My Vocation Story
Sr. Theresa Kaetkaew Punnachet (Thailand)
“I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8
Sr. Elisabeth Situngkir (Indonesia)
“For me to live is Christ.”
The letter of St. Paul to the Philippians became an inspiration for Sr. Theresa not to look back on what she has left behind in order to pursue her desire to follow Jesus through the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres (SPC). Gifted with a joyful spirit, she counts everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ
Sr. Theresa was attracted to the charism of charity of the Sisters of St. Paul in Thailand where she had her basic education. Her desire to become a religious SPC started when she was in grade school. However, the sister who knew her desire to become a nun, advised her to continue to pray for her religious vocation as she continues her studies. After she finished her Bachelor’s degree in Assumption University in Thailand, she went to London to pursue her Masteral and Doctoral degrees.
In London, she stayed in the dormitory run by the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres. It was here that the seed of religious vocation flourished when she saw the simplicity of life of the Sisters. After finishing her studies, she became very active in research studies in Catholic Education in the University of London, her alma mater, working as a Research Associate. Later on she worked as an Administrator at the Centre for Research and Development in Catholic Education (CRDCE), Institute of Education in the university.
She also joined several pilgrimages during summer breaks and vacations from work and explored the world. While in London, she had many opportunities to do or achieve anything she wanted. However, it was during this time of overwhelming gratitude she felt from God that she ‘heard’ the call again. This time the “call” she heard in her heart was much stronger than when she heard it when she was in grade school in Thailand. Finally, she decided to join the SPC Congregation as it also fits her desire to serve Christ in the education ministry.
She went back home to Thailand, visited her old school and met her sister-teachers again, reminiscing her good old days with them. The Sisters saw that she was ready and welcomed her with joy.
“For me to live is Christ” is the scriptural text that I chose when I pronounced my vows in 2008, and until now this exhortation of St. Paul continues to inspire me in carrying out my call to follow Christ.
With the passage of time, I always get the strength by reflecting on this text. I have realized how much Jesus has given Himself as a sacrifice for us all and for me personally. The experience of Paul in following Jesus inspires me to follow Jesus devotedly. Jesus was always ‘walking’ with Paul and I believe that Jesus would do the same with me.
The desire to become a sister had always been in my heart since I was a child. But the decision to become a religious and join the SPC Congregation happened only after working for 3 years in the industry.
My response to follow Jesus happened gradually. I was an active member in our parish and has participated all its activities. A holy priest one day, gave me a book entitled, “Following the Footsteps of Jesus Christ.” He told me to read it. And so every night before I go to sleep, I would read it leisurely and spend some time thinking about it. I was so inspired to meditate the different guidelines written in that book and was drawn more and more to God. then, the feeling of wanting to be with God became stronger and finally, I understood in my heart that God was calling me to follow him.
There were many congregations to choose from and options to follow for my career. But everytime I participated the adoration prayer service of the Sisters of St. Paul, I was drawn more and more to pray and got interested to know their way of life.
After this experience, I decided to join them, (Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres), to follow Jesus.
Sr. Elisabeth is from Indonesia. Being an architect, she was busy building churches and convents back in Indonesia when she heard the call of God to follow him.
Sr. Olga de Araujo Oliveira (East Timor)
“And the king will answer them, Truly I say to you, whenever you have done these things to one of the least of my brothers, you have done them to me.” Matthew 25:40
Sr. Marie Josephine Tran (Hong Kong)
“You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name.” (John 15:16)
This biblical text is very meaningful for Sister Olga. She gives credit to her mother for showing her how to live out this biblical passage.
Coming from a very Catholic background, her mother was always generous to share the food to the hungry and would tell her that, “Whatever we do to others, we do it to Jesus.” As a child this text never fails to touch her heart. Her mother always reminds her that the more we give the more we receive,” which she herself experienced in her life.
Sr. Olga is from East Timor. When she was in the Primary School, she tried imitating the good example
of her mother’s generosity in sharing what she has to her friends and neighbors. She felt that her vocation started when she met the sister who gave recollection to them when she was in grade four. She asked the sister so many questions about God and afterwards she said to herself that she also wants to become like this sister.
During her senior year in High School, she remembered the face of the sister who inspired her so much to attend the Mass daily, participate in the parish activities, join the parish choir and a religious organization that goes around the house in their neighborhood to pray the rosary. In all of these, she kept to her heart her growing attraction to the religious life.
After her high school graduation, her uncle who noticed her extraordinary piety asked her if she wanted to become a religious? Before she knew it, her parents accompanied her to Railaco to meet the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres. The sisters encouraged and guided her to discover more of her religious vocation as she pursued her studies. Her desire to become a religious was further confirmed when she had a serious motorcycle accident and was completely healed through the intercession of the Our Lady of Lourdes.
Sr. Olga gives thanks to God for all the graces that she has received especially for calling him to a life of consecration.
God’s love is greater than human imagination. Reminiscences of my vocation are abundant graces along this Mercy-filled journey. I was called into being by God and I am precious in his sight.
