New vocations to Verbum Dei Singapore
My name is Margaret and I met the Verbum Dei community in Singapore through a mission trip to Tagaytay, Philippines in 2008. I remember listening to two missionaries preaching during the trip for the first time. They spoke not of a God who was sitting far up in heaven, but of a God who is alive! It was as though they had a conversation with Jesus that very morning and they were recounting the conversation. That encounter left a deep impression in me and I was very attracted to this person who is alive and active. That was when I started deepening my friendship with Jesus through prayer.
I continued journeying with Verbum Dei throughout my years in university and at work. After graduating from university, I found a job that I enjoyed – I worked in a hotel where I got to interact with new people every day, I made new friends, mentors, and learnt a lot while working. I could even go on holidays with friends and family a few times a year. Life was good! However, something was missing. Even though I get to enjoy many things in life, there was a restlessness in my heart that wasn’t satisfied. A thought came frequently to mind: there must be more to life than this!
And hence, this search for something more began quietly in the back of my mind; without much urgency. During the search, I grew more in my spiritual life – became more involved with Verbum Dei by being a disciple, received formation, and helped organise recollections, etc.
I started discerning to be a missionary in 2016 after an encounter with Jesus through the Eucharist during World Youth Day. During that experience, I understood clearly the words of Jesus, ‘Come, follow me’. Through discernment, and under spiritual guidance from Sandra, I gradually discovered more about the person whom I am called to follow.
During the discernment process, I journeyed with a few others who were also discerning their vocation. We were called ‘Journey of Love’ and the encouragement and support I received from these young girls was a gift! We were able to relate, understand and motivate each other while dealing with challenges, doubts, and growing together in faith. Journeying together with a community made the process more enjoyable.
I moved into the missionary’s house for an experience in May last year. When my friends found out about my decision, they often ask, ‘What made you take such a big step?’. Perhaps this move came from knowing Jesus better – I am called by Love Himself. If I can love Him enough to take small steps each time, He will lead me towards His goal no matter how daunting or challenging the journey may be.
I had the misconception that once a decision is made, life will be smooth. But I discovered otherwise! I am taking the next step and going off for my formation course, but life continues; it will include new challenges, struggles and sometimes even fears and doubts. But it will be an exciting journey because my Friend walks with me, and I know that I will always have the love and support of my community, family and friends.
Looking back, it’s been extraordinary to see God active in the daily little moments of my life. Pray for me as I embark on my new journey. For all those who are seeking for that something more, don’t hesitate to pray and ask Him for guidance. I will be keeping you in my prayers!
Looking back, I would say that I sought to know a lot about God but I was not so open to know God himself. I looked very hard to find a way to affirm and express my identity as a Catholic young adult but I lost sight of God. So, although I understood that God should be at the centre of my life, it was a constant struggle to live out the connection from my head to my heart. I would always look to centre my relationship in God on external behaviours, practices and people but I struggled with my discipline to pray and to live out that ‘God is first’ in my life. I knew that deep down something was missing.
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. (John 15:4).
These words from John’s Gospel was fruit of a mission trip in 2014 with Verbum Dei. Before this mission trip, I started to attend spiritual direction with Sister Sandra from Verbum Dei as I wanted to discern what steps to take after asking myself this question ‘How come I cannot love God the way that I love a guy when I am in a relationship?’. Yet on that mission trip, I understood the invitation to seek God. Listening to God that day gave me clarity and assurance to take the next step to join Verbum Dei as a committed lay disciple even though I was fearful that I would eventually lose my enthusiasm and commitment.
After the mission trip, I graduated from university and found a permanent job. At the same time, I started to attend the prayer sessions, formations and retreats organised by Verbum Dei with more regularity. I remember feeling very comfortable with the style of prayer, the people, and I remember looking forward to School of the Word prayer sessions after work. I also begin to journey with a group of girls who were also discerning the vocation that God was calling us to.
Little by little, God in the person of Jesus Christ became someone who was very real for me. Through the Verbum Dei charism and the community, the words ‘The Word made flesh’ became a lived experience for me; Jesus through the Word became someone whom I wanted to know more about. Jesus, the Word, my friend, would also encourage and challenge me to take seriously my response to God’s call. It was this growing relationship with Jesus that helped me to act on my decision to stop working and move in with the missionaries to continue to learn how to stay in love with Him through the way of life as a consecrated person.
Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. (Hosea 2:16) These years of being Verbum Dei has helped me to open my heart to know God and not just knowledge about God. The amazing thing is that in knowing God, He helps me to know myself and to know who I am for Him. In this journey, the community and the larger Verbum Dei family have helped me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Witnessing their lives has helped me to take the next step to continue to walk towards Jesus in the desert and to listen to those tender words that God is telling me how to continue to stay with Him.
