Sr Matlene Hatalan Falzon
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). This was the theme for the 23rd World Youth Day held in Sydney, Australia in 2008 and that was when I started to question my purpose in life.
I am Sr Matlene Hatalan Falzon, I am 28 years old and I am the oldest from two siblings. To be honest, I have never imagined myself to be a nun or anything close to such vocation. On the contrary, I was determined to get married, go abroad and have a good job from which I earn a lot of money. However, the year 2008 brought a lot of change in my life. After the amazing experience of World Youth Day, I tried to gain as many different lifestyles as possible. That lead me to different relationships – all of which I ended, as I never felt the wow factor in them – went for different experiences in monasteries - and again it was not an appropriate lifestyle for me. I believe that it was the time where God really wanted me to make sense out of this life and make time really worth it in discovering Him in my life.
Along the year 2008 – 2009 I was really intrigued by the words in the Acts of the Apostles “… you will be my witnesses”, yet again I was not truly ready to leave everything behind me, especially my friends and the current lifestyle I was living in order to accept a religious vocation without having the joy that my friends were experiencing with their boyfriends. Having said that, it did not stop me from continuing my search for the will of God for me and this leads me to the year 2010 – the year when Pope Benedict XVI came to Malta. A week after the visit of the Pope, the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus had a Eucharistic Adoration and since it was going to be held in my village I decided to go alone without my friends. Although the Franciscan nuns were part of our parish for a long time, I had never been in direct contact with them (or any other nuns really). This was my first encounter with them and during the adoration, the nun who was leading it asked all the youths present to come up in front of the sacrament and pray the vocational prayer together. I remember I was kneeling next to a nun and I told her that I was not going to do that because I was shy. However, she encouraged me to go and ask God to show me what He really wants from me. It didn’t take long before I decided to go out and do it. I don’t recall hearing God’s voice as I hear my friends’ voice, but I do remember going out of the chapel heading back home singing with joy in my heart – feeling that I wanted to share this joy with others.
I believe that the 22nd of April 2010 was the first day of my journey that leads me to start the awesome experience within the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus. However, it was not all plain sailing. I had to stumble quite a few numbers of times, but with God’s help and those around me, but most of all the will power to do what God wants from me – to be His witness – the day (the 18th of September 2011) arrived to officially join the Congregation. It was a day to remember for all my life. The day where I was totally committed to leaving everything behind me, even my mother’s support as she did not approve of my decision, and live a simple life. It was a decision taken freely but with immense joy and gratitude. A decision that its ripple effect was to encounter challenges that helped me to grow in a more intimate relationship with God as to bear fruit within the fraternity and God’s people.
Yes, such vocation can be truly challenging and some may say it is difficult in this day and age. But, which type of vocation or lifestyle has an easy passage to journey through? And why would a person want to become a religious today when the world is full of so many wonderful things to have and be? The answer is simple: Power, wealth, and family are all things that life offers. I wanted something simple yet more than that. I wanted the Real Joy that can bear fruit throughout my life to all the people of the world. This joy is God that in His humble and generous self, chooses to ask our help in order to be witnesses and show His love to all.
What about you? Are you ready to start this roller coaster ride?
Sr Anne Marie Mifsud
As Franciscans, we are known for the Franciscan Joy that on the footsteps of our Father St. Francis we offer to the world. This joy is not the simple happiness and joyfulness of laughter but the joy, peace and the serenity coming from the intimate relationship with God.
I am Sr Anne Marie Mifsud and I am 27 years old. I am the younger of two siblings. My family background is a Catholic one and in fact, my parents have decided to give me my education in a church school run by nuns. This had never influenced me. Till the age of sixteen, I never thought of becoming a nun. Truly, I was very active in my parish with regards to, attending M.U.S.E.U.M., being part of the youth council, choirs and also a lector during mass. Having said this, apart from these activities my life was extra full with other commitments such as life-saving, rescue group and school, as I was still studying for my Advanced Level Exams. During this time, the Lord had his own plans for me. I tried to find my joy and fulfilment in all these worldly things but there was still emptiness within my heart. Until once, during a Eucharistic adoration in Gozo, the Lord struck me with His Love which kept echoing in me for a long time. Honestly enough I could not express my joy accept in tears. This was my first real encounter with Jesus who has filled me with his true joy. After this experience, I had decided to find someone to help me understand what this experience was. It was the time when I started delving deeper into what God wants from me. Through spiritual direction, I started understanding that to obtain this joy; I had to give all my life to God. This was not an easy idea for me, as I had plans for my life such as building up a career, getting married and so on. Fortunately, when I spoke with my parents regarding this situation, I had their full support and this continued to encourage me to answer God’s call. Gradually, I started looking around for different Congregations and my first experience was in a cloistered monastery, which slowly I realised that it was not my vocation to live there. Luckily enough, God has permitted me to come in contact with the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus through the choir formed when Pope Benedict XVI came to visit Malta. Through that encounter, I decided to try to experience their life. This lead for the 18th September 2011, which was the day that I joined the Congregation. Today I can truly say that I have found the true joy within my heart, which was lacking for years before I have given my decisive Yes to God.
