Sister Maria Epifania

“What do you do with a health care professional degree in the convent? Why don't you stay in the world, where you can use your knowledge and help lots of people?”

My answer is: there are many more talented and skilled people who can do that work, but not many are called to be contemplatives. As a matter of fact, it takes much courage to respond to this call, but God gifts with exceptional graces those who do so. I was very happy, and I loved the people I worked with and the patients I served. But deep inside of me there was emptiness, a thirst that I could not explain. I felt incomplete. The satisfaction I gained from my job was only transitory.

My journey into the contemplative life began, as much as I can remember, when I was 6 years old. I had made my first Holy Communion and my family was very active in the parish. We were involved in Catechism, music ministry, cleaning, and decorating the church for certain festivities among other tasks. I became very familiar with the changes in the Liturgical Year, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, etc. Every time I heard the song: “Lord, You Have Come to the Seashore,” inexplicably, tears welled up in my eyes. As I grew older, I got involved in youth ministry at a diocesan level. I learned about the Liturgy of the Hours and some Sisters who worked in our parish instilled my curiosity about a possible religious vocation. I naturally brushed it off, for I was about to graduate from high school and I had it all figured out: I will be serving people, sharing my faith with them, perhaps as a missionary.

The question about vocation kept haunting me for years, though. I remember that during my second year of college I met a Sister who served in campus ministry. There was a joy in her that I had never seen before. This triggered all the more my curiosity for religious life and I started discerning. The answer that always came after every retreat or day of recollection I went to was to continue my studies. I started to get discouraged and looked in another direction: maybe I am called to be a missionary after all and even to have a family.

My studies intensified in Dental School and as I was away from home, I treasured my independence very much. I went to parties and enjoyed going with my friends on road trips, got involved in choir and other activities, and studied long nights, especially the nights before big tests (of course). I even started dating during this busy time. Because I had to stay at college some weekends in order to study, my “church time” was reduced to only Sundays, and, if there was no ride, I had to stick to “TV Mass.” I used to get very upset while watching, especially at the time of communion. I could not stop the tears. I felt away, so far away from God! As time elapsed, I got involved in a relationship and through it I discovered something strange. I felt divided and my heart constricted, as I could not share with others as I used to. The fact that he did not regularly practice his faith although he was Catholic brought many problems that affected our relationship. Also, the question about a possible religious vocation was intensified.

After we parted ways, I went to a vocation discernment program that had just opened in our diocese. It took me two years to finally decide that religious life was what God wanted of me. The questions were: “Where?” and, “How fast can I pay off my student loans?” After passing the Dental Boards I found three part-time jobs (the amount of time did not reach 40 hours of work, though), which sometimes found me asking: “Which job do I go to today?” Then I decided to look for job opportunities in the Continental US. I moved from my native Puerto Rico to the mountains of North Carolina where I served as a rural county dentist in a program that gave priority to children of low income families.

At the same time, I contacted the local parish priest for spiritual direction. He encouraged me to go to daily Mass as my schedule allowed and to pray in my free time as much as I could to help in my discernment. He gave me a brochure of different active congregations, which I thought at first would be good because I could use my professional skills. Nothing appealed to me. I was sad and becoming discouraged. Then I remembered during one of my previous retreats a Sister had told me that I had a contemplative mind at prayer. I wondered, “What is that?” Then I saw that there were contemplative religious communities. It started to attract me. My spiritual director was very inclined to the Carmelite spirituality, so I looked on the Internet, but neither the Carmelites, Poor Clares, or Benedictines appealed to me. Maybe the Visitation Nuns... and then, there it was: Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters. I thought: “Adoration, that's something I like.” I clicked and the first thing I saw was: Pink??? Is this approved by the Church? I never saw such a thing. Then I saw their charism of prayer for the sanctification of priests and for the missionary activity of the Church in perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and I totally liked it.

I went on to look up their Founder on the Internet and a strange web site with all sorts of calumnies about him came up. This happened close to his canonization in 2003—of which I did not know about. I became discouraged and even though I printed the information I decided not to show my spiritual director. But the truth was that I could not get the thought of these Sisters out of my mind. I was in awe! When I met my spiritual director I showed him the results of my research, but kept back the paper. He said: “What else do you have there?” I took the page and almost reluctantly showed him the paper. It was a picture of our chapel in St. Louis. He immediately exclaimed “Those are the Pink Sisters!” I said: “Do you know them?"” He went on to explain that while he was at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia he used to go to pray in the Pink Sister's Chapel there. There are no words for the relief and peace that I felt. I contacted the Sisters and visited them in Philadelphia. They prayed for me until I finished paying my student loans almost two years later. I am finally with the Lord, safe in his abode of prayer and adoration. The search is over! I thank him with all my heart for giving me this beautiful vocation!

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