As August 6 – 13, 2023 is National Vocations Awareness Week, Catholic Outlook spoke to several people throughout the Diocese to find out more about their vocational calling.
Speaking with Sr Cristina Ramada csfn, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth congregation and a counsellor at Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese, we learn of her journey as a religious sister, how enriching it is to live in a diverse community, and the pivotal factors that led to her becoming a Sister.
“I first heard of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth from one of the youth members back in high school. I was 17 at the time, and was thinking of joining the convent. I felt like joining the convent would help me to become closer to God. I joined the sisters in 1999.”
During her time in the sisterhood, Sr Cristina came to learn that each of us is called to a certain vocation. “This is how we are called to best live our lives and find fulfilment,” she says. “For me, one of the things I love is being in an environment where I’m supported in my spiritual life. We are given a lot of opportunities to grow spiritually and grow in our love of God. Being closer to God is one of the things I love about my life as a sister.”
Reflecting on how the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth are different to other congregations, Sr Cristina reflects, “it’s the way we live our lives. We live with other women who share the same charism and the same mission. Some communities have different arrangements to us, but this is what is unique about us.”
As she details what a day in the life of a Sister involves, one thing is clear: prayer and togetherness are of utmost importance.
“We start with a prayer together – the prayer for the Church. We then go to the church together, followed by breakfast together before attending our individual ministries – I work in a school as a school counsellor.
“For those of us who work outside of the community in their respective ministries, we return home to pray together as a community and then we have dinner together. After that, we either do some recreation together or have our own time for personal prayer before bed.”
When asked to reflect on what it’s like living in a diverse community of women of different ages and backgrounds, Sr Cristina admits it can be “challenging”.
“For me, it is very enriching, but there are times when it can be challenging as well. Enriching because we get to experience a variety of cultures and personalities, but with that comes personal growth. We have to adjust to each other, to understand each other’s personalities, because we’re all different people.
“But thinking back to when I joined, I felt like I would be supported by other women in my search to be closer to God. And I was right. After 24 years, I’m still here and happy and fulfilled.”
As a small group leader for the 2023 World Youth Day pilgrimage, Sr Cristina shares some wise words.
“I believe that every vocation is a gift from God and has the potential to lead us closer to Him. My advice to the youth in our community would be to let God take the lead. Be closer to God. Trust God and pray and listen to God. Let God take the lead.”
If you’re interested to know more about the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, visit http://csfn.org.au/. There are also opportunities to meet with the sisters during a discernment retreat or weekend retreat to experience what it is like to live in the community, attend a Holy Hour or ‘Prayer and Cuppa’ with the sisters.
Belinda Harding is a freelance writer and contributor to Catholic Outlook.