How it Began
My name is Laryn Kovalik and my journey is rooted in love. I did not know I could have a personal relationship with God until attending a retreat in college, when the conversation about God began in my life. The seeds of the Catholic faith that my parents sowed within me were ready to be watered. I was ready to explore who I was, who God might be, and who I might be to God, allowing these words from Isaiah to touch my heart:
“Do not be afraid, […] I am with you” (Is 43:5)
“I love you” and “you are mine” (Is 43: 4, 1)
I belonged to God! Praying the Our Father finally made sense! I was a child of God, and on this first retreat, I experienced simply but profoundly that God is love. My faith continued to germinate, and desiring to work for justice through the lens of my faith, I participated in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after college. Working as a full-time volunteer at a refugee resettlement agency, my heart was broken open by the poor and my desire to live within God’s inclusive heart grew deeper.
After graduate school, I moved to California to work as a medical artist. While walking home from Mass that first week, I was unexpectedly encountered by a young woman on a fluorescent green bicycle. She had attended the same service, and after welcoming me, she invited me to a prayer group at another woman’s house in San Francisco. Little did I know, this simple invitation was the beginning of my heart’s greatest adventure. When I arrived, I was confused. “Why does her house look like a church?” I thought as I rang the bell. “Hello!” a young woman said as she opened the door. “Where am I and who are you?” I said in my bewilderment. “Well, I’m Alyssa and I’m a Verbum Dei sister,” she said.
“A Verbum…what?” I blurted out. “Don’t worry! Not many people have heard of us before! Our community was only founded fifty years ago. You’ve come to our House of Prayer!” she said.
Prayer that first evening was simple-lectio divina, a form of prayer that engages the imagination through scripture. As an artist, I had fallen in love with this form of meditative prayer during my experience of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises for laypeople. During prayer that first evening, I felt like I had come home.
I continued returning to their House of Prayer, and while listening to one of the sisters give a talk, an unexpected desire swept across my heart: “I want to be their sister.” Not knowing where this came from, I quickly dismissed it as a ridiculous thought. But in prayer the next day, my heart burned. As I wondered which way the wildfire might spread, I acknowledged being uncontrollably drawn to the community week after week. I verbalized to God the hidden question arising from my depths, “Am I called to join the Verbum Dei community as a missionary?”
I thought I was called to the Bay Area to work as an artist. I felt so loved by God, but I was utterly confused.
That summer, I went on a trip to El Salvador with some of the sisters. We pondered the lives of the Salvadoran martyrs, the beauty of the Salvadoran people, and what it means to taste the Resurrection in the midst of suffering. While in the hospitalito, the chapel where Oscar Romero was martyred, an intense desire moved me to approach the altar. I felt a quiet invitation from within to remove my sandals for the place where I was standing was indeed holy ground. As I kneeled on the altar, forehead touching the place where life had been given and was still being poured out for God’s people, I thanked Romero for his love. I prayed for his intercession to help me live out my deepest identity and vocation, and I too placed my life on the altar before God.
Upon returning from El Salvador, I desired to walk my truth and intentionally explore the possibility of a vocation to religious life. I moved into Verbum Dei’s discernment house to live the question. I desire now to make my home in God’s Word and live Jesus’ invitation, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” (Jn 15:4)
Called to Serve
I dream to place my entire life into God’s hands because I have felt the pure fire of God’s call burning within me. When I moved to the Bay Area, my intention was to live as a medical artist. God, however, interrupted and redirected everything! Now, I desire to bring people into deeper wholeness by inviting them to rest in God’s loving gaze. I desire to put down my “medical artist nets” and offer myself to God and to God’s people.
I want to dedicate my life to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Jesus has captivated and conquered my heart, and I desire to be a missionary to help others dream with God of the possibilities of their lives.