On February 16, 2019, I experienced the most significant moment of my life. I made my first profession of vows as a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The weeks leading up to the profession date were filled with various emotions. The overall feelings were joy and excitement; I was so excited to be committing myself so publicly and concretely to God. I was looking forward to connecting and sharing the day with my family, with my sisters and with other special people in my life.
At the same time, there was nervousness in me regarding the day and what was to follow. I brought my feelings of nervousness and fear to my prayer and felt the call of Jesus simply to trust. “Have courage, it is I, do not be afraid” (Matt 14:27). I felt called and challenged to step out of myself and of my own insecurities. At the same time, I was faced with the reality of being unworthy and very limited. Looking just at myself, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fulfil the promises I would make on my own. But I was and remain firm in my belief that God gives me the daily strength I need to live this life, and all I am asked to do is to lean on God in trust.
The day of my profession felt surreal. I felt sort of like I was in a daze, but also that I was very excited to see my family. Great joy filled my heart when I walked to the church and saw them waiting for me there. As the time moved closer to the beginning of the Mass, I felt more and more nervous. Just before the Mass began, I found I really had to sit down and take some deep breaths. Until that moment, I had been more preoccupied with the smaller tasks of organising the ceremony. The gravity of what I was about to do simply hit me in that instant.
As the ceremony progressed, I found myself feeling more and more nervous, particularly at being the centre of attention. Perhaps the greatest moment occurred as I was called to stand and express my desire to make vows in my congregation. As I stood and began to walk towards the altar, I was filled with a great calm. I felt very clearly that Jesus was waiting for me at the altar, that he had been waiting for me for a long time, and that he was giving himself to me as I gave myself to him. His words to his disciples, “Make your home in me as I make mine in you” (John 15:4), have great meaning for me and were a significant part of my ceremony; in that moment, I felt as though Jesus was saying these words to me. It was an incredible moment, leaving me feeling peaceful and loved. After that experience, the rest of the ceremony – even saying my vows – was very simple. I felt a strength inside of me, and a deep peace.
I have held on to this peace since my vows, through the excitement of seeing my family and spending some holiday time with them, to my transfer to a new community and the beginning of my new ministry, and through the current abuse crisis facing the Catholic Church in Australia. This time of change, challenge and new beginnings has been chaotic and busy, but I want to simply cling to that peace which I felt given to me by Jesus. He is the calm centre in the midst of the storm.
Sr Mary Sophie Boffa CSFN
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