CFR Sister Postulants - 2011
Hi! My name is Christina Frances Lynas. I am 27 years old and the youngest of the four girls in my family. I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, in a loving Catholic family. We prayed together and went to Holy Mass every Sunday, and often midweek as well. From a young age I had a strong faith in God, which I see now as a great gift. I don't think there has been any point in my life when I have doubted His presence.
As I grew up I continued to pray and attend church, and my faith was strengthened through pilgrimages with my mum. However, although I believed, I realize now that I didn't really allow God to influence the way I lived my life. In high school and college I was drawn into the ways of the world and, without really being aware of it, I started to make poor decisions which gradually took me away from God. I was very image-conscious and got into the clubbing scene. After graduating from college I worked as an elementary school teacher, which I loved, but I still didn’t feel fulfilled in my life. Not realizing that Jesus was the missing piece, I went from one serious relationship to the next, and as these failed, I would just party more.
At this time in my life my eldest sister, Nicky, was living at Craig Lodge, which is a retreat center in the Highlands of Scotland. She, I think, could see that my life was going in the wrong direction and was praying a lot for me. Nicky tried to get me to visit her, but I was reluctant. Eventually her birthday came around, and through some emotional blackmail I ended up at Craig Lodge for a long weekend. It was Easter weekend, and there was a youth retreat going on, similar to a Youth 2000 retreat. I felt SO out of place! But as the weekend went on, I entered into the retreat more and more, and on Good Friday I received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I had been to confession every so often throughout the years, but this was different. Through the talks, I had discovered that God wanted to give me love in a way the world can't, but to receive this I had to change. For the first time in a long time I wanted to change, and I was ready to let His grace change me. And change me it did!
After this retreat I started putting God first in my life. My prayer life increased, and I built up friendships with other active Catholics. After a while, I gave up my job and moved to Craig Lodge as a volunteer. This gave me time to grow in my faith and discern God's will, I discovered that He had a plan for my life, more beautiful than any I could ever come up with, and so Ibegan to give my will over to Him. During this time I met many different religious. I was struck by their joy and recognized the beauty of the religious vocation. I visited the CFR's for the first time in 2008, and although I loved my time with them, I felt God wasn't calling me to join them at that time. After this I started dating, and for the first time experienced the richness of a "Catholic Relationship". We were praying together and encouraging each other along the path to holiness. I think that the Lord used this time to show me the fullness of the married vocation, so that I could choose Him more freely. After this relationship ended, I was very confused about my vocation and spoke with Sr. Francis, the vocations director for the CFR Sisters. She gave me wonderful advice. She said to me "Just sit with the Lord and give Him time." This is what I did. I stopped worrying about what my vocation was and lived in the present moment, going to adoration every day and trusting that God would lead me. Four months later I went on a four day silent retreat. One day, when I was in adoration, I felt God showing me the path He had brought me down: how He had been healing me and molding me. Then He asked me... "Now will you be mine?" I was filled with joy. As soon as the retreat was over, Icalled Sr. Francis to arrange another visit to New York. The Lord confirmed this call in many different and beautiful ways, and I entered the convent in October 2010. Praise the Lord!
My name is Maria Byars, I am 29 years old, and from Scotland- I am so grateful to God for His call to religious life, and also amazed at how He managed to get my attention, as I had many other plans for my life.
I am very blessed to have been brought up in a large family that has strong faith. One of the things in my life which I am most grateful for is the love which my parents gave to each of us and encouraged us to show to each other. I had a very happy and magical childhood, and God was close to us. Later on, as I became aware of great suffering and injustice in the world, and as these things began to deeply affect me, I became confused about the meaning of life and the nature of God. I think that from the age of nine onwards, I asked every question it was possible to ask about suffering, God, the Church... and while the questions multiplied, the answers were distant. Interiorly, at university, I found myself doubting and then disbelieving the existence of God. Increasingly I turned to the world for answers that were clever and that allowed me to excuse what I wanted to in myself, and even though I didn't know myself and my problems properly, I wanted to focus on "changing the world". Although at the time I did not share this fact with many people in my life, for a while I despaired of ever making God a part of my life again. He seemed entirely chased out of the world and irrelevant to the world's problems, even if He did exist. Eventually in the depths of my heart, I became aware of a profound darkness and an absence of real answers and genuine truth in my life. There was an ache in my soul that nothing could alleviate: no amount of study, achievement, relationships, friends, travel. Everything good seemed to emphasize the fact that fulfillment was elusive, even when I had better things in my life than I had ever dreamed of having.
I thought that I was really engaging with God and giving Him a fair chance by firing questions at Him - and although these questions are all necessary to ask, I left Him no space to answer any of them. I was trying to establish a relationship with God by telling Him what I thought He was, and then attempting to have a conversation with this self-invented God, which couldn’t reveal anything to me that I didn’t already know. Towards the end of university, I truly rediscovered Jesus - He broke into my life in many surprising ways, andit was as though I saw Him for the first time. Everything about Him was an answer to my questions, especially about suffering. If Jesus really was God, and if He came from heaven to share the troubles and darkness we go through, and if He suffered to the point of death, and the resurrection followed, and if our redemption was really true, then there was a clear answer about who God is - and what His attitude is towards us and our struggles. I started to really fall in love with Him then.
