My name is Els. I am from Flanders (Belgium) and have joined the FCJ sisters in England. I’ve made my First Vows in March 2018.
The first seed or thought of religious life was planted in my mind in Loyola. I remember it well, a summer evening in 2011. Sometime before I had hesitantly started making my way back to God and to Church after a lapse in faith. I had only just begun referring to myself again as a Christian, studying theology to understand more and searching for more meaning, for a deepening of my own personal experience of God. With this hope I participated in the Ignatian Magis programme followed by World Youth Day in Spain. Nothing however could have prepared me for what happened on the second evening after arriving. While I was praying in the evening in Loyola, all of a sudden I felt overwhelmed by God’s love for me. No words can do justice to what I felt at the time, but in a flash I knew God had to be the centre of my life and that I wanted to respond to this great love, God had for me personally and which I had not deserved, with my entire being. I didn’t have any idea of what this would involve but I had a feeling my life would never be the same ever again.
The next day I met one of the FcJ sisters and we spent the next week together, in a prison! We were allocated an Ignatian experiment meeting prisoners and preparing a drama play with them. By the end of that week I was wondering whether religious life could be the way forward for me.
My future wasn’t all clear and rosy after my time in Spain. For a long time I tried convincing myself that it was nothing more than a crazy idea that had popped into my head, that I shouldn’t pay further attention to it, that it would simply go away if I only ignored it. A year passed and almost grudgingly I had to admit that this idea had not gone away. I realized my life had never been as good as this, and yet something was missing.
I got back in touch with the fcJ sisters, visiting regularly and having spiritual accompaniment, which led me to postulancy and novitiate, very open to the possibility that serious discernment would make me see FcJ religious life was not for me and that at least then I would be able to return to my nice life and that my restlessness would be replaced by peace.
One of the stories of Jesus that speak to me very much is that of the rich young man who genuinely desires to follow Jesus and is invited by him, but is unable to accept the grace, because he has so much baggage.
I see this journey in faith very much as a process of ‘letting go’ in order to grow in freedom. One of the stories of Jesus that speak to me very much is that of the rich young man who genuinely desires to follow Jesus and is invited by him, but is unable to accept the grace, because he has so much baggage: material security, emotional attachments, the illusion of being in control of his life, his ego, … While the thought of religious life gave me a feeling of joy in responding to God’s love, I also felt sorrow for what I would have to give up. For the very first time I was confronted with a choice between two pathways that seemed desirable. The first path I already knew somewhat: meaningful work, sufficient money to provide for all my ‘needs’ and even most of my ‘wants’, living close to family and friends, the possibility of meeting someone and starting my own family, the freedom to make my own decisions. Yet good as it sounded, it was not entirely fulfilling. The second path was the great ‘unknown’, the leap of trust, the great adventure inwards.
While it has been a rocky road with ups and downs, I believe firmly that God has taken the initiative to call me to religious life, specifically to the Faithful Companions of Jesus, with the charism of the faithfulness of the women at the foot of the cross resonating with me, hoping to grow in love, gentleness, humility, poverty and obedience.
I also believe that God has planted my deepest desires within me and that therefore he will give me the grace I need.
I know that as my journey unfolds, choosing to work together with Him, praying for and accepting his grace will lead me to more peace and joy and ultimately to who I am meant to be, as God loves me and is able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within me (Eph 3:20).