple lifestyle.
My childhood memories
I grew up in an extended family – extended in the sense that my parents helped their relatives by sending them to high school for studies – and my parents became one of their teachers. We lived inside the school compound, in cottages that were provided by the government to the teachers who were not from the island and my family received that privilege because both of my parents were not from this place. They were also the first pioneer teachers in that school – Magsaysay School of Fisheries – which was was named after one of the late Presidents of the Philippines. As a child I had a lot of happy memories and I learned to work: doing household chores, gardening, fishing (we were very near to the sea), caring for and raising domestic farm animals to help support and supplement the income of our family. I also played many times together with our neighbours’ sons and daughters.
Usually on Sundays after the Mass, we went for a picnic, to catch fish, and to gather different kinds of seashells. It was an enjoyable way of our family bonding. Often, we spent time with our neighbours, and fetched drinkable water from a place which was a 2-kilometre walk away from our house. When Summer time came we had more fun – my brother and sisters got together with the other children attending Catechesis in the nearby chapel. This was an initiative of the assigned church leaders.
Sometimes after dinner, when the moon was bright, we stayed outside, lying under the stars and my mother started to tell us stories including some of the famous stories from the Bible. We would also pray the rosary and other devotional prayers like novenas of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Souls in Purgatory, Stations of the Cross (during Lenten Season), and Mary’s Feast Days. That was how I came to informally know about God. Though her stories were repeated, we always loved to hear them again and again. My mother had such a big role in how I came to know about God – she taught us through stories. She was zealous in leading us to God in prayers, and attending Mass every Sunday was part of the family routine.
My father supported us too because he was there every time we had our common prayers. My parents had different personalities and they tried mould us in the Christian way. My mother taught us with stories and vocal prayers while my father taught us the value of work. Since then I have a sense of God and I simply know Him – he is very important in everyone’s life. He was, and is, a big part of our family.
This was my initial spiritual formation. It was in an informal way of leading our lives to know Him. As a family we too were tested in our faith experience during hardships and difficult moments. With the ups and downs we went through, thanks to His help and grace, we were able to conquer them. I recall that I saw fighting, disagreement of ideas, sometimes giving up, and misunderstandings. We were tested with the trials of economic stability, family relationships and love. The more we experienced difficulties, the more we were one, united in prayer – and my mother was the one who led us. All of these experiences were part of our growth as a family and as individuals.
Growing up memories
My life continues to unfold as a mystery upon mystery or as a mystery within the mystery. I am a timid person with few words to say. By profession I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and then I took a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education. I love to do art like making designs, painting, drawing. I have a wide range of imagination within me. I love dancing too, where I know how to, and it seems effortless for me to create dance steps. These talents help me a lot to overcome my shyness and, when I later became a teacher, it helped me to teach my pupils or students. Doing arts gives me an idea to express myself and it was very useful for my visual aids, classroom decorations – for any program purposes.
Before I entered the convent I was a Physical Education teacher in our place for a year and a half. But it was during this time that I felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction, restlessness and unhappiness. I was not content. What was going wrong? Something was missing in my life. I questioned myself: in what way was my life worthy of living? I should have felt settled: I had a job, and I was happy that I was able to help my sister with her college tuition fees and to help my family. Yet, I felt, deep inside, a big empty space where my heart and indeed my whole self had a longing for something. I was searching for the unknown that my own heart knew, but that I was afraid of.
I knew a neighbour who had entered the convent. I was inspired and happy when I knew that she was undergoing her initial formation of sisterhood in the congregation of the Daughters of Divine Zeal (DDZ). With my eagerness and curiosity I wrote her a letter for advice. She responded and she gave my name to one of the Sisters of the DDZ. The Sister, the vocation en-charge, invited me to a vocation orientation. About three months afterwards, two DDZ sisters visited me at our house and they met my family. I felt such joy and inspiration when seeing these Sisters. However, from that moment onwards, I also felt even more restless! It was such a memorable visit that I considered the visit of the Sisters like when the angel announced the good news in the life of Mary at her Annunciation – it happened then too, my Annunciation. It seemed all very romantic. I led the Sisters walking along the seashore where we spent a short time sharing our spiritual experiences. I found this time to be so biblical because the Sisters related to me the call of Peter. It was a moment of awe and wonder because they had come from a far away place to visit me. It was a great moment too because it was the first time in my life that I had encountered Sisters. For me, it was so real how I met God in them, as if He was courting me again and again, since from the beginning.
