Our Vocation Stories

Who am I?
MaryAnne Francalanza fcJ, Maltese

Photo of MaryAnne with an FCJ companion from Indonesia.My name is MaryAnne Francalanza and I live in the British Province. I come from Malta - a little island in the Mediterranean Sea. I travelled from Malta to England to meet the FCJs. I contacted them first on the internet:-) I studied Mathematics at the University of Malta and did my teacher training here in the UK. I taught Mathematics at an 11-18 Catholic School in Hounslow and enjoyed it immensely. There is something very life-giving in working with children. It is both a huge responsibility and a great privilege.

I never would have imagined that my journey with God would bring me here - and yet it feels like home. I had been growing in an environment of Ignatian Spirituality for a number of years, having worked closely with Jesuits in Malta and I felt that this was the way I had to take to find myself more and be the best person I can be.

I was attracted to the FCJ society for several reasons. I was looking for Ignatian women whose lives are rooted in God and whose work is a continuation of Jesus’ mission. I was looking for a group of people who embrace the world with all its joys and sorrows, and are not afraid to ‘live fully’. I was looking for a place where I could use the gifts God has given me for God’s kingdom, and where I could do this with like-minded people who journey together. For me, the FCJ Society is this place.

I started my two-year novitiate year in September 2001. It was a blessed time full of new challenges and insights. There were moments of joy and of pain, but I discovered some very beautiful things inside me, and realised that I still have a lot to learn.

But if I had to start again - I wouldn’t change a thing!

I made my first vows in 2003 and you can read a little about my ceremony by clicking here.

 

What keeps me? Why am I an FCJ?
Anouska Robinson-Biggin, fcJ, English

The simple answer has to be Jesus!

Anouska Robinson-Biggin fcJ.But perhaps let me expand on this a bit further.  My name is Anouska Robinson-Biggin and I have now made vows for three years. I am a sister in Temporary Profession.  This is a time that lasts between 6 and 9 years when I continue to discern my ‘yes’ to Jesus.  It is not that I have not yet made up my mind, I have, and I believe I am here for keeps, but it is a gift of an opportunity to live out the daily commitment and reality of my vows in a whole variety of situations, whilst reflecting, praying and being challenged to grow, whilst being accompanied by a more experienced sister, who helps me to listen to how God continues to call me to life as an FCJ.

The heart of the answer to the question ‘What keeps you?’ is I am in love with Jesus and that love sustains and strengthens me on the days when things are hard, and above all continues to draw me into an ever deeper relationship with the one who first loved me.  I stay because I feel this is where I am meant to be, where the calling I first received in Baptism to be a child of God is fulfilled.   I am captivated by Jesus and desire to be ever more deeply united with him, and as an FCJ I feel able to love God and God’s people in Britain and wherever I may be sent in the world.

On a less spiritual level though why do I stay?  Being an FCJ is where I feel fully alive, not just because of the work or ministry I do but because of who I am.  I live in community and this helps me continue to grow as a person.  I feel I am called to growth but loved with my strengths and my weaknesses.  The reason I stay is not the same reason as I entered.  The novitiate (two years of specific formation) certainly formed me to say ‘Yes’ but this time of Temporary Profession affirms, confirms and deepens that ‘yes’ through the daily living out of my vows.  I can’t say it is always easy, but what life choice is, but I do know I would not be anywhere else!  I’ve fallen in love, and know that this love now helps me decide everything!

 

A Love Affair with Jesus that has Deepened and Blossomed ...
Mary Condron fcJ, Irish

Mary Condron fcJ.From the ages of 13 to 18 I was at school at the Boarding School of the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus in Bruff, Co Limerick, Ireland. During these years I gradually felt myself being drawn to their way of life, especially the contemplative aspect of it. I entered the Novitiate at the completion of my secondary education and eventually celebrated my Golden Jubilee in 2007. I can only describe my life as a love affair with Jesus which has deepened and blossomed during those 50 years.

I didn’t feel called to the contemplative life as lived out by the enclosed orders and I gradually realised how the active life is deeply contemplative too and has its value only insofar as it is contemplative. Therefore Faithful Companions of Jesus endeavour to contemplate at length Jesus, our Faithful Companion, who lived his life to show all peoples the Compassionate Face of God, our Creator.

As I look back on those school days I realise how God was showing me how those sisters were getting the strength for their daily work from their close imitation of and union with Jesus. For that reason I have never regretted having joined them. In fact my gratitude grows every year.

 

A Dream
Rita McLoughlin fcJ, English

Rita McLoughlin fcJ.I don’t often remember my dreams but the one I had after a Sunday retreat in my school, surprised me so much that I couldn’t but remember it! The FCJ Sisters were doing the washing up after dinner, including my FCJ class teacher and I think it was Sr. Philippa Maston, head of another FCJ school in Middlesbrough, who suddenly said, ‘So, are any of you going to be FCJs?’ I hadn’t even thought about it and did not answer. But that night I dreamt that I said ‘Yes’! I was flabbergasted and it set me thinking. Although I was only 14 at the time, this was the beginning of my journey to becoming an FCJ. However, I passed through many phases and feelings, at one time wanting and another time resisting the idea.

The FCJ who taught me Religious Education inspired me and helped me to grow spiritually. I even asked her one day to teach me how to pray, but I never told her what I was thinking about being an FCJ, because I knew somehow that once I did, I would have made up my mind and that was a bit scary.

I came from a very faith-filled family. We said the family rosary each evening together and went to daily Mass most days. We were involved in parish organisations and as children were encouraged to make God the most important person in our lives. Between my family and the teaching and example of the FCJ I had come to know, I was growing in my understanding and love of Jesus. He was coming so much more alive for me as a real person and I wanted to give him my life in return for all he had done out of love for us.

I avidly read the shorter and the long life of Marie Madeleine d’Houet, and I was fired by it. I found her so courageous, so determined, a woman of such faith and love whose greatest desire was to do what God wanted. I was excited and ‘hooked’! But I sent away for vocation material for other congregations as I thought I should not just fall into the FCJs because I was at school with them. But I didn’t feel as attracted to the other congregations about which I read and eventually came to the conclusion that if the FCJ way of life made the sister I knew such a committed, loving and generous person, it was good enough for me!

But this was not the end of my struggle. Sometimes I wanted to go along with the idea that God wanted me to become an FCJ and for other periods of time, I felt a great reluctance to doing it. I felt the attraction to choosing my own career and perhaps getting married.

One evening, just before I went out to see a film, I was in my bedroom and out of the blue came the conviction that I had to try and see if God wanted me to be an FCJ. I knew at that moment that I would never be happy unless I took this step. By this time I was in 6th form and finally admitted to the FCJ sister who taught me that I was thinking of becoming an FCJ. So although I applied to university I was also taking the first steps along the road to becoming a postulant and after leaving school in July went off to Broadstairs, Kent, in the following January.

Forty-nine years later, I have no regrets! But it’s been a long journey to much greater maturity than I had at 19 years of age, a journey to a deeper faith, an understanding of how sharing in the mission of Jesus and service are central to being a Faithful Companion of Jesus.

I am still fired by Marie Madeleine’s vision as we come to understand it and live it in today’s world. She was a woman of outrageous hope, and that is what our recent FCJ documents have called us to be and what I want to be! Marie Madeleine has come so much more alive for me in the last ten years. Her life as young woman, wife, and widow, mother and religious, seems to be able to speak powerfully to me and to those whom I meet in my different ministries. So I am very grateful for that dream many years ago, a dream which did come true!

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