A Christian vocation is a call from God which you hear and feel in the depths of your heart. It is a call to dedicate your life to following the mission of Jesus Christ and his disciples to spread the good news of God’s love in the world. Finding the particular lifestyle that God wants you to embrace in order to answer this call can take you on a journey of searching, prayerful discernment, even trial and error!
Everyone’s vocation story is unique because God uses many diverse and surprising ways to draw different people. Our Sisters Manju and Fatima in India made their first profession of vows as Franciscan religious (renewed annually) in July 2021. In July of the following year, Sisters Sathya and Sujatha made their own first professions. In 2017 we were blessed to celebrate a final profession of vows (for life) and a Golden (fifty years) Jubilee of religious profession. Here is a glimpse of those Sisters’ vocation stories. If you feel God could be calling you to live the Gospel message in our Franciscan sisterhood, you are most welcome to contact us.
Sister Manju’s Story
I am Sr.Manju, from Rourkela Diocese, Odisha.
The seeds of my vocation were planted in my heart when I was very young. I studied in a sisters boarding till my 10th class. The exemplary life of Sisters inspired me to consecrate my life to God. After my high school studies, I expressed my desire to my parents. Though I was only one girl child to my parents, they encouraged me, to dedicate my life for the glory of God.
Sr. Promodini, who is my aunty, is a sister in FMSL congregation, who guided and supported me to take wise decision towards FMSL family. With divine Providence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I took a step towards FMSL congregation to follow Christ after the example of St. Francis and St. Clare.
Sister Fatima’s Story
I am Sr. Fatima, from Kolkata diocese, west Bengal.
For thus says the Lord; Behold I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. “I am 1st child to my parents; I have three siblings. After my high school studies, I couldn’t continue my further studies because my father was sick and family responsibilities had fallen on my mother. So being first child in my family, I decided to help my mother in her household works. In my daily prayers I used to pray to God and ask him about my future and also, I used to intercede mother Mary to help me. As the days passing, one fine day my cousin Sr. Martha came to visit my family. Then she asked me what are you doing? I said nothing in lower voice. She explained to me about FMSL congregation and invited me if I feel called by God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I started pondering about religious life and waited for God’s providence. I laid my entire heart before Him and begged Jesus to help me make sense of it all. In fact, by teaching me to cling to Him in prayer in the midst of complete confusion, Jesus was actually offering me an opportunity to build an even stronger friendship with Him. Throughout all of this time, even in the midst of my confusion, doubt, and, God’s call was still firmly planted in my heart. In fact, this desire to give myself entirely to God was the very source of my joy. At last, I understood God’s plan for my life. So I called Sr. Martha and expressed my desire to be a religious in FMSL congregation to follow my Good Shepherd after the example of St. Francis and St. Clare.
Sister Sathya’s Story
I am Sr. Sathya, from Khammam Diocese, Andhra Pradesh
My grace is sufficient for you…” – (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s mysterious plans are beyond our comprehension, as are the workings of His grace. Yet, even though we do not understand, we believe that He provides us with all of the grace we need to accomplish His Will and give Him the glory. I am the second child to my parents. I have four siblings. When I was small, unfortunately I lost my parents due to their health issues. The responsibilities of my family fallen on my elder sister and me, so I had lost hopes on my higher studies. When my younger brothers and sisters were able to take care of themselves, I again got chance to continue my higher studies. By God’s grace I got help from some generous people for my higher studies. There I came in contact with MSI sisters’. Their sacrificial and dedicated life attracted me towards religious life. I remember having an increased desire to learn more about God and truly relished entering more deeply into His mysteries. It is also during this time that my love for Our Crucified Lord led me to a great love for His Eucharistic Presence. I started praying for my vocation to consecrate my life. But I was little bit worried and same painful questions raised in my heart, that I have no parents, who will support me? But I did not lose trust in God, I got the confidence that if God has called me, surely I will become good sister .This is how I was counting on God and waiting for His providence. God in His great mercy opened the gates for my religious life in Franciscan Missionary Sisters of little Hampton. I came see His hand at work in leading me to the path of the religious life. I am so happy to be Franciscan sisters after the example of St. Francis of Assisi who followed Christ in utter obedience, poverty.
Sister Sujatha’s Story
I am Sr. Sujatha, from Vijayawada Diocese, Andhra Pradesh .
“And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”. (1 Cor 9:16)
Jesus had stolen my heart when I received my First Holy Communion! True to my first love, from that moment on, I joyfully attended daily Mass. My love of Jesus in the Eucharist became center of my life. I was the first child of four children, two of which were boys, who also died at early age. I had lost my mother at the age of 12 years old. I completed my high school studies in Government high school, stayed in MSI sister’s hostel in Mogaltur. My warden sister name is Sr. Adilin, very pious and gentle woman, very firm in her guidance, dedicated to her consecrated life and she became best role model for my life, and her exemplary life and humble service and her Gospels reflections paved the path for my religious life.