Even after the Sisters had gone, that surprising visit kept disturbing me a lot – this was my call from the unknown, mysterious God. I was thinking and praying to make a good and wise decision. I shared these happenings with a few of my closest friends and especially with my mother. I stayed in touch with the Sisters through letters and then I decided to answer their invitation to join in the vocation orientation. I asked permission from my family to attend the vocation orientation. They were hesitant, especially my mother as she was sad because I would be away from home. After the vocation orientation, I was among a few of the group who remained to join and we began the first stage of formation which is called the Aspirancy Period. A few months later, I felt settled and ready to embrace this kind of life so I wrote to my family and the principal of the school where I was teaching, telling them that I had decided to join the Daughters of Divine Zeal formation program. A year later, I had the opportunity to make a home visit and settled my unfinished “business” in the family. I had the courage to gather my family – everybody was there. Firstly, we prayed the rosary so that we were in a prayerful atmosphere, then afterwards I was able to speak my intention, to settle things, ask for forgiveness and to say goodbye to them. We had a great sharing of experiences; there was peace and reconciliation: I forgave and I was forgiven. While my family’s acceptance of my decision was not really total, we felt contented and relieved of the heavy aches and pains in everyone’s heart. It was one of the hardest moments to have the courage to dialogue with them but I was satisfied with the positive results. It was good. We let go of the past and we were ready to welcome in the present moment. It was a good start for me to continue my journey into the next phase of my formation, the Postulancy Period.
I was taken… by the Lord
I considered that first encounter with the two Sisters as my meeting with God. It was so intense that I felt I was drawn by Him, to Him. My heart was taken by Him – He was and is the deepest longing of my heart. My vocation is a mysterious unfolding of the everyday experiences. That initial “Yes ” to follow Him in this particular calling, in this particular institute of the DDZ is certain and affirmed through the signs and the experiences that are leading me. They keep me loving and trusting Him, and desiring Him will be my final and eternal “FIAT” . I own this is my call, my destiny. I have been praying for a lasting and forever life with Him “in sickness and in health…”.
My “Yes” to Him is followed by many yeses in my life, like at my first profession, and at my perpetual profession. To this day I continue to unfold the mysteries of my calling, answering His call day by day. I am praying for perseverance, and for the faithfulness to His call and love.
I am a Daughter of Divine Zeal now. This is where I am espousing the Lord of the harvest heart’s interest with zeal and praying for more holy vocations in the Church. Everyday He is leading me to journey with Him and I am happy because, in so many ways He manifests His presence and love. What a joy in my heart to be always with the beloved. He is the source of my joy. I too have experienced difficulties, crisis in relationships, crisis in faith but these are overcome with His love, mercy, care and compassion. He is more and more greater, deeper, bigger and wider. To feel how God has become so real to me may be a corny thing to say or to be heard by another person. Yet, I say that He is enough – He is here, so near and so close to me. I am praying too that my life is forever with God. I am thankful to Him for the gift of my vocation. He is the reason. His grace upon graces and mercy upon mercies is the cause of why I am still here. I am thankful for all who have challenged me in my life, those who are so near and dear to me that their presence is God’s presence and their love is God’s love. It is a challenge to face the consequences of my “Yes” to choose Him above any other precious things in life. What a gift of vocation He has bestowed upon me, who is rest assured of His everlasting presence. I pray for those who are called by God, particularly to the Religious life, to take courage and be generous in answering His call so that they will continue their journey of faith on this road that is less travelled.
Image sources: turnbacktogod.com (stairway) | pixabay.com
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