“I know that a vocation is a gift and God has given this gift to me and I will not pass this opportunity.”
Sr. Mary Isabel of the Angels Simply Professed. Corpus Christi Monastery Dominican Nuns, Menlo Park, California. MEFV Grant Recipient.
When I was about eight years old, out of the blue, in the afternoon, while playing by myself on the couch in the family room, I turned to my mother and said, “Mom, I want to be a nun.” My mom was shocked. She hit the roof and rebuked me, saying, “do not even think about that !” I was scared to see her reaction and since then I never mentioned the word “nun” again, but that memory never went away. I kept asking myself what was wrong with becoming a nun?
During my junior high school, I overheard my sister’s conversation with a classmate about a nun who was working at their school. Their impression about the nun was negative and the nun’s name was Sister Dominic. I remembered talking to myself that if I ever become a nun, I would not be a nun like that. In high school, I accompanied my friend to meet a sister and to talk about her desire to become a nun. I clearly remember the sister’s words to my friend that “her desire” could be just “an emotion.” I still remember my friend’s expression because she had a hard time describing her feelings or her desire. She was almost crying and I did not understand why the sister did not give encouragement but instead she was like pouring cold water on my friend’s burning desire. But for whatever reason, I thought to myself that if I become a nun, I would not discourage people like that.
After graduation from high school, the idea popped again in my mind. It was asking me, “Would you like to enter the monastery?” My reply was, “I will do it, Lord, after I have my degree so I can be useful for you.” After I received my degree in accounting, I still remembered the promise but I pushed aside the idea because I wanted to be a career woman, to enjoy the world, and to have another degree. I tried very hard to forget the attraction to become a religious by becoming busy with works, school and enjoyed friendship with people to whom God was not important. It worked temporarily until I moved from Indonesia to the United States at Christmas 1996.
I love churches in the United States. They are open all day long unlike my churches back home where they have to close the church right after Mass due to security reasons. Because of that, I started to go to church often, even just for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament during lunch. In 2004, I started going to St. Peter Chanel church in Hawaiian Gardens, California. I fell in love with that church because it has a very deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. One day, when I went to confession, the confessor asked me if I had ever consecrated my life to Jesus through Mary, and my response was that I had never done it. So, he helped me to make my first consecration on December 8, 2005. After consecration, he directed me to do the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and eventually he became my spiritual director.
The first time I did my meditation in the Ignatian spiritual exercises, all the desires and thoughts I had buried for so long were unearthed. It was like burying a can of oil in the deepest part of the ocean and the can was leaking. So, all the oil floated up the the water’s surface. It was scary because I could not believe that thought was still haunting me. However, this time, I yielded to the idea and I dedicated my Ignatian spiritual exercises to find out what state of life God wanted from me. If He wanted me to become a religious, so be it. This time, whatever He wants, I will give it to Him.
After I finished my Ignatian exercises, I went through a series of personal discernment retreats with my spiritual director. At the Christmas retreat in 2006, I decided after pondering for so long, to say “yes” to that attraction to the religious life. I knew from the beginning that I would have a lot of obstacles, especially opposition from my parents and financial difficulty. However, my reason to say “yes” was an act of faith that my life was in God’s hand and He could do anything if He wanted to. So, if He called me, He would provide the means to overcome the obstacles. If He did not call me, then I would have no problem to discern another state of life.
The next step was to find out what religious life is about. I knew nothing about it. Interestingly enough, I bumped into a program on EWTN late at night at the moment when I was complaining to God that I knew nothing about religious life. The program was called “Completely Christ’s — The Radical Call of the Consecrated Life” by Life Work. It was the answer to my questions.
The next step, I attended a one-day event called “7-11 Ministry Day” sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It was an awesome event, I was so happy that day to be surrounded with men and women who were on the same path trying to follow God’s call. Afterward, I did my research to find the right congregation through the internet and combed every single religious order until I discovered a cloistered Dominican order. The Dominican charism resonated into my heart and especially when I saw a Dominican nun praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the internet. It was like falling in love at first sight.
Every step of my discernment was like the biggest step in my life. So, after inquiring with a few Dominican convents, I landed at the Cloistered Dominicans at Menlo Park, CA. After my second visit, I knew that I would not look for another congregation. I love the Dominican charism and I love their community. So, after I went through a one-month aspirancy in October 2007 with them, I applied to become a postulant in January 2008 and was accepted on September 12, 2008.
I have been facing fierce opposition from my family since I informed them that I was going to spend a month for an aspirancy with the nuns. I have five siblings and only one of them is supporting me. The rest of them and my parents are strongly opposed to my vocation to the point that I had to move out of the house for the peace of my soul and my family. The opposition still remains and is getting harder now, especially since I told them that I am going to enter the monastery this summer at all costs. I know that a vocation is a gift and God has given this gift to me and I will not pass this opportunity. I know the situation is getting tougher every day, but I know deep down in my heart, my desire is to be with God and with God’s grace, I am going to follow Him. May God grant me a grace of perseverance and patience until I meet Him face to face in His Kingdom.