Sister Elizabeth Wagner
I was raised Protestant, in the United Church of Christ, but in high school, I met a teacher who lent me a biography of St. Teresa of Avila. It was love at first sight, and I knew what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” But it wasn’t that easy! Not only was I not Catholic, but I wasn’t at all sure I believed in God. It was several years later before I realized that it wasn’t a question of belief in an intellectual sense but a relationship of trust and love to the God I so desperately needed.
It has been a long, meandering journey since then: into the Catholic Church, into contemplative life, into the hermit life and the Rule of St. Benedict, and finally here with Sister Bernadette to begin Transfiguration Hermitage, where we live a contemplative life of prayer that contains elements of solitude as well as community. It has been a journey of growth; and growth is wonderful, but it is sometimes difficult and always challenging. Along the way, I have been blessed with friends I’d never dreamed of meeting, places I’d never dreamed of going, and found resources in myself and others that I never knew existed.
As with Abraham, God leads us beyond ourselves in a desert journey to a place “which he will show us.” There is no road map except our faith and our trust in the Spirit’s action in our lives. To walk in this journey is to learn that our strength comes from God, and not from ourselves. Yet to follow this journey is also to find our deepest self in God and along the way to be blessed with people, places, and experiences, and to be enriched beyond all that we could ever have dreamed.
Sister Bernadette Kasinathan
RCIA is the reason why I am a contemplative nun.
When one is baptized as an adult, one cannot help but come to the realization that one’s life has been very uneventful, and also full of many previous unruly and false conceptions. Letting the Savior into my life made for a complete turnover and drastic changes, changes sometimes difficult and having even unhappy consequences.
After my conversion, I would find a place in the parish church where I could sit for hours and talk to Him about the past and how to improve the present. It was no easy task, but I found myself drawn to prayer and silence and solitude. I found myself mellowing, letting go of the fears that overcame me at each phase of renewal. Finally I took up the cross to follow Him in contemplative life, where I am now at the Hermitage.
Yes, I did mention some changes with unhappy consequences. I come from Singapore, and leaving my family (brothers and sisters and newborn nieces and nephews) behind was difficult, as was the final stage when I gave up my citizenship of my beloved country. I felt myself orphaned, cut off. It was one hurdle which I didn’t want to jump over but for Him who constantly shows His countenance and showers me with His gazes and love in the Psalms, readings, Mass, prayer, silence, and finally through the loving friends and supporters of our life and ministry.
Life as a religious is not a bed of roses and sweet cream frosting, but a mixture of ups and downs; groaning and grumbling, anger and fear — and also surrendering and peace, unity and love, prayer, work and play and most importantly the fact that we are not alone — HE is with us!