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

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