While most school leavers spend their first year of freedom exploring ever-widening horizons and opportunities, few find that their path leads them to restrict it.
But Sr Catherine Marie, who until recently was known as Katelyn del Rosario, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Last month the 19-year-old adopted her religious name and was given a bright blue habit to wear as a postulant of one of Australia’s youngest orders, the Sisters of the Immaculata.
The 19-year-old graduated from Tangara School for Girls in Year 12 in 2018 and comes from a large family belonging to Our Lady of the Angels parish at Rouse Hill in Sydney’s northwest.
A lover of learning and a talented musician, Sr Catherine Marie may not enjoy the ready access to the range of instruments she was used to at home but that won’t stop her singing God’s praises, she says.
It was in Eucharistic adoration during an Immaculata Mission School in 2016 that she first felt called to religious life.
“I felt like I really and truly encountered God as someone who is very personal to me and is a loving Father,” Sr Catherine Marie said. “It was an encounter that caused me to feel afterwards that nothing else mattered as much in my life anymore.
“I felt so complete I could have stayed in that moment with God for all eternity, and everything I loved, music, travel, it all just went away. I saw other young people around me change and grow in their faith as well and as time went on I began to think of the Sisters and how lucky they are to be witnesses to such a thing.
“I wanted to be close to them and be involved in the work they do.”
Katelyn was already heavily involved in her parish’s youth and music ministries, says her parents Rosemarie and Luis have a strong Catholic faith and always tried to nurture a daily prayer life and parish involvement in their children.
“I’m very blessed,” she said. Her friends and family were initially “kind of shocked but very supportive”. “Some of my friends weren’t as surprised as I thought they would be.”
Prioress Mother Mary Therese said that life with the community, founded in 2008 with the desire for spiritual renewal in parishes, was a “radical choice” for a young woman.
“They give up all of these wonderful natural things, especially marriage and the possibility of a family, but count it as gain,” she said.
The community is growing “slowly but surely” with seven members and two postulants including Sr Catherine Marie.
Her 11 February clothing day she was given her habit to wear as well as her name Sr Catherine Marie of Our Lady Help of Christians.
She now shares more fully in the life of the community while studying and continues to discern her future. She hopes to make temporary religious vows next year.
“After I received the habit and my new name I felt peace in my soul,” Sr Catherine Marie said. “I felt that this life had everything I wanted and everything I desired and it’s where I’m meant to be.”
Reproduced with permission from The Catholic Weekly, the online news publication of the Archdiocese of Sydney.