I do believe that God calls each one of us to a particular vocation and mission in life. The seed of vocation is planted by Him from the beginning of our life, as seen in the call of the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew yo; before you came to birth, I consecrated you; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” In order to help the seed of vocation to grow, God uses persons and events in our lives.
As far as I can remember, it all started when I was in grade 1. Our catechist asked us who would like to become a priest or a nun, and I was one of those who raised a hand. It started with an unconscious desire and later on it was nourished by a deep love for God and faith of my parents, relatives and friends, since I was exposed to a devout Catholic life of our family. Two cousins of my mother are priests. I’ve always heard that many young boys and girls decided to become priests or religious in our parish. I really felt the curiosity for why they have become a priest or religious at their very young age… I’ve never shared my curiosity to anybody and just kept it in my heart and my mind.
When I was eleven, I was very much inspired by the charity song: “We Are the World” recorded by super group USA for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. The song states “There comes a time when we heed a certain call, when the world must come together as one. There are people dying and it’s time to lend a hand to life, the greatest gift of all”. And the chorus says: “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day so let’s start giving. There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives, it’s true, and we’ll make a better day, just you and me”. Another verse says: “Send them your heart, so they’ll know that someone cares, and their lives will be stronger and free, as God has shown us by turning stones to bread, so we all must lend a helping hand”.
After hearing and seeing the song on MTV, many questions came across my mind. I was so disturbed by these question: “How about me? What can I offer?” Again, I just kept it to myself, but this time I brought it to my prayer that God would lead me where I could serve Him.
After 10 years, when I finished my college and passed my board examination in Midwifery, I started to feel the emptiness…It seeeds there was something lacking in my life, despite of being active in parish youth ministry. I desired to have a search–in, so that I would know if God was really calling me. One day my friend invited me to join a search-in with one of the congregations which was held in our parish. I was able to talk to one of the sisters and I opened to her some of my questions on how to know if I was called.Sshe told me that if I wanted to nourish my calling I had to attend mass daily, to pray and read Scripture so that I could discover my call. I followed her advice. When I reached home, I saw in my bedroom the passage “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). As if the message was telling me something… Do I need to give my life to Him? This was again a disturbing question in my mind.
When I started to work as a volunteer midwife in our Rural Health Unit, I had a dilemma between my personal values regarding the implementation of family planning by DOH. Later, I decided to give up my work in the rural unit and I went to Manila to work in the hospital. There I met my close friend Liezyl who invited me to be a volunteer in the medical team and assist the pilgrims visiting the relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus at Mt. Carmel Shrine Parish in Quezon City.
In one of the Talks, the Vocation director of the Order of Discalced Carmelites reflected on this Scripture passage: “When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch'” (Lk 5:4)… He further added “Sometimes in our lives, we need to take risks in making our choices and decisions so we can discover our mission or calling.” The message directly struck me. I was so disturbed and asking myself what God really wanted of me? Am I going to throw my nets like what Simon had done? On this day also, was God’s working hands that led me to meet the CMT Sisters through my friend. It was the beginning of my vocation journey.
From then on, the series of persistent invitation from CMT sisters, of search-ins in Lucena community, encounters with Manila community and finally, instead of going home for vacation with my family in Iloilo, I decided to have an 18-day exposure in Lucena community.
During my discernment process, a very good friend of mine started to court me seriously. At the same time, I was offered to work abroad and they started immediately to process my papers going to London. These situations led me to think deeper and pray harder for enlightenment and guidance so I could decide firmly.
As I was reflecting, I encountered this Bible passage, “And don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God, which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rm. 12:2). There was an invitation within me that I must change the way I used to think, to renew my mind so that I could understand God’s will. What is truly good, acceptable and perfect use of my life for his purposes and not just my own?
After a year of discernment, I finally made my decision. For me, the word “discernment” needed the words “loving perseverance” as well. I had a heart to heart talk with my friend to stop courting me because I felt in my heart that I was called to religious life. And I decided not to pursue my application going abroad.
I informed my parents about my decision and I resigned from my work at the hospital. In the beginning, my father was so hesitant of my decision and even needed to get drunk in order to confront me. He thought that I was frustrated with my love life and made an option to be a religious instead. Crying, I explained to him my aspirations and desire to serve the Church through a CMT way of life and gradually he respected and accepted my decisions.
A month after my vacation with my family, I entered as a postulant on May 31, 2001 and I professed on May 31, 2004. I made my perpetual profession on August 15, 2010.
God desired that I would find the path that will allow me to grow into a person I was created to be in God’s mind and heart. For me, religious life is a choice and a journey of faith, hope and love.
I can tell you that my life as a CMT is very real with all the challenges, joys, and sorrows every life’s choice brings. CMT life, as any vocation, needs to be lived with a generous “yes” day by day, year by year, with God’s help all along the way.
My vocation journey started with a desire to be at the service of others. And that desire is continuously burning until now and until I die… for the love and service of the Church, God and neighbors.
Sr. Sharon Villafranca, cmt