During the Sisters of Life’s visit to Perth and Sydney in May 2019, Sr Antoniana Maria SV, Sr Mary Grace SV, Sr Zelie Maria Louis SV, and Sr Jeanne Marie SV sat down with Archdiocese of Perth Communications Officer Matthew Lau to explain “Why they believe in God.”
Q. For most of you, this is your first time in Australia. What has been your impression of our nation?
Sr Antoniana Maria: “We’ve been surrounded by love, openness and warmth, which has been a beautiful experience of, in a sense, a ‘homecoming’. When we came [to Perth on 23 May], people of the Church welcomed us so warmly. We’ve felt right at home, and recognised that we’re all one body in Christ, we’re all members of the mystical body. No matter where we are in the world, Catholics are real universals – there’s a sense of ‘home’ here.”
Q. What made you lead a life as a consecrated sister?
Sr Antoniana Maria: “When I went to World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, I had this powerful experience before the Blessed Sacrament of Him. At that moment, when I experienced a powerful love from the Lord and a proposal to love with an undivided heart, I couldn’t help but say ‘yes’ to that. Then, two years later, after I had finished my university degree, I entered the Sisters of Life with this knowledge that my heart was created to love in this consecrated way by pouring out my love so that others may live in the charism of life.”
“ … that my heart was created to love in this consecrated way by pouring out my love so that others may live in the charism of life.”
Q. What is your advice to someone who is discerning a religious vocation?
Sr Mary Grace: “Be open to what the Lord is doing in your own heart, to listen to it, and not to be afraid to follow your own desires. Ask the Lord what He desires to do with your love, because each of us have been intended and willed by God with a unique way of loving in the world; He is calling some of us to belong entirely to Himself and to give ourselves entirely for His Church. If God is inviting us into that, then don’t be afraid because it’s a beautiful and adventurous way to live.”
Q. Who is your favourite saint?
Sr Zelie Maria Louis: “St Thérèse of Lisieux was my first saint friend. I grew to love her entire saint family, hence why I’m named after her parents. My experience of them has strengthened my belief in Heaven because I know they are with me; that only can happen if they’re interceding for me from eternal life. She lived everyday deeply and fully, her way of loving and her confident ‘I am a child of God – that is who I am and I am loved’ mentality.”
Q. What do you think Perth Catholics gained from encountering the Sisters of Life?
Sr Jeanne Marie: “[Our talks] were received very beautifully; there were some people who I spoke to that were really struck. Our Sisters way of giving talks and of presenting the topic comes from a place of love and meeting people where they’re at. It’s about being there for that person, a ministry of presence, bringing Christ to others as Christians – bringing His love, mercy, and healing to people. They were really moved by the stories we shared and what we do in our missions, they were just really pleased.”
“ … when we discover the truth of ourselves and the truth of God – when those two collide, we rediscover out true selves again. ”
Q. What do you hope the attendees take away from listening to one of your talks?
Sr Mary Grace: “I hope they discover, more and more, the beauty of their own self. Honestly, that they encounter a real experience with the Lord Jesus – whether it be through music, or through hearing the truth of God’s love in a talk, or through Eucharistic Adoration or prayer, that in some way they experience again their own worth and their deep value. That ultimately is what is moving, is when we discover the truth of ourselves and the truth of God – when those two collide, we rediscover out true selves again; we just hope people experience that at every opportunity.”
Q. Why do you believe in God?
Sr Antoniana Maria: “Because He believes in me. To live with the knowledge that I am beloved of the father of God is a beautiful place to live, because then I don’t have to earn anything, I don’t have to manufacture my own happiness for my own purpose, it’s laid out by a God who is love and has a loving plan for my life. I can rest in that, there’s a lot of restlessness and hopelessness in the culture which has rejected God or hasn’t encountered God. But if a heart is able to turn to God with even just a fleeting prayer of ‘if you are there, show me’. All God needs is a little opening.”
Sr Jeanne Marie: “I know that there’s this deep desire within us for true happiness, the world today teaches us to find pleasure in so many different and even disordered ways. But common to every human experience, these pleasures that the world offers are fleeting and they never fully satisfy. Truth be told, every person who has been addicted to something can say that addiction isn’t the path to true happiness. When I’ve experienced His personal love and His desire for my love for Him, all of the other pleasures that I’ve been searching for or have gone after, they pale in comparison.”
Sr Mary Grace: “I believe in God because I’ve never been more alive than when I believe. The more I discover the truth, and my deepest desire is the heart of Jesus Christ, I become more and more myself – and I want to keep going down that journey. The second greatest joy to this is when we’re able to articulate and tell other people of this, and see their hearts and their lives come alive, people become more truly themselves. That is a gift, not only to receive, but also to give: the joy of knowing Christ, the joy that that is to discover His love, and then the joy of seeing other people come alive in that too.”
Sr Zelie Maria Louis: “For me it’s been so often experiencing that I am not made for this world. My heart was always restless, always seeking friendships, trying to find a relationship that could carry all the weight of my love; I’ve only found rest and meaning in the Lord. Coming to realise that I’m made for Heaven, not made for this world, because this world can be very dark, really full of suffering, it’s easy to wonder why we’re so discontent with this world sometimes. I’ve found that I’m made for the Kingdom of Heaven, and that all my desires are fulfilled in God.”
From pages 13 to 15 of Issue 19: ‘Why Believe In God’ of The Record Magazine