(Taken during a mime dance at HOPE Concert 2016: Jacinta (pre-novice) is first from the left, Fiona (SG novice), Teresa (Sabahan novice), Paula (Sabahan pre-novice))
In 2009, I was engaged and was making plans for my wedding. Travelling almost every school holiday as a teacher, a job that paid enough for my lifestyle. I was happy. Or so I thought. But inside me, I harboured a lot of bitterness and resentment from my accumulated brokenness over the years. And I made life quite miserable for many who crossed my path. Discernment was unknown to me.
June 2010 – I went with the St. Francis Xavier Youth Choir for a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, where I had a radical conversion. I experienced God again after 10 years of not praying daily. Tears flowed uncontrollably throughout our first Mass in a basement chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was as if God was peeling apart the thick and hardened layers around my heart so that His grace could be poured into it thereafter.
In those days, I was so filled with a peace I had never experienced before. I felt a non-replicable closeness with the saints as if they were physically behind me. Like how I would feel a presence if someone stood right behind me. Salvation history came alive in me; it was no longer just a biblical story about some people’s lives. Instead, I felt so deeply connected and rooted in it; my insignificant life is somehow inserted in its continuation.
I decided to find out what God wills for me before I entered marriage and regret for the rest of my life if that is not what He calls me to. So I returned, and with the providential help of Msgr Philip Heng, SJ, who briefly taught me the Ignatian discernment and journeyed with me, I arrived at the answer in two months. God was calling me to the religious life. So I broke the engagement, cancelled the wedding plans and settled the forfeitures incurred. God’s hand was evident in the entire process though it was not without pain.
Four years of searching for a congregation took me to different countries. I was finding answers to clarify my vocation, trying still to hold my life tightly in my hands. No answers came. I became disillusioned and even angry with God. I was anxious, ashamed and fearful of what others might think of me especially since I broke my engagement for religious life. After a discernment retreat, I decided to be a layperson; God was not calling me to the religious life anymore. That was quite a relief actually.
A few months later, I had a spiritual conversation with Sr. Elizabeth Lim, rgs for the first time. As soon as I walked into Oasis retreat house in Good Shepherd Place, I felt peace. From then, the desire grew in me to return to Good Shepherd Place. This time, being relaxed – without needing to squeeze out any answers from God or myself – I was more ready to live out the Ignatian Spirituality and the rules of discernment that I came to learn and love. I continued my daily life but watched more closely the inner movements in me – the growing desire and attraction towards the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS), which I could not understand or explain. After some time, when the desire did not fade away, I knew something was up. It was time to respond, so I contacted the congregation.
It has been more than two years since I moved in with the RGS as an aspirant and am now a pre-novice (a.k.a postulant). What drew me especially to this congregation is their charism of healing and reconciliation. I feel very strongly that my own experiences of God’s tremendous healing love, which continues to liberate me from the effects of my woundedness are the very gifts He is calling me to share with many others who are finding it hard to put together their life-pieces. I know that our compassionate and merciful Jesus wishes even more now to enter the lives of His beloved people through their cracks.
I savour and give thanks for the wonders God continues to do in my life. To be His instrument, I am constantly challenged against my own impurities. Each time, I am invited to cooperate with His grace to face my inner monsters, walk the process of forgiveness and healing, and grow into greater wholeness. In all these, He deepens my personal knowledge and love for Him. To the point where, in my last attempt to run away from this call, and Jesus even assured me it is okay if I left, that He would understand and love me all the same, I found myself, at last, saying to Him, “But it’s not okay to me; not okay that I give You anything less than my best.” By grace, I eventually gave in to this love and said “yes”, and I have not looked back. I have found my life’s purpose. To God be all praise and glory.