By Elizabeth McFarlane
Source: Catholic Outlook, February 2016
It’s 5am and 24-year-old Sophie Boffa is beginning her day with half an hour of prayer in the chapel of the Queen of Poland Convent in Marayong in Western Sydney.
The flames of the Holy Spirit are envisioned on the chapel windows, symbolic of the ignited flame in Sophie’s heart as she journeys to become a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth from the Holy Spirit Province.
But Sophie hasn’t always felt called to become a Sister and, like many young women, had imagined a life as a mother.
“I had always wanted to get married and I always believed that I’d make a good mother,” Sophie explained.
But in 2012, while she was studying English, History and Theology at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sophie decided that during Lent, she would challenge herself to pray the rosary every day.
It was during this time that Sophie began to think about the consecrated life.
When persevering with her discernment, she was struck by the Sisters’ devotion to the Holy Family when looking over a list of religious orders online.
“I saw Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and I thought, ‘Wow, I really like that; that’s a nice name,’” she explained. “I had been growing in my love for the Holy Family.”
Sophie has always felt a deep connection with family. “I’m one of four children. Dad is from Malta. He came to Australia when he was 12. Mum is Australian. Their love, support and presence has been a real blessing.”
Life for Sophie has not been without its struggles but her family has always encouraged her and instilled in her a great faith.
Sophie was born with facial palsy. The rare neurological condition affects cranial nerves and causes facial paralysis.
“A lot of my nerves don’t work or are missing so most of my face is paralysed,” she said.
“I was diagnosed with unilateral Moebius Syndrome quite early in life. I have had surgery to give some movement in the left side of my face.”
Sophie had her first ‘smile surgery’ when she was just seven years old. This gave her the ability to smile, a gift many take for granted. It was the joyous smiling of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth that caught Sophie’s eye.
“I opened the webpage and I was greeted with this beautiful picture of smiling faces and I thought, ‘Wow, they look amazing!’
“I read about their charism and I thought, ‘This is something touching my heart.’ The biggest surprise for me was they were having a retreat the following week.”
Sophie attended the retreat and was given the opportunity to meet the Sisters and learn more about their charism.
“I saw them as being women who were incredibly honest and they were just so real. What you see is what you get. I love how caring and considerate they are,” she said.
Living in the spirit of the Holy Family, whose lives were centred in the love of God and one another, the Sisters give witness to this love through their ministry to the family.
Their charism and welcoming and genuine nature set the path for Sophie’s vocation.
When asked what she would say to those discerning the consecrated life, Sophie had two pieces of advice.
“Your life is a gift and it’s so important to be thankful every day for your life. And because life is such a great gift, we need to use it to our best ability and use it to serve God,” she said.
“The first thing you have to do is to trust. God is always inviting us and all we have to do is trust Him.
“Be thankful for your life and trust God.”
To learn more about the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth click here.
Sophie also generates content for their Facebook page: Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth – Holy Spirit Province
Thousands of religious gathered in the Paul VI Hall in Rome on 1 February 2016 for an audience with Pope Francis, concluding the Year for Consecrated Life. To read the Holy Father’s address visit the Vatican Information Service.