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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"Cloistered nuns would welcome new vocations with open arms"

From the Times of Malta

by Claudia Calleja

As a young girl, Mother Superior Marija Tiralongo laughed at the idea of becoming a nun let alone a cloister nun but, almost six decades after setting foot in the monastery, she now cannot imagine any other way of life.

"If I were re-born I would do it all over again and join the same monastery... except that I would join younger," she smiles as she recalls the experiences that led her to join the Monastery of Santa Skolastika in Vittoriosa that has been her home for the past 58 years.

She is now the mother superior, or badessa as they call her, of the monastery that hosts 15 Benedictine nuns - aged between 36 and 80 - who dedicate their time to working and praying for the people in the outside world.

The nuns, who will be celebrating the feast of St Benedict on Friday, would love to welcome new additions to their monastery and are encouraging any girls or women who think they may have the vocation to contact them to learn more about their way of life.

Sr Marija explained that their day starts at 4.30 a.m. with the morning prayer session followed by Mass at 7 a.m. They continue their day with a series of timed prayer sessions, chores, recreational time and silent-hours until they retire back into their rooms at about 9.30 p.m.

Travelling back to her younger days, Sr Marija said that, as a bubbly young girl, she never considered becoming a nun. But, when her father passed away, she opened her eyes to the world's hardships and started hearing God's call.

She initially ignored the call and continued living life as a typical young lady who loved setting her hair and wearing jewellery and fashionable clothes. Various young men showed interest in her but she always found an excuse to turn them down. "I would say that one had big ears, another would walk in a funny way," she laughed as she added: "God was already keeping me aside and saving me for himself."

One day she went to Mass and the priest spoke about giving oneself to God. That homily marked a turning point in her life. She knew she was destined to become a nun and when she went home she removed all her jewellery and gave it to her younger sister. She immediately started on the path to her vocation and decided to be a cloister nun.

"Once I was going to give myself to God, I wanted to give myself to Him entirely," she said.

She was consecrated at the age of 20 and has never once regretted her decision since. Initially, leaving her family behind was tough but God helped her through it, she said.

Sr Marija then noted that some people questioned why they remained locked behind four walls rather than going out to help people in need. "We are not here for ourselves. We are here to pray for the people outside... The world needs prayer," she said with conviction.

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