Sr. Christa's Story
“Have you ever thought about becoming a nun?,” Sr. Gabby asked. “No, I want to get married and have a family,” I quickly replied kneeling in the first pew of an empty church in Phoenix, Az. Just before she approached me that day, I was asking God, “What do you want me to do with my life?” I was at a crossroads in my life. I realized that I was talking at God, but not listening to God. Perhaps I wasn’t listening because I was afraid of what I might hear. Sr. Gabby invited me to the convent to meet the sisters. All I knew about nuns and convents came from the images I saw on movies such as Sister Act and Sound of Music. Ironically, I was voted “most likely to become a nun” by my senior class in my public high school.
That day, I hesitantly followed Sr. Gabby into the convent. I was immediately struck by how “at home” I felt in a place that I had never been. As I got to know the sisters, I realized how joyful and real they were. I was inspired by how each sister shared her gifts and love with the people she served in a variety of ministries including education, parish ministry, and social justice. Sr. Gabby invited me to come to the convent each week after that first encounter. She accompanied me for six years. During that time, I graduated from college, got engaged, broke off the engagement, and went on a mission trip to Peru.
When I was finally ready to discern my vocation, I went on an eight day silent retreat following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The silent retreat was tough, but absolutely transformative. I learned that at the core of my being is to love and be loved. I prayed about the married life, single life, and religious life and kept coming back to the religious life. Discernment is not easy, but it is worth it. I was led by a deep rooted peace to pursue the initial stages of religious life. I visited eight different orders and loved hearing their vocation stories and learning about their ministries. At the same time, I recognized that I felt most “at home” with Sr. Gabby’s community, the IBVM sisters.
I was working for Wells Fargo Bank at the time I moved into the convent. Interestingly, Sr. Christine became my director and was also my First Holy Communion teacher in third grade. She taught me about our courageous and inspiring founder the Venerable Mary Ward. After six months in candidacy, I moved to Chicago, Illinois to continue my formation. During my novitiate and temporary vows I was blessed to meet many other young people in religious life and study at Catholic Theological Union for a Master of Divinity and a Certificate in Hispanic Theology and Ministry. A few other delightful surprises included international formation experiences in Haiti, Mauritius, Ireland, England, and Rome. Each place where I encountered our religious sisters around the world, I recognized a connection and confirmation that I am “at home” as an IBVM.
In 2016, I took final vows at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in South Chicago. It was a glorious fiesta reflecting our religious life culture and my Mexican-American roots. That day, my parents walked me down the aisle as I gave my life to God through my final profession in the IBVM community. The Mass was bilingual, our dinner was accompanied by Mariachis, and the reception was complete with dancing! I was fully and freely myself in a white knee length dress with bright tropical flowers and fuchsia high heels. The colorful dress reflected my internal joy and deep gratitude. I could never have imagined that my encounter with Sr. Gabby would have lead me to this beautiful day. I’m grateful she invited me to think about becoming a nun. I have found religious life is a life-giving and joyful way of loving and serving God and all God’s beloved people.