Did you know that last year, three Sisters from Verbum Dei USA celebrated their 25 years Jubilee of Perpetual vows?
Ellen Hess, who lives at the Seeds of Life Spirituality Center, Tracy; Terri Malave who lives in San Francisco; and Milagros Chaparro who lives in Chicago.
Some people have asked me, how do you feel after 25 years of perpetual vows as a missionary sister? How was that moment of fully committing yourself?
I always tell them the same answer; that the moment of my commitment was when I answered God’s call to follow him and to enter the “formation course” which is the Verbum Dei name for our novitiate, some 32 years ago, in September of 1987 in the mountains of Siete Aguas, Spain.
I was invited to a contemplative/active experience with other German students where we shared one of the small houses in Siete Aguas with one German sister of Verbum Dei. During that time, I became more and more aware of the overwhelming presence of Jesus and his call to live in solidarity with his people by answering his need for healing and empowerment in this world. I had never before considered becoming a religious, it just did not cross my mind and was therefore too surprised by this calling to allow it to fully surface in my heard and mind. But Jesus persevered and reminded me of his call in all sorts of moments until I finally gave in and surrendered.
Since I struggled so much with allowing his call to dedicate my life exclusively to him and this mission of empowering others through a process of discipleship, that when I said yes, I just knew that this would be the most deciding and life changing decision of my life. It seemed crazy at the time, to enter a novitiate in Spain without even knowing the language but my previous language studies of French and English gave me a base to overcome the language barrier within a few month.
Everything that followed after, like having to learn Spanish and having to learn how to live in community with sisters from different cultures, people who were very different from me with my rebellious, german idealistic way of being, formation course, first vows, second vows as well as perpetual vows was challenging but possible because of that first decision and fundamental option and grace. It became my anchor, my security and holding point.I often doubted my capacity, for mission, for community life, for obedience….but never his calling nor God’s grace which has accompanied me throughout the years and has given me joy and challenges, struggles and lights and especially a meaning and a direction for which I am eternally grateful.
If I had the chance to repeat parts of my life again I would without doubt, including all the struggles, because everything is worth it!
What have all these years of consecrated life been?
A constant discovery of God’s faithfulness; this is the boat in which I navigate in life and which I hope to remain in to continue my journey till I am called to God’s presence, face to face.
My journey began way long ago, but its beginning is vivid in my heart. I have so much gratitude to God’s ways that are so much greater than mine and that continue to mold me into a missionary to the service of God’s people.
I share a poem that was gifted to all of us at the time of our final vows, written by a Verbum Dei missionary from Spain, Maribel Pereda, which I found recently among mementos from past years…such a beautiful summary of consecrated life… a life given in God’s love for the world…
So much Love, reserved for this hour,
Yours and mine in an overflowing Eucharist
Pouring itself over history, a people, and the future
So that they bloom in peace and Life…
You loved so much, Lord!
And because You loved so much,
You flooded in love creation, time, and song…
Your love is the high tide on the shore of my passage
And your Life, Lord Jesus, is bread and wine within our reach.
Together with You, in thanksgiving,
you make us generous gift, extensive, irrevocable
Bread and wine flavor of God
That tastes of our clay and Life Eternal…