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St. Catharines

The Story of a Conversion and Vocation ...
I was born in a small Equatorial African island called São Tomé and Princípe in West Africa, a Portuguese colony until 1974. When I was four years old, I moved to continental Portugal, where I lived until I was nineteen, at which time I moved to Toronto, Canada.

As in most Portuguese families, I was baptized in the Catholic Church and received my first Communion when I was eight years old. As a child, I was encouraged to go to church on Sundays, and received my early religious education through the state school system and local parish. However, as I grew up, religion was not part of my life - I went to church sometimes, but I never became a practicing Catholic and never received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Eventually, religion became only a concept, a theory addressed in school, but not a reality in my life. As an adult, I was a lapsed Catholic and never gave God much of my time or attention. This began to change when, once in awhile, a devout Catholic friend and co-worker, would invite me to accompany her to a small chapel in downtown Toronto for Mass during lunchtime. Most of the time I would go just out of consideration for her, not because of devotion. In fact, although I attended Mass, I never went to confession or received communion. These occasional visits to this chapel with my friend lasted a couple of years. My life during this time was centered on a career, money, material possessions, and human relationships.

One very ordinary day, while working at my desk, the unthinkable happened - I felt like going to the chapel, without my friend’s prompting! This time I was going to be the one inviting her to come to the Mass with me, however, when I got to her office she was not there. I hesitated to go by myself…but off I went. I sat through Mass much like the other times; I don’t remember anything extraordinary or different about that Mass. However, I do remember feeling different on my way back to the office. I felt like I had wings! I had a sense of exhilaration and excitement for no apparent reason. I almost ran to my friend’s office to tell her that I had gone to church by myself, and felt tears welling up in my eyes as she said “praise God!”. At that moment I actually felt embarrassed and confused that emotion would overcome me for such an unimportant event (so I thought at that time).

Today, I know that our Lord poured out His grace, mercy, and love on me on that day in October 1999. From that day on, it was as if I was given a glimpse of the most delightful and precious gift, and I just could not stop thinking and talking about it. In His mercy the Lord granted me a spirit of love, joy, and prayer. My interests changed completely, I regarded people in a totally different light. In the months that followed I was like a sponge for the things of God, and the thirst to learn about my religion and the Church was almost overwhelming. I attended a “life in the Spirit” seminar and other religious talks offered at a chaplaincy near my office, enrolled in RCIA classes, attended prayer meetings, and finally received the sacrament of Confirmation on Easter Saturday 2000. What a Jubilee Year it was for me!

By the time I was confirmed, I already knew and had made the decision to live a consecrated life in a religious congregation, I just had not decided which one. Indeed, by January 2000 I started to hear Jesus knocking on my door; at first I thought that momentary insanity had come over me - I didn’t even know the basic Catholic prayers! How could I even think that such an amazing gift would be mine to take …I dismissed the thought and told no one about it. But the “Hound of Heaven” wasn’t about to let go of me…it was then that a vocations ad in the Catholic Register jumped at me in such a way that I could no longer deny it. After carrying it in my purse for about three weeks, I finally had the courage to respond. Next followed telephone discussions with various congregations and “come and see” weekends, one of such with the Carmelite Sisters, D.C.J.. After watching the video “Women of Compassion” and reading Mother Maria Teresa’s autobiography, I knew that if I was going to be a religious it would be in a congregation founded by a woman of such immense love, devotion, holiness, and fortitude. Mother Maria Teresa embodied all the virtues that I could only dream of from afar; and so I chose the Carmelites D.C.J. and was fortunate enough to be accepted by them.

My family and friends had a difficult time understanding my choice, and I had to overcome their lack of enthusiasm and support, although they only did it out of loving concern for me. I love them the more for that. They only saw that I was giving up a very good life, by their standards. They could not see the richness of a life lived in the light of Christ. In His providence our Lord granted the grace I needed through it all, as I resigned from my job, sold my condo, most possessions, and quietly but confidently entered the convent.

There is so much more I could say about my vocation story, but there are few words that can describe the experience of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness at work in one’s life. If I ever was an unbeliever, Jesus made sure that I had everything I needed to believe, including the miracle of the new me and my new life with Him. He is always there, gentle, patient, hand extended…all we have to do is reach out and come home to Him.

Click here to read "Musings on the Mother Foundress" written by Sister Rosario during her Novitiate.

Sister Rosario with her family