It was one of the coldest weekends in Sydney when the Australian Tongan Catholic Youth gathered for their annual weekend retreat at the YMCA Camping site at Yarramundi, NSW, on 2nd-4th July, 2016. Young people arrived from all over Australia! They came from Brisbane to Melbourne by plane, cars, minibuses, vans etc., together with the parents of each youth group, in order to experience the presence of God in the bush. The theme of the weekend was: ‘Be Active and Be Merciful’.
When I walked into this huge hall, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw hundreds of young Catholic Tongans gathered together in silence, attentively listening to the meditation which was being given by Rev. Fr. ‘Alatini Kolofo’ou, the Tongan Chaplain for the Australian Tongan people. It was a wonderful experience to see so many young ones eager to come together in faith, and in hope seeking to be spiritually refreshed, to rest and to discover new dreams during this special weekend.
I was one of the four guest speakers and was invited to give my testimony about my vocation, my ‘call‘. When the Executive Team asked if I was available and willing to share my vocation story to the Tongan Catholic Youth, I immediately accepted it with great joy. I am always ready and very happy to share my life’s experience on Religious vocation especially with young people. When I get opportunities like this, it also helps me to refresh my memories and to re-claim that enthusiasm that I felt in my heart when I first received my ‘call’ to Religious Life. It also gives me the opportunity to update my knowledge and awareness of what young people are looking for and of what their spiritual aspirations are for this day and age.
I began my presentation by sharing with the youth my own life’s experience of when I was a young woman. I described this stage in my life as being a time of searching! In my journey I was searching for a purpose or a goal. Sometimes I would express my deepest longings through writing down these feelings and experiences and then putting them into music. I sang for them the first Tongan song which I composed, entitled ‘ Jesus have Mercy on me’ or (‘Finangalo ‘ofa mai Sesu’. I was hoping that it would touch the hearts of these young Tongans in the same way that it had touched mine. I always turned to Jesus and Mary for guidance. I found that the words of this song were truly a little ray of sunshine for me at that time and helped me to find direction to the path that God had planned for me.
Somewhere along this journey, I heard the voice of Jesus, a voice so compelling and so clear, calling me to follow him. I received the grace to surrender myself, to courageously accept his invitation to which I responded with a wholehearted ‘YES Lord, I will follow you”.
I felt drawn to the congregation of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, their charism and mission appealed to me and I was also attracted by the sister’s warm friendliness and joyfulness. When I entered I began an extraordinary journey in which I had to face many challenges and learn many new things. There were many sacrifices but also many rewarding experiences. I made my first Religious Profession in Rome in 19… and then pronounced my definitive ‘yes’ to the Lord with my final profession in 19…, In 2014 I celebrated with joy and thanksgiving my 25th Jubilee year in 2014. I can truly say that I treasure these wonderful years of my consecration as a Sister Disciple and I am deeply grateful for God’s unconditional love for me.
I concluded my sharing by singing another song entitled: ‘You are Mine’ by D. Haas. This song helped me to express the deep joy I feel of belonging exclusively to Jesus and to also proclaim my love for Him who first loved me.
I felt that I was able to touch the hearts of some of the young ladies, because they later approached me for a chat and expressed their appreciation and thanked me for the encouragement I gave them in their time of searching.
I urged them to listen attentively to the voice of God in their daily living, to keep praying and asking the Lord to show them his plan and especially to not be afraid to accept His invitation to Come follow Me.