By Renee K Hall
“The Consecrated Life…is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By profession ( taking of vows) of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus – the chaste, poor and obedient one – are made constantly ‘visible’ in the midst of the world…” (Vita Consecrata, John Paul II).
The Consecrated Woman continues to play a vital role in our archdiocese as would be made evident in the narratives of the nine religious women featured. Their stories exude passion, zeal and determination to build God’s Kingdom using their many gifts. The woman entering Religious Life is formed through various stages which involve a postulancy period, a novitiate, the first profession of temporary vows and then the taking of final vows until death. The time periods of the various stages vary according to the Congregation and the disposition of the individual involved.
Sr Ann Bradshaw OP – Rosary Monastery
“You are from a very fruitful family, use your fruitfulness for your sisters it will have a lasting effect on the whole world.” This was the advice given to Sr Ann by her father before she made her religious profession with the Cloistered Dominican Sisters of Rosary Monastery. Sr Ann admitted that as a young child she was rude, rebellious and fought in school. She remembers though that people always asked her to pray for them. She knew she was called to serve – but how? It was through the guidance of her parish priest that she went to visit the nuns at the monastery and she sensed something deep in her saying- “this is where I would have you live.” This where she has lived out her vocation since her entry on May 5, 1962.
Sr Ann understands that as a contemplative nun she is called to be of service to, and to embrace the whole Church – “spiritual maternity”. The Consecrated woman (CW) is called to give everything of her womanhood to God. Sr Ann admitted that she “has been given opportunities to develop fully as a woman and that she has experienced life as few women do. Her daily routine involves prayer, caring for a sick sister, making altar bread, gardening, counselling and giving spiritual direction to the many persons who come to the doors of the monastery, study and using the Internet to keep up with events in other monasteries. She believes that she enters deeply into union with God and it is a daily process of “emptying, filling and giving.” Sr Ann ended by saying that she does not know what the future holds but she knows who holds the future, one in which she sees Rosary Monastery flourishing as a “school of wisdom”.
Sr Christina Araujo OP – Sinsinawa Dominican
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God…” 1 Pet 2:9. Sr Christina Araujo has lived with a deep sense of making her life available to God and the Church. Her first stint of consecrated life began with the nuns at Rosary Monastery. After her first four years of temporary vows Sr Christina left the monastery. She was trained in Catechetics at the Divine Word International Centre for Religious Education in Canada. (1972-1973). This prepared her for her work as a religious education co-coordinator, working with the catechetical team and also developing sacramental programmes. Christina has also pursued courses at the Regional Seminary in pastoral care and counselling and Theology of the Trinity. In 1984 she was appointed Director of Catechetics. In 1992, after eight years, she asked to be relieved of this post in order to give herself full time to pastoral ministry with the Deaf, which she had begun since 1982. She is extremely proud of the fact that since July 2004 the Deaf community has been coordinating its own ministry, including retreats, Alpha, Catholicsim 201 and RCI(D)A programmes as well as the regular catechetical programmes for children.
In 2003 she went to “Aunty Babsie” Bleasdell who prayed: “Lord, Christina knows how to read signs, help her to read the signs that you send to her”. A series of signs followed – seeing Sr Jean Tranel walking to the Tunapuna market, going to visit the Sinsinawa Dominican house of discernment, sharing in their weekly Wednesday morning liturgies and finally making the decision to become a candidate for vowed life as a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa in 2003. She made her first vows in 2006 as a Sister of the Sinsinawa Dominicans. Sr. Christina shared with great passion that she views the CW as bringing “God’s gentle, healing, mercy to a hurting world.” She is currently attached to the parish of Holy Rosary/St Martin’s, Gonzales. She believes that if CW are to survive, there needs to be a rekindling of our origins while responding to what God is asking here and now. Her dream is that we develop a culture of vocation, a sense of purpose of each person being created and called for something special. Sometimes it seems that with the focus on exams and qualifications the ability to give one’s time in service is in danger of being sidelined.
