By María Elena Méndez, MGSpS
I was born the seventh of 12 children in a little town named La Joya, Mich, in Mexico.
The question I hear most from people is: how did you feel God’s call? How did you know you wanted to be a religious sister? The short answer is: “I felt loved by God and I loved him, so it was impossible not to follow Him.”
When I was between 13 and 14-years-old, the idea to be a nun came to me, even though I did not know any religious sisters. It was a disturbing thought, and I just wanted to avoid it. After a long time I believed the idea had gone away.
When I was sixteen, my vocation was something that I just couldn’t understand, it exceeded my capacity, but the idea just would not leave me. I was also afraid to say yes, because it meant that I would have to leave behind many precious things, like my parish, my friends, my community and above all, my lovely family. Everything looked impossible, but God was giving me everything I needed to be sure of his call.
On October 28, 1980, a new priest named Father Salvador arrived in my parish. He was someone that God used to guide me. He told me, “I want you to prepare yourself just in case God calls you to His service, so that you are ready to answer him.”
Then came a moment of uncertainty: my parents and my younger brothers decided to immigrate to the United States where my older siblings were living already. Only three of us stayed in Mexico with the hope of joining the others someday.
My plans to be a religious sister seemed to fall apart. Right away, I became a mother to my two brothers who stayed with me for only two months.
One month after my parents left Father Salvador told me: I was accepted in the convent, and would enter on August 25th. I was silent. “Are not you happy,” he asked me. “Yes, but I am going to leave my Joya (treasure or jewel,”
“Yes, he said, but you are going to gain a better one (Jesus).” This answer was so enlightening it sustains me even to this day.
The day finally arrived; my heart was broken to leave my brothers alone. I cried a lot and they did too. I rode in the priest’s car and without looking back, we advanced to my goal. He did not say anything; he started to pray the rosary until I could answer. He told me afterward that was the longest rosary of his life.
I entered the convent when I was 19. And I was sure that God called me to be a missionary anywhere he wanted.
When I finished my formation in Mexico, God called me to come to the United States. I did not know why, but now, I found my place in the world to be a bridge between people, cultures and communities. It is not easy because you have to go and leave wonderful people and many things, but God is my best treasure.
As a missionary, I have the opportunity to work with people from all over the world, to learn from everyone, and enrich our cultures. I worked seven years in Florida, three in Colorado, three in formation in California, four in Pennsylvania, and this is my fifth in Mississippi.
I am a member of the Guadalupan Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. Our mission is evangelization and catechesis among the neediest in collaboration with the priests.
I have been a religious sister for 25 years and I have discovered great things in my life such as: God’s personal call for me, the importance of my family in my vocation and in every vocation, and that my vocation is something beyond me. That is why I am still here, because I believe in God’s call. I have felt love in my vocation and I have discovered true happiness in Him.
I will celebrate my 25th anniversary on April 18, at the Hispanic Encuentro in Greenwood.
I am so grateful to God for my vocation and for God’s fidelity throughout my life.
(Sister Méndez works in the Office of Hispanic Ministry. She welcomes questions and letters in her email: email@example.com)
(Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Mississippi Catholic requested reflections from the orders of consecrated people serving in the Diocese of Jackson. As those reflections come in, we will share them in the paper as part of the Year of Consecrated Life. Religious wishing to submit a reflection should send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
By María Elena Méndez, MGSpS