How Did You First Feel Called to Consecrated Life?
Sr. Maria Guadalupe Martinez Lopez (Home Diocese: Raleigh North Carolina): “I grew up with Sisters when I lived in Mexico. And so I always wondered if God had a call for me but I never really had the desire to be a Sister until I was in my 20’s that I was working and one day when I was doing my field experience at a child care center I went to Mass before-hand and the gospel was the Rich man and Lazarus so after I received communion I asked the Lord, where do you want me of you want me to change my life, which convent should I go to, please tell me soon. At that moment I thought of this Community, because I had already registered for a retreat a year before because I really wanted it to be a Franciscan Community because I had experience with St. Francis and the Franciscans in Mexico. I really like the Franciscan Spirituality. At first my parents were doubting, but at the end they gave me their blessing.
“Our Lady does just this for us, she helps us to grow as human beings and in the faith, to be strong and never to fall into the temptation of being human beings and Christians in a superficial way but to live responsibly, to strive ever higher.” – Pope Francis
Sr. Carmen Marie Diaz, Home Archdiocese, Los Angeles CA “I think that first call, or essence of a call, came when I was 14. I had 5 Communities of Sisters that worked at that high school. Some taught, Some were part of the staff. I felt surrounded by God. I was a freshman at that time when I felt that sensation or just the belief came and then I forgot about it. Then more as a junior and then again when I was a senior.
“I heard God basically telling me to go to the Franciscan Sisters.”
It took awhile until I was 18, 19, where I was still thinking about it. I had graduated from high school. I was employed but then I heard God basically telling me to go to the Franciscan Sisters. They had taught. They were teaching in my high school. I had known them and worked with them, taught by them. I did and I was accepted into the Community.
How did you adapt to life at the Motherhouse as Postulant and Novice?
Sr. Maria Guadalupe: “It was beautiful and at the same time it was hard because it was a big change from living with my parents to living in a convent but like every kind of life it does have its difficulties but the Lord was present in all those difficulties for me. There were Sisters my age. It was a good experience because I could share with them many things that were happening together. It was a positive experience.
I learned a lot from the Sisters in instructions. We learn about the Community, its history, about God, our relationship with Jesus. It’s a journey in which we draw closer to Jesus even if it’s difficult. the Lord has been there helping day by day and there is also a lot of joys in living in community, joys in the sacraments, learning from the priests, learning from the Sisters and living close to the Lord.
Sr. Carmen Marie: I think when I came to the convent, I came with the attitude that I would give everything to God. What I didn’t realize that our Franciscan Sisters’ cultures would be different. I’m a Mexican American. And the Sisters have a history of Irish and German and I came from California, Los Angeles to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It was quite a leap culturally. First, as far as ethnicity, also because of Religious Life. It’s a culture in itself. It was quite an experience. I had never lived with people who did not know what a tortilla was, so the difficulties were involving food, language. I didn’t get to speak Spanish. The food, I had no idea what sauerkraut was. I struggled more, but what got me through was the ideas that basically everything I gave up was for God.
“This has been my life and it has been full of joy.”
So a few years later I learned the difference between what was essential to Religious Life and what were cultural things that I wasn’t sinning by not exactly understanding these things or wanting to do these things because they were cultural, not so much the essentials of Religious Life. So as I came to understand that more, there was more peace in my life. That this is where God wanted me though I did ask him why I couldn’t have gone to a Mexican Community. This has been my life and it has been full of joy. Many challenges always in every kind of life. Some people ask me if I regret being a Sister. In general, there’s no regret. I can only say my life would be different. That’s all I can really say because any choice we make would give us this idea of just being different, not worse or better. We don’t know those things.
What was your first impression of Holy Family Convent Motherhouse?
Sr. Carmen Marie: When I came down Highway 151, I saw the building and I thought it was a castle. To be honest I had never seen this large a Motherhouse before. That was something.
Sr. Maria Guadalupe: Well I had the same kind of experience. I looked at the Motherhouse and it was really big. Basically, I saw a place where things are really well organized. The laundry schedule, the clinic, the kitchen, functioning in a really organized way. All my needs would be taken care of and at the same time I could be of service. Basic needs were met for all the Sisters.
How did you adapt to life at the Motherhouse?
Sr. Carmen Marie: Just to be open to the experience itself, the living experience, the people, the Sisters, the climate. We experience the 4 seasons here which I did not have in California. Snow, all new for me and very exciting. The first time I had my hair frozen because I didn’t realize that you didn’t go outside with hair wet. Things like that. The everyday things that requires you to be open.
Sr. Maria Guadalupe: It helped me to go to spiritual advising, to talk to the Sisters. Community life can be hard sometimes. Some people can rub shoulders with each other. The concept of forgiving and asking for forgiveness, learning to say I am sorry, going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s receiving mercy. Being merciful to those around. That has been very impactful on my life as a Sister, assimilating to this life knowing I am not perfect but God calls me and God loves me as I am. Mercy has a big influence on life whether it be in Community life or in my relationship with God, how to live as a Religious.