All I wanted was to get married and have lots of children. My father’s response was I would have to learn to cook and sew so I could be a good wife and mother.
As a free-spirited child, one of 11 in a loving, secure, Catholic family, I loved having fun with my family after evening prayer, of which music was always a part.
At my convent school, I watched the Sisters and I thought it was quite a boring life. I didn’t want to live in a convent because it seemed too isolating – no outings, no fun or dancing.
But, God had another plan for me which was already planted in my heart. While I was visiting my mother in hospital, I heard an emergency call for the doctor.
I went out and saw a man unrecognisable because he looked like a skeleton. He needed an urgent blood transfusion. I didn’t know him. I volunteered to give my blood, but my father had to give consent, and he wasn’t there at the time.
I told the doctor my father wouldn’t mind at all, but the doctor refused. He was my father’s first cousin. I went home very upset but my father said the doctor was right. My father told us we could pray for the man and visit him. This incident was the turning point of my life. God’s ways are not my way.
Here I am, Lord
After seeing this poor man with no one to help him I wanted to be able to help in such situations.
I decided to make a novena to my patron saint, St Therese the Little Flower of Jesus. As the novena started I wrote to the reverend mother (of the Sisters of Compassion) to ask if I could be accepted to enter the convent.
On the last day of the novena I went to the convent to see my younger sister who was boarding there. As I approached the front door the angelus bell rang and the French parish priest called out to me: ‘Telesia, you have a telegram from New Zealand.’
‘Oh God, please let it be “yes”’, I said to myself.
I had been accepted for the novitiate of the Sisters of Compassion and was asked to come to New Zealand as soon as possible. The boat was leaving two days later.
Our mother had died about six months earlier and my father’s sister was living with us. She told me it was too soon.
I couldn’t help but shed tears so I went to the bedroom and asked God to give me strength. Then I told my father everything about my novena. My father seemed to be lost for words then reached out his hands, held me to his heart and said,
‘You have done everything according to what you think is right for you, and you asked God’s will and God answered your prayer. Who am I to come between you and your God?’
I hugged my father and cried my eyes out. My father was a man of great faith; he was a role model for us all.
I entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Compassion at Island Bay, Wellington. I missed my family very much; the laughter and fun, the music and singalong and the evening meal where we shared our stories of the day.
I asked St Joseph to send me a guitar. I even asked our confessor if he would please join me in praying for a guitar. Well, sure enough, the guitar arrived – the first we had in the convent.
Looking back, I was wrong in thinking what I did about religious life because we do have fun, laughter, music and dancing. I am still dancing and playing the guitar – it is very much part of my ministry.
I thank God for my gifts and I hope I am able to use them well for his glory. God works in so many miraculous ways in my life and I am most grateful.