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Sr Veronica’s poverty for love of Christ

By Jordan Grantham, 10 April 2018
Sr Veronica of the Holy Face at Tyburn Priory, Riverstone. Photo: Jordan Grantham / Diocese of Parramatta

Prostrated before God, Sr Veronica of the Holy Face vowed to spend her whole life in perpetual service to the Lord in religious life. This solemn profession took place at the Tyburn Monastery in Riverstone on 21 November 2017, during a Mass where she also received a ring, crown and crucifix, signifying her permanent membership of the Tyburn Sisters.

The exceptionally shy Sr Veronica gave Catholic Outlook the privilege of an interview, a challenge that she thought was providential in the lead up to her Solemn Profession.

A love for the poor had grown in Sr Veronica’s heart from her youth, as she had experienced poverty in Mindanao, Philippines.

Little did she know this poverty was a foretaste of complete abandonment to God through the poverty of religious life.

The thought of a religious vocation first occurred to her when she was nine and daydreaming on her home’s bamboo veranda.

She said, “I want to be a nun!” to her mother’s great surprise.

Becoming a religious was not part of her life plans. “I didn’t enter because I was scared,” Sr Veronica said inside the Tyburn Convent.

“I liked outside, I liked going out – dancing, having friends, and eating at restaurants.”

“But I went to Church,” she said, becoming more serious. It seemed God was interrupting her plans.

“Every morning, I would pick up the old people and take them to Church before work, even if I was tired.”

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During her prayers, Psalm 139 particularly spoke to Veronica’s heart.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face? (Ps 139:7) reminded her that she could not run from the Lord.

“When you go in the grave, I am there. When you go climb the tree, I am there,” Sr Veronica said regarding God’s presence.

A parish priest in the Philippines gave Veronica information about the Tyburn Sisters, who she later encountered after working in Australia.

Veronica called Mother Cyril of the Riverstone Priory for several years and considered entering the Monastery.

Upon return from a pilgrimage to Fatima and Santiago de Compostela in 2011, she made another visit to the Tyburn Monastery in Riverstone and decided to enter.

“I kept telling my friends I was becoming a nun. We call it moha – that’s Benedictine.”

Several of Veronica’s friends were Dominican sisters who cautioned her about the monastic lifestyle of the Benedictines. Veronica would not be able to see her friends.

“I can see them in Heaven,” Veronica retorted.

“But I know it in my heart, I want Him.”

Several months later, Veronica’s entrance to the cloister approached.

“As soon as I heard Mother Prioress’ voice I could not stop crying . . . ‘But sister, I’m going to be a nun!’”

After a successful and tranquil month in the Aspirancy stage of religious life, Veronica was given time to wrap up her affairs and farewell her family.

Her family offered significant resistance to her vocation.

“What are you doing!” Sr Veronica relayed in a low voice.

“You are on another planet,” one relative told Veronica.

“I said, ‘I know but it’s beautiful’.”

“But it’s difficult,” the relative persisted.

“Yes, but it’s Heaven,” Veronica concluded magnanimously.

“It is difficult, but if God calls you, you can’t say no.

“What about if your mother calls you – what are you going to say?

“If your father calls you, you will not come? Of course you will come.”

The relative then gave Veronica a look and said “you might be crazy”.

Sr Veronica did long for her family during periods of her formation.

Then in Adoration the Lord would say ‘what about me?’, Sr Veronica said.

“The Lord is always banging into my heart, saying ‘please, don’t ignore me’,” she said.

A mystical dream was a turning point in Sr Veronica’s formation, from which her doubts subsided and her confidence in the religious life grew.

“I had a dream of the house of St Teresa of Avila and I dreamed that I went into her chapel,” she said.

When Sr Veronica entered the chapel, she saw the host floating on the altar table and cried out, “Ghost!”

The host was moving and then stopped in the middle and began changing into a golden colour and then formed into a face, which began to transform.

“Bigger and bigger and higher and higher,” Sr Veronic said ecstatically.

“It formed into a man and I saw the face and it just made me full of joy!”

“I said – ‘Lord!’”

“And he looked at me and smiled.”

“And my heart is getting firm and stronger. ‘No matter what happens, I will not leave you Lord, I will love you forever’, and when I see the host, I say ‘You are everything’.”

“And He is everything to me!”

“And now every time I see the host, I say, whatever happens, I will stay with you and you will stay with me.”

 

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