Name an occasion you felt embarrassed.
On my first Lent in Kenya, I gave a religious education session to the girls at the boarding school on the three spiritual exercises recommended for Lent – almsgiving, prayer and fasting. I was going on and on about fasting and abstinence, when one of the girls told me that they were always fasting or abstaining from meat because often there wasn’t enough food. I felt embarrassed because I had assumed too much and had not considered their experience and perspective.
Name an occasion/incident when you felt God was far away.
In 2002 in Kenya, I was in a community in the country’s largest slum. Once, violence erupted because of the rivalry between tribal groups. The police stepped in and the violence escalated. Each day, crowds formed outside the gates of the house of the Missionaries of Charity or at ours, begging for food. A woman begged us to take in her young daughter as she was afraid that the girl would be violated by men taking advantage of the chaos. I felt helpless against the tide of so much misery and poverty. I felt God was far away.
What do you like best about being a Religious/consecrated person?
The support of community and community structures that keep me human and grounded! I can be a workaholic and driven and so the community structures or schedules for meals, for communal prayer and community time help me live a balanced life. Being a consecrated person also makes me free inside. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone.
How would you make vocations attractive to the youth of today?
I don’t believe in “making vocations attractive”. It is not a job advertisement but a commitment. Unless we can stir up the passions of the youth to want to serve God and unless we can help them encounter God in daily life, they will not consider the consecrated life. I believe we have to present Religious life in a way that is relevant and real.
What has sustained your life as a Religious, especially in the face of challenges/changes?
Prayer. Both communal and personal, especially before the Blessed Sacrament. Our foundress, Blessed Mary of the Passion, once said, “Jesus in the Eucharist is the greatest missionary.”
How would you summarise your life today as a Religious?
I am happy and ever grateful that God has chosen to call me to be a Franciscan Missionary of Mary. I feel I have come home.
Singaporean Sr Veronica de Roza
Franciscan Missionaries of Mary