As I continue to stay with God, He helps me to understand again that the vocation and the call to consecrated life is simply a call to love. My vocation is this daily choice to enter into God’s love and in response to offer my life in love as a bridge, an imperfect bridge that is still an instrument of transport for other people to cross and walk towards God, who is eternal life and love. Please keep me in your payers.
Hello friends, my name is Sabrina Tan. Like the Samaritan woman in the Gospel of John who left her water jar at the well and excitedly went into town to share with everyone about the Messiah she had met, it is with excitement and joy in my heart that I would like to share with you my on-going vocation journey. The excitement which the Samaritan woman carried, flowed from her own life experiences and her encounter with Jesus. Likewise, my journey is also a story of searching, challenges, little yes-es and a growing friendship with Jesus.
My first Yes
Just a short introduction about myself, I am 28 this year and I am not a cradle Catholic. But I am blessed to have been in a Catholic school for 10 years which introduced me to the Catholic faith. Growing up, the concept of God and faith was somewhat like a fairy-tale, nothing real and personal. I remember praying only when I had terrible stomach aches, begging God to take them away. At 19, I was re-introduced to the faith during an unplanned opportunity to attend Mass with a very good friend, where I felt an overwhelmingly sense of peace, to the point of tears. It was a feeling that resonated much deeper than all the attention I was receiving from friends and success from education and sporting achievements.
This was the start of a search in wanting to get to know God and the faith better. My baptism in 2010, alongside my elder sister, became my first “Yes” to Jesus. Post-baptism, I journeyed closely with a youth community in my parish of Church of St Francis Xavier, obtained my degree and later got a good job as a public servant. I was happy and contented with where I was at in life.
A deeper Search
But yet, there was still an aching restlessness within me.
“What must I do, what more can I do to gain eternal life?”
I felt like the rich young man in Matthew 19:16- 30. During this period of questioning and experiencing this stirring in my heart for something more in my life, I met the Verbum Dei Missionaries. I remember attending one of their vocation discernment retreats where they had a panel session for us to ask questions relating to vocation discernment. The panel of three persons consisted of a married couple who are disciples of Verbum Dei and Sr Maria Jose, a consecrated missionary. I remember bombarding Sr Maria Jose questions about missionary life.
“How do you know if God is calling you to this way of life? How did you feel having to leave your family and go to a foreign land? Weren’t you scared of the uncertainty of a missionary life?”
I was curious about where and how she had gotten the courage to leave everything behind to follow Jesus and still be filled with great peace and deep joy in her heart. It was at this retreat and in journeying with Sr Sandra that I recognised this growing desire in my heart to give more and more of myself to others, to be at the service of God’s Word and to share His love so that others can come to know of Jesus and encounter His love in a deeper way! For me, this desire that Jesus places in my heart is His gentle and personal invitation to “Come Follow Me”.
Jesus continues to meet me at the Well
This invitation, however, is not one without its own challenges and frustrations too. There were moments where I doubted if I could “give up” my lifestyle and the financial independence that I had, moments filled with uncertainties of the future and moments where I face my family’s look of sadness and worry with this path that I am choosing to take.
However, in these moments and much more, just as Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus continues to meet me at my own well and offers me His living water, so that I can never thirst again. And that is the beauty of the Verbum Dei charism. It lies in encountering God through the Word. For me, it is in praying with the Word, in meeting Jesus at my own well that I continue to discover how real and human He is. How Jesus healed the sick, the tormented, not because He had the power to do so, but because He loved each one of them dearly (Matthew 4:23-25). How meticulous Jesus is when He looked around just to find the haemorrhaging woman who touched His cloak (Mark 5:25-34). How Jesus continued to be a friend to Peter who denied Him (John 21:15-19). This is the same Jesus who continues to love me with all that I am and continues to give Himself to me daily at the Eucharist.
Throughout this 3- year discernment journey, I have come to realise that it is not about finding out the path God is calling me to take that I can lead a “Happy Ever After” or a “Problem-free” life, neither is it about the things I have to “give up” to achieve this life. Rather, it is a journey for me to fall in love with Jesus, the Man behind the Word, time and time again. And to respond to this Love in a way unique to me, by becoming His missionary, sharing His Word and Love to all He sends my way. It is with deep assurance for His love for me each day that I know I am not alone on this adventure, in moments of joy, excitement, struggle or pain. I have found my Treasure that keeps me going.
Please keep me in your prayers as I take the next step of my journey, to enter into the 2-year formation course in England, discovering and responding to a deeper friendship with God.