I began to see the Church in a new light and in a burst of enthusiasm when I was 21. I even briefly considered religious life. That idea didn't last long, but it did bear fruit in a deeper search for God after graduating from university. This led me to Craig Lodge, a lay community in the highlands of Scotland. Again, I was deeply blessed by the love and acceptance of the community there. I still had many questions, and it was becoming clear that they would only be answered if I gave God space to answer them; so a few years of restructuring the focus of my life began. Many beautiful (and sometimes difficult) things happened, which brought me closer to God. As my desire had always been to work with the poor, God also used this to draw me closer to Him. I was privileged to work for Mary's Meals, an organization that provides food in schools in the developing world, for children who are the poorest of the poor, to help them gain an education. At a certain stage, I thought that I had it all ... more peace in my heart, a rich community and family life, a job which I loved, many interests and happiness in life in general. The only thing that was missing, as far as I was concerned, was a wonderful man who would complete my life. I had visions of a perfect life in the highlands where I would have a beautiful family of my own - but the years were gradually passing by, and I didn’t find anyone who seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.
I was getting very frustrated with myself and with God, and eventually it became almost the sole focus of my prayers, "Why can’t I find someone just like you. Jesus?" I would say this over and over, with anguish. Probably about the thousandth time I prayed this, it eventually dawned on me that I was really looking for Jesus Himself, and that He had been waiting a long time for me to realize this. It took me a while to process what this meant, and to be open to what its fulfillment would require of me. No relationship was ever going to be perfect enough for me, because within my soul I knew that I was longing for God. However, I was also in the dark about what religious life meant. There are now few religions sisters in Scotland, so it was not immediately evident to me what God was calling me to, and I swayed between attraction to God and not being drawn to what I thought religious life was. Due to lack of contact with religious sisters (especially young sisters), I had many grim illusions about what religions life would be! Thankfully, one of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal came to visit Craig Lodge and was a powerful witness to me of the Franciscan calling.
I came to visit the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in New York a few years ago, and found them living the life of Jesus in the gospels: joy-filled, loving, humble, poor, chaste, obedient to the will of God. Ithink all my remaining questions about God were answered wordlessly. Suddenly it was as though there were no more obstacles between me and the One my soul yearned for, because I could see what it was to live a calling to be solely focused on Him, and to serve the poor through Him. It was clear that everything that is beautiful and fulfilling and just and true emanates from Him and His love; and with enormous freedom. He had allowed me to question so much, so that I could see how fully He is the answer. I am deeply grateful to the CFRs for their fidelity to God and full embrace of the life of Christ. With great joy, I ask you to please pray that I may learn how to answer this call every day, with wholehearted love to the One who has loved me first.
"The world needs radical people to show their radical love for Christ." When I heard those words during a homily at Mass one day, I felt in my heart that Jesus was asking me to give myself to Him in a way I had never done before. He was asking me to love Him in a very unique way, and I was ready for the challenge; but I had no idea what that was supposed to look like or how I could live that out in a practical way.
I was raised Methodist and knew of God from the time I was young. When I graduated from high school Ispent a year in Germany before going to college. It was after I returned from my year abroad that I realized I needed God, not on the outskirts of my life, but in the center of it. As I began college I started looking at different churches, and I began going to an Episcopal church because I wanted to receive communion on a weekly basis. From an early age I remember always having a longing to receive communion; and God slowly began to use that to draw me to His Church, where I would be able to receive the fullness of Himself in communion, through the Eucharist.
After my first year of college, I began to think more about the Catholic Church. I had read a little about the Church, but I didn't know any Catholics I could ask questions to about the faith. So, I decided that the best thing to do would be to go to Mass and experience it for myself. I googled "Catholic Church in Lincoln, NE" (where I was living at the time), found the local student parish attached to the major university in town, and showed up for the next Sunday Mass, Ihad no idea what was going on or when to sit/stand/kneel, but I knew I was home. A few weeks later I called the church and said that I wanted to be Catholic. One thing lead to another; I went through RCIA, and I entered the Church on April 15, 2006.
Now that I was Catholic, I wanted to be an intense and authentic Catholic, so I figured I had to be a missionary in Africa. So, a month after I joined the Church, Iwent to Africa, where I spent seven months working in a refugee camp, studying, and interning. It was a great experience, but when I returned home, I didn't think I was called to be a missionary.
So, if I wasn't going to be a missionary, I figured another intensely authentic Catholic thing to do was to become a nun. I had gotten to know a local Order of Sisters and fell really drawn to their community. Since I had been Catholic less than a year and wasn't ready to enter the convent, they offered to let me live with them for the summer, to continue to discern, and to experience prayer and community life. Shortly after I graduated from college in 2007, I moved in with them for the summer.
After the summer was over, I moved in with a family who graciously opened their home to me so I could continue to discern a call to religious life. It was there that I experienced the beauty of an authentic Catholic family - they had six kids and were devoutly Catholic. I could see how living the married vocation could be intense, authentic, and very rewarding. So I decided this was what I wanted: to get married, have a dozen kids, and be an intense, authentic, Catholic mom.
So I got a job that paid well, bought a house, and became active in my new parish. After a time of living a very stable, productive, successful life, something was still missing. It was only then that I began to ask God, "What do you want me to do with my life?" I began to pray more, and I truly wanted to be open to whatever answer He would give me. I was done telling Him what I thought I had to do to be intensely and authentically His; it was now time for Him to tell me.
When I stopped talking and began listening, I could hear Him say that He wanted me to be His - not through missionary work in Africa or through a spouse here on earth - but to be His, totally and completely, through consecrated life. When the Lord tells you something like that, you can't just ignore Him, so I started visiting religious communities. I visited the CFR Sisters early in 2010, and entered in September 2010. Since entering the convent each day has been an adventure and a blessing. It has finally become clear to me what that priest meant when he said. "This world needs radical people to show their radical love for Christ." For me, that radical love consists in giving myself entirely to Him and receiving, in return, true joy, fulfillment, and peace in Christ.