An experience at a youth retreat in New Zealand in 2003 led Yvonne Chew to believe she was being called to the Religious life.
“During a praise and worship session, I heard a man’s voice inside me saying: ‘Do not be afraid because I love you,’” said Chew, who is now known as Sr Jacinta. The voice was firm yet gentle, recalled the nun, who made her final vows as a Carmelite Sister on Nov 30.
The 45-year-old nun told CatholicNews in an interview that she had been drawn to the Religious life in New Zealand, where she was completing her Masters in Ecology.
“I could see the priests and the nuns were ... joyful, leading a humble life of service and there was a sense of freedom about them,” she said with a smile.
Sr Jacinta joined the cloistered Carmelite nuns in Singapore, but left the monastery for a period of discernment. She later rejoined the order.
Sr Jacinta shared that prior to going to New Zealand, she had worked in Singapore as a newspaper reporter and layout designer for three and a half years.
Now, together with the other 18 nuns in the Carmelite Monastery, Sr Jacinta prays the Divine Office seven times daily.
She also devotes an hour in the morning and evening to meditation.
Unlike most of the other nuns, who stay within the enclosure of the monastery, Sr Jacinta is an extern Sister.
This means she is able to leave the monastery a few times a month for grocery shopping and to represent the community at ordinations and funerals.
Her other duties include welcoming visitors who ask for prayers, and cleaning the premises.
Sr Jacinta shared that living and praying within the four walls of the monastery took some getting used to.
“How I overcame that was listening, listening to God’s word and the priests during Mass,” she recalled. “A Carmelite priest once said: ‘In enclosure there is no way out but up.’”
She eventually grew accustomed to being cloistered and discovered that “truly He is enough for me, He gives the grace I need”.
Sr Jacinta, the younger of two siblings, shared that she had worries and concerns about leaving her family to join the Carmelites.
However, she realised that “if I take care of His people here in this community, He will take care of mine”.
For those thinking of joining the Religious life, Sr Jacinta had this piece of advice: “Reflect on whether you are deeply, truly satisfied with what the world is offering, because I found that I was not satisfied.”
During the Nov 30 Mass when she made her final vows, Archbishop William Goh told the crowd, “We need to support and encourage her with our prayers because she has a long journey ahead of her.”
Not even a temporary blackout in the chapel dampened the mood of the estimated 180 people gathered, as they all had well wishes for her.
After making her vows, Sr Jacinta greeted and embraced her family members who were in tears.
The crowd then proceeded for dinner afterwards. A cake was also specially prepared for Sr Jacinta for the occasion.
By Jared Ng