My vocation unfolded to me after I finished my high school studies. There was a called within me, rather an urge telling me to be a MISSIONARY. The scripture words that echoed within me were:
“I have called you by name, you are mine…” “I am with you always to the end of time.”
These words of prophet Isaiah and Jesus became my guiding star in my search for meaning in my life. There was not anything extraordinary- God who is the author of every life gradually led me to religious life, little by little unfolding the long journey. God’s call came to me in the context of my family life so let me share here something about my family.
We are an ordinary family, and God has blessed my parents generously with 11 children, among whom only one is a boy, the youngest of all and I am the eldest. We are a very devout Catholic family and God has been equally generous in calling to His service three of us- my parents responded with a large heart, three of us are religious in different Religious Institutes.
My parents gave us the best of education as well as brought us up in true Catholic spirit. Every Sunday night, we gather for the family prayer, which is an important family moment for us. My father instructs us, corrects before starting the prayer and teaches every one of us to take a turn in leading the family prayer. Even now, every Sunday evening I feel the effect of the prayer of my family members who support three of us on our journey of religious missionary life. This experience of family life had a lion’s share in shaping my vocation.
My vocation story can be told in three stages:
Revelation: I had my primary education in a Jesuit school, staying in the boarding, where also the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate were teaching. The desire to become a sister was a secret initially, not shared with anyone. Though the seed of missionary vocation had fallen in my heart, I did not understand it. The Sisters are zealous missionaries, endowed with a great spirit of sacrifice. Every evening they go on to visit the families and on Sundays to different villages, climbing the hills along a difficult path, walking for 2 to 3 hours. As a student, I and my other friends would join them on their journey to the villages. Not being the natives of the place, the sisters did not know the local language to communicate with the people, but they had the language of LOVE which broke down the barrier and the people welcome them with joy. Often, we the little ones were their interpreters. What impressed me the most in the sisters? Their simple lifestyle and genuine affection for each one to whom they was sent. Also, the Jesuit priest had a share in my vocation: with his simplicity and down to earth approach with the people, he laid a foundation to my spiritual journey. He was my advisor and later became my spiritual director.
I continued my high school studies with the Salesians Sisters. Our inner thoughts and aspirations seem to influence our way of life and they can be understood by those who are close to us. This is what happened in my case. The Sisters who taught me seemed to sense that God was calling me, but I remained cool at their comments and suggestions as if it had nothing to do with me. At the same time deep down in my heart, I felt confirmed in my call to religious life and there were gratitude and some of the relief. If they sensed that I was called to religious life, was God clarifying to me gradually what He wanted me to be in the future? Yes, later it became clear to me that the comments of those who knew me and loved me and read my secret thoughts revealed me the eternal call of God.
Persons close to me were helping me to read the signs of God’s call to be religious. I revealed my thoughts to my spiritual director who advised me to follow my dream of becoming a Sister. But I faced a big question: Where? Which congregation? Three Institutes appeared before me: The Salesians Sisters, Missionaries of Charity, and Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate. As I was discerning, I felt a strong feeling and desire to join the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate and the experience I had had with them long ago flashed back before my eyes. I was more and more attracted to their missionary spirit and simplicity of life. From then on it was clear to me that this is what I wanted to be a missionary sister like them.
Revolution: When the time came to say goodbye to family, relatives, and friends to respond to God’s call, it was not easy for me. I was afraid to tell my father about my dream. When I told him, he was quite shocked as he never expected me to be a nun one day. My mother said that I would never survive in the convent. But finally, my parents agreed to let me join the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate. Then, there was resistance within me. Many questions tormented within me: how can I give up the modern social life and give my life completely to the Lord? There were the fear and doubts which began creeping in my heart, “will I be able to commit my life to the Lord? Is this really the life I want to choose?” It was a real struggle to decide and say my “YES” to God. God has had much patience with me.
Resolution: After going through the stages of revelation and revolution, finally with the help of God I was enlightened that this was my vocation: to be a treasure in an earthen vessel, as St. Paul says and I must allow God to mould me by His hand. I took the final decision and joined the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate and started the various stages of formation and now I belong forever to the Lord.
Every day is a daily call to renew the “YES” I have uttered for all my life, and His eternal promise “ I am with you always…” is my daily source of strength, inspiration and joy in my everyday life of discipleship. I believe that God works through us all.
sr. Carmela Pamei – Hong-Kong – China