How many days left? 28 days, 12 hours, 7 minutes, and 2 seconds before first profession, that is, publicly professing the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience as a Daughter of St. Paul.
How did I get here?
No, this isn’t about me. My daily 'yes' to God's invitation is only a drop in the ocean of 'yes-es' uttered by every person who has lived to seek and follow God's will. In truth, only God knows completely how I got here.
The first time my heart felt that God might be calling me to religious life, I said, “You've got to be kidding! Me? Why me?” I could imagine Jesus looking at me as I expressed my amazement and confusion at this. He has been my best friend since I can remember. Like Peter, I have denied him many times. Yet, he always makes me feel loved. So I decided to give it some thought.
After some years of discernment I entered our Postulancy program here at the Daughters of St. Paul. I was excited and full of hope! For me, it was a new adventure! There was an outpouring of prayers and well wishes, love and support from family and friends. And I kept hearing, "I hope you persevere." Of course, I knew religious life wouldn't be easy.
And so it began, right before being admitted to Novitiate, my grandmother passed away. Someone’s death can sometimes feel like a tornado that wipes you out of everything in the blink of an eye. All the excitement and sense of adventure started to fade away. There was so much sadness, fear, insecurity, confusion, grief.... My grandmother always reminded us, her family, that our life is a gift from God that he freely gives and takes away… so we must hold on to the hope of heaven. And my sisters in community are a witness to this same hope. They chose this way of life so that humanity may find its way to heaven, to spend eternity in the loving embrace of God. But what about those who die each day without knowing God, who die alone, who die in the midst of war, or take their own life because it is unbearable? Somehow these questions weighed upon me and I felt pinned down, unable to get up. And little by little it felt like I was being stripped of all that I thought was dear to me.
"Do not be afraid. I am with you." Each day, I saw these words in our chapel and I was supposed to experience the presence of Jesus in my life through the Word and the Eucharist, but most days I just felt angry at God. I knew I was surrounded and held by the love and support of all of my sisters in community, yet there were days when I felt numb and I just wanted to be alone. Some, more than others had to put up with my mood-swings. They encouraged me to fix my eyes on Jesus, to share my gifts, to develop my strengths, to accept my limitations and to be patient with myself. They challenged me to change, to grow, to become more human. They forgave me more than 77 times even when I was too proud to apologize. In my weakness, God poured grace upon grace over me.
The day that I received news of my admittance to first profession was the second anniversary of the death of my grandmother. Ah! In heaven, she also walked with me all through my Novitiate journey! There was so much joy, so much peace and consolation that day. How can I express my gratitude to God for his daily invitation to unite myself to Jesus on the cross in order to live in his love? I turn to St. Paul's letter to the Philippians for words to express my thanksgiving, "For me to live is Christ." (cf. Philippians 1:21)
On August 30, I will profess the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience as a Daughter of St. Paul. Like Mary on that Easter morning, I have seen the Lord in the faces of my Sisters in community who look at me with the love of Christ each day. With them I share one love: Jesus Christ, and one burning desire: to give him to souls (Bl. James Alberione).
Sr. Cheryl Galema (novice)
To my co-novices, Sr. Theresa and Sr. Julia Karina,
Thank you for all that you've shared with me. You're the best!
Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, make us saints!