Sr Josephine Xuereb
‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing’ Ps.23
My name is Sr Josephine Xuereb and I am 50 years old. I am the last of five children. I lived in a village where there was a community of our sisters. I also attended all my primary education at St Francis School managed by our sisters. Since I was nine years old, I used to feel the urge to serve the Lord. I used to admire the dedication with which the sisters used to carry out their apostolate. In my teens, I did my best to quiet the voice within me to follow Christ. I used to attend a Youth Centre where I assumed the role of President. I was also a member of the Parish Choir and a very active member in the Parish. During this period, I fell in love with a young man who came from a very good Christian family. He was, wealthy, had a magnificent car, he owned a house and studying as an architect. He loved me and used to do anything to make me happy. In other words, I had all that the world offers but deep within me, I was not in peace. God was still knocking at my heart. I tried to suffocate His voice but kept coming back till one day, when I was out with my boyfriend, I saw two nuns in the street and my heart leapt with joy. I couldn’t rest that night. I cried and prayed to God to show me the way. The following morning, I had to meet my boyfriend to do some work together at the Youth Centre and I decided to end up our relationship. He asked me whether I was in love with someone else and told him that I was in love with Jesus and that I wanted to serve God. From that moment, I started to take spiritual direction seriously to discern well my vocation and started to meet regularly with the vocation promoter. They both helped me to discover God’s Will for me. With the Grace of God, a date was set for the 27th September 1987 to start my journey with the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus. I was waiting so eagerly for that day when one fine morning a month before, my dad passed away unexpectedly. For one moment I felt the World coming to an end. How am I going to leave my mum all alone? I cried and turned to the Lord saying: “Lord you know how much I desire to start my journey in Religious life, now let your will be done and not mine!” The following day we had my dads’ funeral and on the third day, the Superior General came to give her condolences to the family. Before she left, she turned to my mum and told her: “We are going to remain here. If you wish, your daughter will join us next year instead of the coming month” but my mum, very courageously and with a determined voice answered: “God destined that day for her and I will not interfere in His plan.” I was in peace as now I had the blessing of my mum. The 27th of September was a special day, though I deeply felt the absence of my father. I started the journey which led me to 29 years of Consecrated Life. During this period I served as a residential social worker in Children’s’ Homes, Administrator in a Children’s Home, a local superior and Provincial Superior. I am now serving the Lord as assistant formator. Every single day is a total offering to God. The past thirty-two years have been a blessing to me and I do not regret the choice I have made in my life. May the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus be adored and blessed.
Sr Marica Agius
"But how do I know that God is calling me to religious life?" Well, the good news is: this is something only YOU can know. God does speak to our hearts as He has spoken to so many young men and women before us. This is what He did to me and did not rest until I gave in to His Love. I was born and raised up as a Catholic but as the years rolled by I was in an ‘on and off’ relationship with the Lord. I had turbulent adolescence where I was just trying everything that came my way. In fact, I was filling my heart with soap bubbles. This kept on happening until one day I happened to visit my grandmother who was in an old people’s home run by our Sisters. On that day, I remember that it was my wish and my grandmother’s wish to stay there for a whole day as we were very fond of each other. The policy was that visiting hours for the morning session closed at noon and the Home will reopen for visitors at 4 p.m. My grandmother asked permission from the sister in charge so that I will remain with her and I was given permission to stay for the rest of the day. When she went to rest, I was invited by a sister to have lunch with her and we started a conversation. I was asking her about her vocation and how she was inspired to give up all that life can offer to follow the Lord. Her answer changed my life. She looked at me with a face radiating His love and whispered: My dear, Jesus calls, and He calls in a way that you, and only you, can understand. His call is like the whisper of a friend. In order for you to hear this whisper, you need to first have a deep relationship with the person so that you will be able to hear his whisper and lastly to understand the deep meaning of it, you need to stand close to that person with an open heart. Finally, I had started to understand the need to know him better, to understand the deep meaning of what he was saying. The next day I spoke to my mum about the call and she thought I was joking or trying to make fun as I used to do very often. I told her that I will prove what I was saying. On the other hand, my father was overjoyed. He just hugged me and said: You have my blessing. Don’t let Jesus down. Love Him as He Loves you.
I did a journey of two years before I entered the convent. My decision was not easy or plain sailing. I lost some close friends who did not approve my call. One of my aunties was not convinced of my vocation so she challenged me by these words that still echo in my ears: ‘It’s better to be a good mum than a religious.’ During my time of discernment, I used to spend time in silence in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the convent chapel of the religious community of my village and I had a spiritual director and a sister who followed me regularly. On 6th October 1985, we took the ferry from Malta to the island of Gozo to start my journey as a Franciscan Sister of the Heart of Jesus. I bid farewell to my parents and three smaller brothers who were still at the age of 15, 10 and 7. My adventure with the Lord had its ups and downs but I don’t ever regret it. My secret in persevering lies in the fact that the first and most important thing is to spend time with Jesus, in daily and frequent prayer, in taking part in the Holy Mass and in Eucharistic adoration. I strive hard to this day to keep my heart free from anything that could keep me away from Jesus. Dear reader, I tell you that the closer we are to Jesus, the more we will be able to listen to his whispering and to understand it as a call of love. Religious Life is a call to follow Christ with one's whole heart, of loving him more than anyone or anything else. Therefore if you are being called to religious life, you discover deep down in your heart a desire to grow as much as possible in love for Jesus. Your vocation is very personal and it is truly the secret of Jesus' Heart that He wants to reveal to you.