Faith has always been an important part of my life. I am originally from England, and as a child attended Mass every Sunday and enjoyed being involved in various church activities. I came to know Jesus in a deeper and more personal way, though, when Pope Benedict came to England in 2010. This is when I learned about the true presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and had my first experience of Eucharistic Adoration. It was also at this event that I first encountered the CFR Sisters and met other young Catholics who were enthusiastic and serious about their faith. The CFR Sisters were the first sisters I had met who were young, and I was really struck by their joy and their love for Jesus and those around them.
After the Pope’s visit to England I became a lot more involved with activities in the Church and started attending various retreats (e.g. Youth 2000), groups for young adults and prayer groups. I gradually got to know the CFR Sisters through attending these various events, and I really felt drawn to them whenever I saw them. They always made me feel loved and brought a sense of joy and peace to whatever situation they were in.
I do not remember an exact moment when I felt God calling me to the religious life; it was more of a gradual realization that I wanted to be like the Sisters and that their way of life might be what God wanted for my life too. However, I was quite reluctant to accept this idea at first and tried to push it out of my mind. The idea kept coming up in my prayer life though and in conversations with people and one person even said to me: “Never ignore that little voice inside of you; there is no excuse for ignoring that voice, it’s the voice of the Holy Spirit.” So it gradually became clearer to me that I should consider religious life more seriously but I wasn’t really sure what to do about it or who to speak to so I just prayed and hoped that God would guide the way.
Time passed, and I continued thinking about my vocation and attending various Catholic youth events. One of these was a World Youth Day @ Home event to celebrate the World Youth Day taking place in Rio. I went with a group from a local Catholic University and their chaplain, who happened to be the Vocations Director in my diocese. The people in the group were lovely, and what struck me was that they were all discussing and contemplating whether to pursue a religious vocation. Some were even enthusiastic about the thought of religious life, which was surprising to me! It encouraged me and reassured me that I was not crazy. There were other people my age thinking along similar lines, and this was something I could be happy about. While I was at the festival, the priest we had gone with asked me directly whether I had ever considered a religious vocation. It was such a relief to be able to talk to someone openly about what I was thinking and feeling. The priest gave me good advice and support, but I was still reluctant to take any actual steps.
A while later, I went with a group from my Diocese to World Youth Day in Krakow. I was happy when I found out that some of the CFR Sisters were coming with us. While we were there I loved spending time with them and getting to know them better – there was a lot of laughter! One evening, I ended up having dinner with one of the Sisters, and she asked me if I had ever considered religious life. This was the first time I had actually spoken to one of the CFR Sisters about my thoughts. She was very supportive and encouraged me to find a spiritual director. After returning home, I found one, and although it took me several months, I finally decided I needed to take a step and actually do something about my vocation instead of just think about it. I resolved that the next time I saw the Sisters I would talk to them more formally about what to do to take the next step. Before I got a chance to speak to them though, I received a letter from the Sisters inviting me to a vocations day at their convent in Leeds. It came at the perfect moment, and it felt like God had been waiting for me to make that decision. I enjoyed the vocations day. I related to the Sisters’ vocation stories and loved spending time with them. Following this day, I had the opportunity to speak to Mother Clare on the phone about what might be the next step for me, and after some discussion, she invited me to New York for a Come and See.
It was scary getting on the plane to New York by myself, but visiting the community was a wonderful experience. The sisters were welcoming and made me feel at home. It was good to hear them share about their vocation stories and what led them to want to join the community. I loved meeting the people the Sisters work with and having the opportunity to help serve in their soup kitchen and visit a local nursing home. I was moved by their beautiful prayer life and enjoyed learning more about the CFR charism. The thing that stood out to me the most was the Sisters’ care about the details in serving others. They did everything with great love, ensuring that they maintained the dignity and respect for every person they worked with. I visited the community twice before I applied, and on both occasions felt that this is where God was calling me. I felt I had found my home. By God’s grace, I finally entered on September, 29th 2019.