The seed of my vocation began to sprout when I joined a choir group in my parish in Vietnam which was taken care of by SPC sisters. The seed grew more and more when I finished high school. But I tried to turn a deaf ear to the little whisper of God which stirred this unsettling ‘’something’’ in my heart. In my mind, I would go to university, preparing for my future. But God just had different plans for me.
Meanwhile, I continued with my study. I had tried being in control, doing this, living that, choosing this, leaving that – but there was still this gap, and it seemed to be getting bigger and less easy to ignore. I felt unhappy and realised there was something missing. I did not know what it was but felt that it would have something to do with God. I learned that my friends’ lives are great, but I need to sort mine out. I started praying and asked what God was calling me for. When I first started thinking about religious life, it all seemed so scary and so ‘not-me’.
One day, the Sister suddenly asked me: “Would you like to join the vocation week in my Congregation?” I was scared and just kept silent till another Sister said “She wouldn’t…”, and I immediately answered “Yes, I would…”. It was exciting, crazy, frightening, incredible, all at the same time. I knew that God was forming me to say ‘Yes’. I felt unable to bargain with God any longer. I heard myself say” not my will, but Your will be done”. I really surrendered to Him and my consecrated life has begun. I felt completely at peace.
The Holy Spirit and the love of God are truly working upon me. Nearly 11 years has passed since the date I entered the Convent. And God is with me always, whenever I go and in whatever I do. Without Him I can do nothing, even becoming a nun. I have no regrets to say “Yes” at the beginning and I am still very grateful to God for calling me to this unique lifestyle. My journey is not exempted from doubt, fear and disappointment. Yet there are also times of happiness, joy and fulfilment. I discovered some very beautiful things inside me, and realised that I still have a lot to learn.
Every day is full of grace. I realize that I’ve received God’s love much more than I could ever count in my life. And I’ve also realized that I, in turn, have to show His love to others in the same ways as God has done for me. I then also am receptive to the experience of God’s transforming mercy for me, so that I can have a big heart to welcome all the people whom I meet.
Long may my journey continue and may God keep me in His mercy forever.
Sr. Donna Lyn Morta (Philipppines)
Look at the birds in the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Mt 6:26
Peace be with you! I am Sr. Donnalynn Marie Morta, SPC, a former Full-time Pastoral Worker for CFC (Couples for Christ) – Youth for Christ. By God’s grace, I am now a Junior Professed Sister in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres. But back then I was simply called Waki.
If there is one thing I know about vocation, that is no amount of vocation promotion could make you enter the religious life if you are not called by God because if you are then God will surely make things happen.
I remember, being a Sister is one of my “what do you want to be when you grow up” answers – one of plenty. But there is one big problem, more than I was just in grade 2 then, I didn’t know any Sister – not in the neighborhood, not in school and definitely not in our family. But I was sure, somehow, I was so sure that when I was often teased that one day, I’ll be a Sister I would always have this simple answer “okay” but with a smile in my heart as if saying “I’d love to”. I opted to use my time in serving the Lord in ways that I could until one day I found out that my parents joined Couples for Christ (CFC) and later on became coordinators for CFC – Kids for Christ.
To make the long story short, we became part of the family ministries. Fast forward to my college days, still no sign from the Lord that He is calling me to the religious life. I started to wonder, maybe I’m waiting for something that will not come so I opted to open myself up to the possibility of having relationships. That was also the time that I sensed from the Lord that if I was not called to the religious life maybe I could give my life fully as a Full-time Pastoral Worker for CFC – Youth for Christ. It was not such a bad idea for me, well at least for me. It was a different story for my family. But deciding on that after 2 years of working in the corporate world, I witnessed the faithfulness of the Lord in stretching the love of my family for me.
It was for sure a high moment in my life, those 4 years that I spent as a Full-time Pastoral Worker for CFC – Youth for Christ. I even had an opportunity to study MA in Theology in San Carlos Seminary. Little did I know that that would spark something in me – something that felt very familiar. It was also the time that our YFC (Youth for Christ) IC (International Coordinator) back then: Kuya Lawrence Quintero, told us Full-time Pastoral Workers to find a place, to have a personal retreat. An angel was sent to me, an angel by the name of Ate Mabelle Dimayuga, asked: “Why not go for a search-in?” To tell you honestly, I didn’t know what a search-in was back then but thanks to technology I went from one convent to another trying to find the answer, the calling that I was looking for but somehow, I could not find it.
Fast forward, it was November 2015, we just had our NYD (National Youth Day), lo and behold our culminating night was in St. Paul University Philippines where I encountered the SPC Sisters. It felt like a tickle in my heart, the Lord teasing me as if there is something good that I about to happen. In the prayer time just before going home, the Lord answered me in a very odd but a very certain way. He told me ” I’ve been trying to make you enter but it was you who was not yet ready.” It shocked me. I was not ready. I was asking for it but when it came, I felt as though really, I was not ready. It startled me. But I got my phone. I contacted the Vocation Directress in SPC, Sr. Mari Jonna,
I was scheduled for an entrance exam on Dec. 8-10, 2015. Thanks be to God; it was an affirmation that the 1st day of my exam was the opening of the Door of Mercy in the Antipolo Cathedral. To me it felt that my yes was not mine, it was the Lord saying “yes, my child, it’s time.” And with that, may God be praised!