Our Vocation Stories
Novice Theresa Teo
Start of novitiate - Learning to be still and know God
I started staying with the sisters in May 2007 and in July 2007 I decided to apply to join the Canossians as a postulant. I was glad when I got the letter from Sister Anne Tan telling me that my application was approved and I started my postulancy on 15 September 2007. As with all journeys, there are many phases and beyond the postulancy was the novitiate. Having spent time living with the sisters and also time listening and deepening my relationship with God, I knew that that this was where God is leading me to. Despite getting promoted at work, the desire to further explore the call remained.
Life prior to my entry to novitiate was hectic – shifting my accommodation, sorting out things at work and making various arrangements for my elderly parents as well as trying to find time to prepare myself for this big step. Although many difficult situations did arise, the assurance from God and his loving presence was always evident and all situations were resolved in a timely manner. As a friend once told me, if God wants you, He will clear the path for you and that was what He precisely did!
The day of the entry was on 19 July 2009 and it was heart-warming to feel the love as the sisters gathered on that Sunday evening for prayer to mark the occasion. ‘Where two or three are gathered in my Name, there am I in your midst’ - and indeed God was present. It was a simple prayer session but it was one which touched all present and in particular it marked the start of another phase of transformation of my life.
The start of novitiate was not easy. It was hard letting go of the familiar rhythm of daily life of work and events but it was also with anticipation and hope that I look forward to accepting and responding to the opportunities that God is providing me. It is a time for stillness and solitude, to learn, to reflect and to contemplate. A source of much food for thought was our Rule of Life and learning about the vows. It is amazing how mere words can touch one so deeply when studied with the aid of the Holy Spirit and aided by inspiring teaching.
During these few months, one of the inspirations which I drew from reading about the life of Magdalene is that of her perseverance and openness in seeking to know and do God’s will even in the face of numerous failures and setbacks. The many long years before the start of the institute and her family objections did not cause her to give up in despair. Fidelity to seeking and carrying out the Father’s will is the hallmark of Jesus’ life and is also what all Christians are called to emulate. Magdalene imitated this well and it allowed her to be rooted in God alone by following Christ Crucified as the ultimate example of love.
Having been a member of the Young Christian Students society and having been taught to practice the process of ‘awareness, reflection and action’, perhaps what was most attractive is her means of living as a contemplative in the world. Contrary to what her contemporaries held (that union with God is only achieved in prayer), for Magdalene, God can be sought and listened to in prayer as well as discovered in apostolic work. Thus prayer and apostolate are expressions of the same love. Her means of spreading the Good News was to follow Christ Crucified as the exampler and to fashion her life after His. Like Christ, she was aware of the needs of the poor of her time and like him she was able to respond to them with the compassion of God and thus making them come to know God through her labour of love. In a simple but practical way, I was happy to be presented with the opportunity to participate in our own local effort to collect and pack clothes and food for the flood victims in the Philippines. The generosity of the many people involved was remarkable and this really serves as a powerful witness of what we are called to do for our brothers and sisters in need.
Of course the experience of life in a community was also invaluable. The hospitality and warm of the Canossian sisters was always present. It was evident in the sisters at CFH, in the sisters from Indonesia who stayed at CFH and in the sisters from various parts of Asia who met together to learn about Foundress through her letters and her family. They knew that I was a newbie and they did try and make me feel at home.
To date the biggest consolation and assurance from God was on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Love of Christ on the Cross and the perfect discipleship of our Mother Mary serves to encourage me to continue to learn to follow Christ Crucified in a chaste, poor and obedient life, and to respond to God’s challenge for me to go beyond what I dare. Beyond -- to love and to care just as our Foundress, Magdalene of Canossa did.