I first heard about Madre Nazarena Student’s House (MNSH) in November 2009 while visiting Melbourne to look for accommodation for the studies I was commencing the next year in February. I had travelled down from my home state of NSW to stay with friends and visit a place in Clifton Hill that had a room to rent. Although the room in Clifton Hill would have been adequate it just didn’t seem like the right fit for me, and yet I had no other ideas about where to stay. That is until two different people mentioned to me that they vaguely recalled a boarding house for female students located in Richmond. One spoke of some sisters in St Ignatius’ Parish, the other of Richmond, and armed with this information I did a Google search and stumbled upon the MNSH website. I quickly arranged to visit the house and immediately felt a sense of peace after having had a tour of the house. There was only one room left for rent for the next year, and time was running out for my stay in Melbourne, so before I left I snapped it up and I really consider that it was God’s providence that arranged it so. I ended up staying for two and a half years, the time it took for me to complete my Master of Theological Studies at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.
The first features of MNSH that appealed to me were its location – close to public transport and to my school – and the fact that it was a safe and clean environment. Also for me the Chapel with the Blessed Sacrament, and the close proximity to St Ignatius’ Parish, was a great gift. What I did not expect was the quality of friendships that I made at MNSH. I found that being in a common situation of studying – no matter what the field – united the students and allowed friendships to grow. Also as an Australian who has not been on any extensive travels it was refreshing for me to live in close contact and become friends with young women from many different cultural backgrounds. It was a mutually enriching experience as we each learned about the culture of the other through simple things like cooking a meal with each other. Learning about the culture of the other was not something planned, but something that came about spontaneously through friendship. Friends want to know about the experience and preferences of the other, and to share in those experiences. Friendship is a universal language. Through the friendships that I formed at MNSH I truly grew as a person, because I was led to see things from another perspective and challenged to embrace differences. I also had a lot of fun and continue to be in contact with many of the friends that I have made. Also there have been promises of hospitality should I visit any of the cities in the world where my friends live!
Another great gift to me was the witness of the Daughters of Divine Zeal. When I came to the boarding house I was studying a Masters of Theological Studies and also exploring a call to religious life. Now that my studies are complete I am about to begin a postulancy (on August 15th, 2012) with the Sisters of the Immaculata – a new Australian congregation. My time at MNSH allowed me to witness the beauty of faithful religious women living out the charism of their congregation with a spirit of generosity and prayer. I give thanks to God for this experience, which I know will help me as I embark upon a period of deeper discernment. Also learning about and becoming devoted to St Annibale Maria di Francia and Madre Nazarena Majone has inspired me and given me courage for the future. I would like to thank the congregation of the Daughters of Divine Zeal for their constant prayer for vocations – which I learnt while staying at MNSH – “Send O Lord, holy apostles into Your Church”. May this beautifully simple prayer resound in the Church.
Simone N Smith