From The Record
By Anthony Barich
PHOTO: The Sisters embrace each other for the Sign of Peace during their Profession Mass after being crowned with Christ’s crown of thorns during their Profession Mass, symbolising being the eternal spouse of Christ. Photo: Monica Defendi
THREE Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculata made their final Solemn Profession on 22 February to live a life of sacrifice in poverty, chastity and obedience, with a unique extra vow of unlimited consecration to Mary, who is ‘The Immaculate’.
Srs Maria Regina, 41, Maria Jacinta, 30 (Philippines) and Nigerian Maria Teresina, 34, made their final Solemn Profession before Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton and their Order’s co-founder Fr Gabriel Pellettieri on the feast of the Chair of St Peter.
Sr Marie Antoniette, 33, also Filipino, renewed her vows the same day.
Despite having a deep relationship with Jesus since childhood – “when I was alone, I was not lonely” – Sr Maria Regina never imagined she would be a nun. It all changed when the calling she had resisted for so long became so strong she could no longer concentrate on her work in human resources at the Daily News, Cebu’s major daily newspaper in the Philippines.
When she was 33 – “the same age Jesus died that I might live, the birth of my Religious life” – she entered the Immaculata.
“I resisted as I was very attached to a job I loved, I had a loving family I didn’t want to leave, but it was like a force within me. I felt restless with a deep longing and only if I responded to it would I be at peace,” she told The Record last week.
At the time she had no idea what Religious life was like, she just knew it was serving God. A year of aspirancy and postulancy in Manila followed, then a one-year novitiate before she made her temporary Profession, when she was sent to Italy to complete her studies, before arriving at the Sisters’ St Joseph Convent in Marangaroo last year, located adjacent to an aged care centre.
“I’m very happy I’ve found my home. It really is my calling – what God wants of me. It’s like a treasure I’ve found. It keeps the peace in your heart when you just trust God,” she said.
“In the Religious life, we are privileged, because through the mouth of our Superior comes the will of God. They are God’s representatives. For us Franciscans of the Immaculata, we know this is also the will of Mary, as her will is so conformed to God’s will.”
The Sisters rise at 4.45am for prayer until breakfast at 8am, then they prepare for 9.30am Mass and bring the people from the nursing home to Mass as well.
The Sisters are then on a rotation between chores in their convent and their apostolate of pastoral care in the nursing home before and after lunch at 12.45pm.
Their daily siesta from 2-3pm is preceded by adoration before the Blessed Sacrament twice a week, followed by Vespers; some pray the Rosary while others simultaneously do their apostolate.
The nuns aim to pray at least the four Mysteries of the Rosary daily – Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious – but Sr Maria Regina said they pray as many as they possibly can, even during chores, as “the more Rosaries you pray, the more souls you get into Heaven”.
While she says Religious life is “beautiful”, it is “not the absence of crosses”. They become easier when they carry their cross with Jesus and Mary.
“Religious life is a life of sacrifice, a life of reparation – we follow in the footsteps of St Francis who loved poverty and followed in the steps of Jesus in His poverty and humility,” she said.
It is a life of mortification and penance, but “when you do it for the love of God, knowing you can save many souls, not only your own but others’, and for the conversion of sinners, then it’s worth doing”, she said.
This way of bearing daily crosses for the sake of the Kingdom is not unique to Religious life, she said – it applies to married life too, so long as Jesus is put at the centre of one’s life, “with Mary as queen of the home”.
“The frame of mind (in Religious life) is obedience. When you’re in the world, you do what you want to do, but in Religious life you follow the will of Another; you give up your will for the love of God – which is probably the hardest thing for many,” she said.
Living by Providence, she said, is accepting what you’re given, including food – unless there’s a serious medial reason not to. The point is, they own nothing; everything, including their habits, are given for their use.
There are at least three Australian-born nuns with the Immaculata, plus one aspirant from Sydney. “Hopefully there will be more,” Sr Maria Regina said.
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