Sr Juliet Rajah – Holy Faith Sister
From a very young age Sr Juliet had a deep sense of wanting to commit herself to this way of life. In 1993, after working in a bank for 15 years she entered the Holy Faith Sisters drawn by the spirituality and profound faith of their Foundress, Margaret Aylward. Sr Juliet is an early riser; her day begins at 4.40 a.m. with silent meditation. Her daily routine involves exercise, Eucharist; breakfast; reading the newspaper and work at the Catechetical office where she has worked since 2001. In the afternoon she makes time to relax before community prayer, which is followed with community supper. Nightly, she looks at news so as to keep abreast with what is happening in the country, the region and the world. Sr Juliet has also taught office procedure at Holy Faith Convent, Penal, she has worked with the children at Cyril Ross Home and with disabled children at Penal. She continues to give voluntary service at Credo Drop in Centre for Socially Displaced Children.
Sr Juliet holds a first degree in theology from the Regional Seminary of St. John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs having graduated in 2001. In 2009 Sr Juliet graduated from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry where she obtained a M Ed in Religious Education. She believes that Consecrated women have played a pivotal role in the Church by being at the forefront of social, pastoral and education ministries. She commented that today “society has become more secularised, more individualistic; people seem to have lost the sense of being each other’s keeper.” She added, “With the fast pace of technology people relate more to machines than other human beings in the flesh.” Regrettably, she admitted that these unhealthy trends have crept into Religious Life. Her dream is that “the work and contribution of the laity be recognised and appreciated.”
Sr Philip Geofroy – St Joseph of Cluny
Sr Philip Geofroy entered the Sisters of St.Joseph of Cluny on February 13, 1965 at the age of 18. Sr Phillip was first educated at Providence Intermediate School. Her successful attempt at the Exhibition exam gained her a place at St Joseph’s Convent, POS. It was the dedication of the Sisters and the beautiful way that they chanted the Divine Office that inspired Sr Philip. Ultimately though it was Sr Philip’s devotion to St Thérèse of Lisieux and her family’s prayers that a member of the family would become a nun or a priest which led to her choice of vocation. After completing Cambridge O-Level exams she went on to study Food and Nutrition at the John Donaldson Institute. Thereafter she taught this subject at Providence Girls’ High School for over 20 years. In her career as an educator Sister has also served in the capacity of administrator having been the Vice Principal of SJC, Arima and principal of St Raphael’s Private Secondary School, San Fernando before their closure. She was Dean of Discipline at Providence from 1982 until she was promoted to the post of vice principal in 2000. To better enhance her natural skills as an administrator, Sr Phillip attained a degree in Educational Administration in 1998 at the University of the West Indies. She was awarded the prize for the Most Outstanding Student. In 2003 Sr Philip was appointed principal of St Joseph’s Convent, St Joseph where she remained until 2006.
Sr Phillip admitted that she loves working with young people, hence her involvement in introducing COR to the Arouca parish. Her eyes lit up when she spoke of taking groups of children, who belonged to the Cluny Missionary group, to Toco/Matelot as a means of teaching them the importance of service. When asked about the role of the CW, Sister’s immediate response was that she is “a witness to the life hereafter” where love, care and compassion will abound. She is saddened by the fact that “people do not recognise Religious anymore”. She feels strongly that the CW still has a role to play in our schools and also in parishes where people look to them for guidance and prayers. Sister observed though, that in today’s society people seem to have lost “their dignity as human beings”. Society has become very individualistic, consumerist and materialistic. Unfortunately, these qualities have also crept into the Religious Life. Her dream for the Archdiocese of POS is that Catholics would really be committed to their faith by witnessing to it in their lives. She would like to see the Church being more open to young people and “that there be greater collaboration between the old and the young.” The interview ended with Sister passionately stating that she loves her Religious Life and that if she had to choose again she would choose it.