As a young child, I often felt an inner joy and deeper attraction towards perfection of holiness during our daily evening Rosary. Whenever I go for home holidays to my village, I used to see that so many men and women were dying in advanced age due to suicides, alcoholic addictions and some immoral life without the Sacrament of confession and final rights of funeral. This moved my heart to give Jesus and “Reach the Unreached” by proclaiming the Gospel for the salvation of the souls. I then vowed myself to Jesus to work for the unprivileged souls by proclaiming the Holy Gospel. Since primary school, I was attracted by the beauty of the church and religious life. I wished to join the religious life soon after my 10th standard, but God has better plans for my life. So by the grace of God, I finished my Degree studies. I was more drawn by St Paul’s quotation “And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). Though I faced many challenges in my life due to absence of my mother in my life ,but God is greater than all our difficulties, He stood by my path and reach the place (FMSL) that is destined for me. Where I find satisfaction and fulfillment, after the example of St. Francis and St. Clare.
Sister Rose’s Story
Some people from a young age think they know exactly the life to which they are being called. My case is different. I am now over 60 years old, and most of my life has been spent searching for meaning and fulfilment in one way and another, along very different paths. There have been so many influences and experiences that have shaped me, and brought me to where I am now: a fully professed sister belonging to the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Littlehampton, but also a mother and grandmother, that to give a clear, brief and accurate account of my journey is probably impossible. For much of the time I hardly myself understood the way I was following. I kept listening, trying to respond, suffering many setbacks and, at times, I wondered if I was simply deluded.
Years ago when I was sent to study in Sri Lanka, I had a young monk in my class who impressed me deeply by his apparent serenity. I began to observe consecrated religious and began to experience a desire to make a connection with the living reality that somehow seemed to sustain their lives. Another time, on a day trip to Assisi on a bitterly cold January morning, I experienced a powerful (and not altogether pleasant) experience of grief for past mistakes at the tomb of our Holy Father St Francis. A suffocating sense of shame gave way to cleansing tears. Something crystallized in that moment and I understood that a new beginning was opening for me, if only I would have the courage to move forward in trust.
Whilst staying with my daughter in Southampton, I saw a ‘Come & See’ invitation in a local paper from Sr Anastasia, the then Mother General of a small apostolic congregation about an hour and a half away by train on the West Sussex coast at Littlehampton. I did not really relish the idea of a non-enclosed convent as I had hoped for a life of contemplative prayer, and I (mistakenly) thought that sisters who went outside to work had no time for prayer. But each of my attempts to settle down in a monastery had come to nothing. What could I do? People said, “Surely by now it is clear to you that the religious life is not for you.” I would reply, “Yes. You may say that so far I have failed, but I still feel urged to seek further. I just haven’t found the right place yet.”
When Sr Anastasia led me into the dining-room at St Joseph’s I felt strongly attracted by the sweetness, simplicity and warmth of the many elderly sisters. They seemed like people who were alive! I enjoyed their kindness and hospitality. I felt like St Francis when he heard the Gospel passage about taking nothing for the journey, and exclaimed, “This is what I want!”
We took things very slowly at first. I only visited for the day every couple of months. I would just keep in touch by email in the meantime. Then I stayed for a weekend. Each time I was there I would pray in St Joseph’s Chapel in front of the San Damiano Cross, asking the Lord to enlighten the darkness of my heart and show me the way. During a week’s retreat given by the then Chaplain of St Joseph’s Fr. Beer (R.I.P.), I heard the Gospel about Lazarus at the gates – how he was taken up into the bosom of Abraham. Somehow, by a process which may not seem entirely rational, I understood from the example of Lazarus that there was no impediment to my vocation unless I chose to insist on one. We agreed that I would come for a month’s live-in experience of pre-postulancy and, if that went well, I would go north to St Anthony’s Convent in Yorkshire to be received as a postulant at Candlemas. That was February 2008 – ten years ago. I made my Final Profession of Vows last year on the Birthday of Our Lady, September 8th.
Sister Anne’s Story
I’ve been asked to put together a few thoughts by way of reflecting on fifty golden years of Religious Profession, which makes me ask myself if after all these years I can truly say with the Psalmist: “One day within your courts, Lord, is better than a thousand elsewhere”, and I answer with certainty “Yes Lord, without a doubt”, for which I give you thanks and praise.
To aspire to Religious Life is rather like embarking on a journey which one knows very little about, and even less about how one might measure up to the requirements of that journey, or a reaching out towards something which is beyond us, yet draws us onward even as we hesitate.
At least that was my personal experience, as a nineteen year old preparing to leave home for some nine years, which was customary at the time, but the complete “otherness” of Religious Life absorbed one’s attention to such an extent that it simply took over and everything else, including loved ones, fell into place.
In community we pray with the Psalmist: “How good and how pleasant it is, brothers (and sisters) dwelling in unity and yet we are also conscious as St Paul reminds us that we carry this treasure in earthly vessels, which means that like every other form of life, Religious Life is not without its difficulties.
Over these past fifty years, Religious Life has changed enormously in many respects, yet fundamentally it remains the same as it was for Peter and John and the other disciples, who in response to the Lord’s invitation left all and followed him, and when they enquired about where he lived, he extended yet another invitation: “Come and see”. The Lord never ceases to extend this same invitation to all who have ears to hear and the generosity to answer: “Here I am Lord, I have come to do your will.”
We value the prayers of our brothers and sisters all over the world as they support us spiritually in our missionary commitment to Christ. Please remember all the FMSL in your prayers to help us on our way. – Thank you.