“No matter what your plans are, if it is not what God wants for you, it will not happen.” I have wondered what God wants of me: “What if God wants me to live a religious life?” It seemed a silly idea and for a few years I tried to avoid it. After all, it was never discussed in the family and it was out of the ordinary.
Filipino expectation dictates that after studies you work on your career and settle down with a spouse so you can give your parents grandchildren, especially if you’re the first-born. However, the question about religious life haunted me. It was a constant push-and-pull because I had difficulty admitting that I was attracted to religious life.
I joined the Singles for Christ community who encouraged me to “heed the call.” I was already involved in the ministries, but I wanted something more. During a retreat a friend from the community suggested I put my discernment into action. Later another friend told me to visit convents to see the way of life and to know their charism. She suggested the Sisters of Providence in Edmonton as it is the nearest convent to Fort McMurray where I lived.
Although I tried to contact other congregations, it was the Sisters of Providence that I consciously tried to contact and in September 2015 I went for a week’s visit and retreat. During the visit I recalled my story from childhood in the Philippines to adulthood spent away from home, to Dubai and eventually to Canada. A Sister of Providence helped me to see that the bits and pieces of my past that led to my discernment of religious life. She highlighted the moments in my life where God was strongly present, even when I thought I was so far from God.
Where I grew up, the concept of religious life is usually that of contemplative life. I never knew about apostolic communities until I met the Sisters of Providence. An important factor in my discernment was how I could be of practical help to society. When I learned that the Sisters of Providence go to the missions and are very much involved in society, I felt this to be a good match.
During my stay with them in Edmonton I went to Anawim, a food bank in inner-city Edmonton, to help with ministering to the poor and I also went to a hospital to be with a sister who takes communion to the sick. As my stay finished I was happy, yet scared. Happy because I was beginning to feel at home, and scared because I knew what it meant. To me it felt like the missing piece of the puzzle was found, and it could not be ignored.
When I finally started my application to enter as a candidate, I began to live with the Sisters of Providence, I was welcomed with love, and I know I am in the right community. I know too that God has plans for me as I continue to discern the call to religious life.
Rezebeth Noceja was received as a candidate to the Sisters of Providence on Dec. 18, 2016. She is now living in Calgary and in ministry with the Sisters of Providence.